Monday, May 26, 2008

Yet Another Reason You Have To Make It To Reunion!

Throughout our time at Vanderbilt, the leadership of the school was always in the hands of extraordinary people such as the two Deans of Students pictured above, K.C. Potter and James Sandlin. (Now, how someone got them to pose in this American Gothic scene is anybody's guess, and I'll bet a fascinating story..but I digress).

35 years later, our class will be privledged to see the extraordinary talents of another Vanderbilt leader when we return to campus for our Reunion, October 24-25.

The rest of this week's posting is courtesy of our fearless leader, Class of 1973 Weekend Reunion Chair John Stein, who explains what I mean:

Dear 1973 Graduates,

By now you have likely heard about our fall reunion (October 24-25). I certainly hope you plan to attend. Let me highlight an activity you may not be aware of that is an additional strong reason to venture back to campus.

On Friday afternoon (October 24) each class organizes various "educational" activities. These are typically lectures from professors, updates from Deans of various schools and usually follow a fairly typical academic subject matter.

Not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but our class has orchestrated something that is different and truly outstanding (of course)!

Here's what we have planned.

One of Vanderbilt's extraordinary assets is Vice Chancellor David Williams. You may know David as the "athletic director" that Vanderbilt is not supposed to have. I am sure it has not gone unnoticed how extraordinarily well all our athletic teams have been doing. The last several years under David's watch he has done a tremendous job with his role of overseeing athletics and student affairs.

He is a real Superstar and a true Renaissance man. There is yet another facet of his extraordinary abilities that we will be unveiling on campus on Reunion weekend, Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM.

David grew up in the neighborhood in Detroit that birthed Motown. He is one of the world's experts on this wonderful genre' of music, delivering a lecture that walks us through the history and sidebars of Motown, replete with an absolutely fabulous sampling of that unforgettable and distinctive musical sound. I've already had the opportunity to hear this presentation and let me tell you, it rocks!

You don't want to miss this. If you don't do anything else Reunion weekend, you must come to this lecture because David Williams has an extraordinary grasp of his subject matter and when he gets his groove is something else!

So, there you have it, another strong reason to make it back to campus for reunion. We certainly hope to see you here.

John Stein

Class of 1973 Weekend Chair

So there you have it, guys and gals! What a great opportunity awaits us this fall here in Nashville. And we will also be trying to liven up this blog in the weeks to come. I've got some old WRVU tapes that feature some Motown music and other sounds of '60s and '70s that I hope to add to the festivities here, along with some the top TV new stories of our day (1969-1973), courtesy of the Vanderbilt News Archives.

Stay tuned!

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Does That Compute?

If you saw two students on campus today playing checkers, like the ones pictured above from the early 1970s, they would more likely be doing so using some kind of video game format, or even doing so on-line and prehaps competing against multiple opponents.

Technology...particularly the rise of the personal computer... is probably the greatest change that has occurred since we left Vanderbilt 35 years ago.

For example, we had a computer center while we were in school. It housed the Vanderbilt in one...a singular piece of technology so large it took up the entire bottom floor of the large circular building in the middle of campus where it was located.

If you'll remember, to run a program on the computer you had to create all these punch cards. If any one piece of data on any one of the cards was wrong, the computer would spit out the whole program, and give you little or no clue what was incorrect.

I can remember being frustrated for hours while trying to get a program to work for a political science class I was taking. It was so embarrassing I think I have blocked out any other memories about it, including what the exact assignment was. I think it had something to do with analyzing some survey data.

Steve Womack of the Class of 1973 has an ever "better" memory to share. As a computer major in the School of Engineering, he had lots of opportunities to work with the University computer. That includes the time he says he had "a suitcase full of punch cards to run a relatively simple program that came back with 846 fatal errors!"

Is it no wonder some of us are still afraid to do things on a computer for fear we might "break" it?

And there was other new technology coming out in our day. Steve Womack reminds me that the first hand-held calculators from Texas Instruments went on sale in stores our sophomore year (1970-71). "They cost $400. All they did was add, subtract, multiply and divide." Nevertheless, as Steve remembers it, those new devices "were banned from being used on E-school exams, you had to use a slide rule. By our senior year, they were $100 and mandatory."

Isn't technology wonderful?

And you know those early calculators had about as much computer power back then as that key chain in your pocket or purse today that you use to open your car door or the trunk.

And of course, unlike in our day, everybody now has their own computer, which probably also has about as much, if not more computing capacity, than the entire University computer had we were on campus.

In many ways, we certainly could not have guessed how technology would change our lives after leaving college...and it's probably only just begun. The internet, web sites and blogs all help us keep in touch better these days. And hopefully what you read and share here on this blog, along with what you find on our class reunion web site, will help you get ready to join us for our 35th Vanderbilt Class Reunion, October 24-25.

So leave your thoughts and memories below, remembering a time when computers were truly strange and mysterious things, and the coolest way to play checkers or chess was with a bag lunch from the Burger Whop while occupying a warm sunny spot on Rand Terrace between classes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pomp & Circumstance

It's pretty quiet on the Vanderbilt campus this week.

Commencement was last Friday, May 9.

3,215 degrees were conferred, including 1,541 to the undergraduate Class of 2008.

These young men and women are the 35th class to walk across the stage to shake the Chancellor's hand and receive diplomas since we did it back in 1973.

Obviously, many things have changed, but some things haven't.

Here are some examples.

Graduation exercises are still held on a Friday (like they were when we did it) but it occurs much earlier now. In fact, it was Friday, May 25 when we got our official degrees. That's over two full weeks later than when commencement was held this year.

I also remember our graduation being held in the afternoon. Graduation now is in the morning ( before it get too hot or starts raining and they move the activities to Memorial Gym, where it is usually very hot and it is very hard to find a seat!) Fortunately, there was no rain this year.

Graduation is also held in a slightly different part of campus than in our day. We went through the exercise on Currey Field, down near the Law School and Kissam Quad (where we all met to line up in alphabetical order before we marched in).

Now commencement is held on Neely or Alumni Lawn (which I guess is a more fitting location). But I suspect the construction of Wilson Hall next to Currey Field also meant staying at that location would be a real tight squeeze.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that the featured speaker at every Vanderbilt graduation is the Chancellor. This was new Chancellor Nick Zeppos' first opportunity to address a group of graduates. He advised them (according to a university alumni e-mail I received) to "lead lives filled with joy. Start that immediately."

After 35 years in the work force, I'd say that's good advice. Does anyone remember what Chancellor Heard told our class when we graduated? I haven't got a clue.

What are your memories of our final event together on campus before we each went our separate ways? Was it a big family event for you? What were your graduation presents? Was it cash? A car (lucky you)?

Just leave your thoughts and memories below. What I remember is the day after graduation trying to get out of the dorms, especially Carmichael Towers. Elevator space was hard to come by and if you (or my future wife, Betty Lee Love, in my case) lived on an upper floor getting out was really hard, especially since she had so much stuff to move, accumulated over four years, including text books, riding saddles, you name it) :)

Speaking of getting through congestion, I can tell you driving by campus last Thursday afternoon, the traffic was pretty backed up on West End as everyone seemed to be getting ready to go out and celebrate.

In that regard, there are clearly many more nice places to eat close to campus than there were in our day. So where did you celebrate? Viscaya? Mario's? I remember going with my family, my future wife and her folks and Pam Zinga and her family somewhere way out Gallatin Road. The Omni Hut? I can't remember.

But here's the most important question for any graduate (and this hasn't changed in 35 years): Did you have a job or some post-graduate studies lined up when you walked across that stage? Or were you truly going solo? Again leave your thoughts and memories below?

I know not everyone in our group made it to graduation. I will leave it to my friend and WRVU Station Manager Steve Womack to tell his stories about being in Starkville, MS with the Vanderbilt baseball team at the NCAA tournament while the rest of us were getting our sheepskins.

But hopefully almost all of us can be back together again soon. Our 35th Class Reunion is October 24-25. The weather should be cooler and maybe the football team better (well, maybe, and hey, we are playing Duke so we ought to have a chance).

Just come back to campus and see...and find that old Vanderbilt diploma you have. Dust it off and you will find something no other Vanderbilt class has. Written on the diploma is our official designation as "The Centennial Class."

So feel special...and we hope to see you in October!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Seven Days In May

It was perhaps the most tumultuous week in the history of modern American higher education.

For the Class of '73, it was the first week in May of our freshman year back in 1970, now some 38 years ago.

It began a few days earlier on April 30 with the announcement by President Richard Nixon, during a nati0nwide TV address, that he was expanding the War in Vietnam to include an invasion (he called it an incursion) into neighboring Cambodia.

It was already clear after the continuing anti-war demonstrations and the national "moratorium" days held the previous fall, that America's colllege campuses would erupt in a new round of protests. But nobody expected what was about to occur.

It was Monday, May 4 when a multi-day protest effort at Kent State University in Ohio resulted in National Guard troops, (who had been brought to the campus by the administration for security), shooting and killing four students (a couple of whom were just passers-by or on-lookers) as well as wounding nine others.

Shock and anger quickly spread across college campuses all over the nation. I can remember finishing class and arriving at the campus radio station, WRVU, to learn about what happened through our UPI wire machine and the news feeds we got from ABC. It all seemed very surreal and more than a little frightening.

As you can see from reading the headlines above from THE HUSTLER and VERSUS, the Vanderbilt campus was thrown into some turmoil. Nearby Peabody College (where I was then attending classes) had its faculty vote to shut down the school in protest, joining hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country in a strike that some reports later said involved up to eight million students. I covered the Peabody closure for both WRVU and several local radio stations (it was first time I ever made any money as a radio stringer reporter). I think they paid me $25.

Vanderbilt did not close. There was a protest mounted at the spring Naval ROTC Review on Neely Lawn and someone later threw a bucket of blue paint on side of the Naval ROTC building, but that was about it.

Class of '73 member and WRVU Station Manager Steve Womack and I covered the Naval ROTC event. We remember there was a mime troupe there as a part of the protest. It was so inept that a vocal interpreter was needed to tell everyone what they were trying to emote.

Meanwhile, several large members of the Vanderbilt football team were present, seemingly acting as security. Unlike some weekends on the girdiron, this worked pretty well as the football players held the line between the protestors and the Naval ROTC folks, so they never got too close to each other.

But just days later, Vanderbilt was the focus of the entire nation as the national student protest crisis continued. On May 8, 1970 President Nixon asked Chancellor Alexander Heard to be his Special Adviser for the next two months to "keep (me) fully and currently informed on the thinking of the academic community and especially of the young," said the White House statement announcing the appointment. "I will look to Mr. Heard to help present to this administration the views and sentiments of the campuses around the country... I appreciate Mr. Heard's taking on this assignment which should be of great benefit to the country."

(Ironically, there was yet another campus shooting with two students killed just days later on May 14 at predominantly black Jackson State University, but that event never aroused the same nationwide attention as what happened at Kent State).

The other photo at the top of this posting was taken on the day of the Chancellor's appointment as he addressed the University Community with a speech in Neely Auditorium (or was it really Class of '73 member and Heard impersonator Jim Lober?).

If you look closely you can see all the TV news film cameras capturing the moment. (And yes, Steve Womack and I once again made a little pocket money by sending excerpts from the speech to the national radio networks. Actually, it was easy, the station had it own special tap on the Neely sound system and could easily record any event held there.)

However, all this was before the days of videotape and live broadcasting by microwave or satellite. Can you image all the 24/7 coverage and video satellite trucks on campus such a development would bring to Vanderbilt today?

So what are your memories of this most eventful time?

Did you attend or help organize any of the protests? Did you attend the Naval ROTC event on Neely Lawn? Did you go to the pro-Nixon rally sponsored on Rand Terrace by The Young Americans for Freedom? Or did you just keep going to class and studying, espcially with final exams not too far away? Just leave your thoughts and comments below.

Even with another unpopular overseas war raging, life seems to be much more tranquil these days on the Vanderbilt campus. It's probably got something to do with not having a military draft. And that's the subject for some more blog postings down the road as we remember our time on campus and count down to our 35th Class Reunion this fall the weekend of October 24-25. Be there.