Office of the VP for Communications – Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

Alumni Memories

  1. JFK's Peace Corps Speech

    I too was at JFK’s Peace Corps Speech while in undergrad at the “U.” While I cherish freedom of expression, I was embarrassed when several students ran up and kicked the side of his limo when he drove away after the speech.

    • Robert S. Sweet, MD
    • MD 1965
  2. Kennedy's Peace Corp Speech

    Yes, I was in the Student Union crowd in the fall of 1960 when JFK arrived (late) and made his comments about the Peace Corp. No one has yet mentioned, however, the most prophetic words seen that night. Just as JFK began his speech, a bonfire was ignited across State Street illuminating a large sign which read “You Can’t Lick Our Dick” (referring, of course, to JFK’s opponent that year … Richard Nixon). Little did we know that JFK would spend the next few years trying to convince his various lady friends to ignore the sentiments of that sign.

    • James Long
    • BS 1964
  3. I remember the classical studies department and Gerda Seligson, a Caesar scholar among other talents. The whole department was an inspiration and a place of refuge from the crowded lecture sessions of other departments. Of course Prof. Fine of the history department was an exception to the stress of crowded lectures as he mesmerized all of us to standing room only crowds. There were no computers and the language lab was boring but the libraries were magnificent and my 4 years there were challenging and delightful. I too heard Kennedy propose the peace corps on the steps of the union. Those were the days of hope.

    • Karen Bombaugh Shilling
    • b.A. 1963
  4. A Defining Moment

    When I enrolled in the Law School there were only two of us from Oklahoma there, or so I thought. I enrolled in “income tax” as one of my first courses and met a professor that would become my mentor and advisor, L. Hart Wright!!! He became my best reference and through him I received offers from Wall Street and San Francisco firms. What does this have to do with Oklahoma? Professor Wright was a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and was always quoting from his experiences growing up in Ninneco, Oklahoma. The last time I saw him he was walking past the Law Quad as proud as he could be holding his young daughter’s hand (she came up to his knee). I have never forgotten that image. By the way you may have heard of that young daughter ROBIN WRIGHT!!

    • John J. Livingston
    • JD 1961
  5. I was a student at the University of Michigan from 1952 to 1961.

    It was Aug 19, 1971, Civil Service or the FBI have been investigating me. They ask people if I would make a good representative for the US to foreign nations. They interviewed people from the University, from the Church, from my neighbors. All this was for my trip to Guatemala in reference to my being a consultant to the Pan American Health organization. I thought at the time that it was wonderful that our government was so careful.

    It was not until the late 1970’s when I was visiting the University of Michigan doing some consulting work when I picked up a Michigan Daily while staying at the Michigan League and saw a three page article about three professors at Michigan who had lost their positions in about 1953 because they were communists or communist sympathizers. Reading this triggered a connection between my time at the University in 1953 and the events in 1971.

    The connection in my mind was related to my being a Russian study major in 1953 at the University of Michigan and that I had joined the National Student Organization as part of my work with the student legislature at the University. I was investigating the Admission process at Michigan state and Wayne State and a fellow student suggested that I join the National Student Organization to aid in my visits. It turned out that the National Student Organization was considered a communist front organization and the period that I joined was during the McCarthy era.

    • Richard Stanley Mackenzie
    • DDS MS PhD 1960
  6. Reading about the first Earth Day Celebration, I recall that my house-mate and I attended together. The turnout was far beyond expectations and to us sent a message of hope. There were also practical suggestions and we immediately took action – returning home to drive to Campus Corners to buy beer, only this time in returnable bottles.

    • Michael N. Winn
    • BA, MPP 1969
  7. I knew John Sinclair

    I was invited by Bob & Cindy Felong to the Free John Sinclair rally after cindy interviewed me for wearing a flag patch on my jeans. this was 1970 and I was sentenced to say the pledge of allegiance to the flag for 90 days before school in the morning. I went “Underground,” as we called it then. I remember those days well. If anyone else does contact me.terry_val@ymail.com

    • terry val
  8. Town To Gown

    The history section of Michigan Today has asked for a memoir that will highlight the way things have changed on campus over the years, so here’s my contribution. I grew up in Ann Arbor, and because of the influence of my mother, it seems like I always knew that I was heading for the U of M. Ann Arbor was a smaller (and safer) town then. As a child, I had a lot of freedom to roam. By the age of 9 or 10, I was exploring the campus, sort of preparing myself.
    I went into a lot of buildings, but the only place I ever remember getting kicked out of was the stadium. There was a caretaker who lived in a house right inside the fence on the Main St. side, where the press box is now, but he couldn’t keep watch constantly, and the perimeter of the stadium was a great place for roller skating. I could go to the top of a ramp leading into the bleachers and come soaring down and around toward where Crisler Arena is now, away from the caretakers house, and have a great time until he finally saw me and came, shaking his fist, signaling time for me to head for an exit.
    The father of one of my friends took tickets for football games, so we quickly learned that once kick–off took place, the ticket takers headed in to watch the game, leaving the gates unattended. I always missed kick-off too, but it was years before I actually bought a ticket to attend a game! It seemed sort of wrong. After all those years of attending free I had gotten a feeling of entitlement!
    When I reached high school age, the old Ann Arbor High School didn’t have its own athletic field. High school football games were held at the U of M practice field, illustrating the connection between town and gown. I continued to explore campus, and discovered a variety of free or nearly free movies, and how to find out about them. My campus hobby was expanding. If I needed an incentive to explore, there was a somewhat morbid urban legend that existed among my high school peers, and may still exist today. It was about the existence of a two headed baby preserved in a jar in a lab somewhere on campus. Several people who I knew, but not well, insisted either that they had seen it themselves or personally knew someone who had. I dedicated myself to finding it, without success. However, many years later I got into a conversation with a teenager who told me, in fact, there really was a two headed baby preserved in a jar on campus. I asked if he had seen it himself. He said no, but several people he knew had either seen it themselves or were personally acquainted with someone who had!
    Every teenager needs a hangout. The college students hung out at Drake’s Sandwich Shop on N. University. My friends hug out at the Betsy Ross Shop in Nickels Arcade. With an excess of nostalgia, I wonder if anyone has an old file photo of it. I could smoke freely there, when it was prohibited at school. Because the high school was right next to the Rackham Building, and because my best friend shared my co-ed dream, we used to go over to the Rackham study halls to do our homework, and talk about how we would pretend to be U students if approached by a guy. The study halls were very nicely furnished, with many art objects sitting around openly. It was inspiring to study in such elegant surroundings.
    Time passed. Too much of it. I didn’t go directly from high school to the University, but I did get there. I remember my jubilation when I got my letter of acceptance. I went walking across campus, looking up at the wonderful old buildings and thinking, “This is MINE….finally, all MINE.” And, while looking up, I ran smack dab into a blind man. Only in the movies! But, it was a humbling experience (and unfortunately not the last).
    Those were the days before computers. Registration was in the old Waterman Gym that used to be sort of across the street from Hill Auditorium on N. U. The lines extended all the way across the Diag and around onto State St. People in line took orders and brought back take-out lunches for their friends and even for strangers, their instant friends. It was even worse once you got inside the gym, with lines snaking around and around, and little stations for various departments and courses. Woe to the student who had reached the point of absolutely needing a specific class!
    During those undergrad years there was a lot of student unrest on campus. It was an exciting time to be a student, but it had its down side. All the art objects were removed from the Rackham study halls after some came up missing. Portable property had become free game. Sometimes classes were held in space volunteered by one of the students because there was a strike and we couldn’t use our classroom. SNCC or some other similar organization sponsored a home tour to parallel the one held annually by the Ann Arbor Women’s City Club, only instead of showcasing the nicer homes, this was to showcase the poverty that was so carefully hidden from sight in Ann Arbor.
    By the time I got to graduate school, the U of M had bought my old high school building and renamed it the Frieze Building. So, I had the odd experience of coming full circle, returning to the same classrooms I had been in as a teenager. But, because of the rebellious times, I could now smoke openly in the classrooms, whereas in high school I had to sneak to smoke in the girl’s restrooms.
    Now, of course, even the Frieze Building is gone, but not my memories. I still live in Ann Arbor, so I can walk around campus and have layers of memories follow me around, enriching the moments, but hard to share with a companion who cannot see what I see, memory photos of all those other times.

    • Sandra Samons
    • MSW
  9. Great Events

    My years were in the early 60’s and what a delight!

    I saw Kennedy give the Peace Corps speech and noted that Tobin’s accounting missed the joy of it all.

    And I carried the School Flag at Commencement and read the Great Society Speech over LBJ’s right shoulder. And Kelley Johnson recieved his honorary PhD.

    And I was Chairman of the A&D open house when we had Alan Kapro do a real “Happening” and that art movement later inspired the Blue Man Group.

    And it was great to See Segovia at the Rackham and Odetta as well.

    And yes there was the P-Bell and the dark beer and the Russian rye bread slathered with butter.

    And there Was Bob James playing the bottom side of the piano at a sleazy bar that later expanded and became a place to be at.

    And there was Harry Smith’s brother, cleaning the windows at the Little Shop on a beautiful fall afternoon and listening to Brubeck’s Take 5 and Blue Rhondo a la Turk.

    Or The beautiful older Lady in a black satin dress with full height lace up boots in her Detroit Electric on South U. That was a show stopper.

    And when Music School was embedded around the Nichols Arcade and you could hear musicians pricticing the piano and singing with the windows open.

    And the Wonderful Old West Engine with it’s arch and the weathered placque of Professor Green with his Donkey saying “Young Man, when theory and practice don’t jibe, use your horse sense.”

    And then there was Tom Monahagn standing to the side of the drafting studio looking at us forlornly and then asking him how old he was and then running through the calculations with him and pointing out that he would be rather old when he graduated and went through his internship, and asking him what he did now and he said “Worked at Dominicks” and suggesting that he probably would make a lot more money selling pizza rather than architecture and some day he could hire us. And it came to pass.

    And there were the good professors and the bad professors and the Communist professors.

    And there were the sketch competitions where on one occasion to address the area in front of the main Library, I pointed out that it was our yard and needed little other than fine paving and some beautiful benches.

    And there was the wonderful work of William Muschenheim and working for Dave Osler, the contractor on the weekends, and at the Chinese restaurant for food and tips.

    And there was falling deeply in love on two separate occasions and being humiliatingly crushed by deceit.

    And there were the two Chinese Roommates, one from Mississippi and one from Hong Kong and the one from Hong Kong saying to the other, “Jesus H. Christ Paul, you are more Goddamn Chinese than I am!”

    And there was riding on the bridge in the Naval Architecture tow tank and meeting the NA model maker an seeing that wonderful program with my most dear friend.

    And there was auditing courses like Prof. Tonsor’s modern intellectual history. Or Chuck Cares history of Landscape Architecture.

    And there was the stunningly beautiful apartment designed by Professor Joe Wehrer and Harold Borkin.

    Can you think of a better place to study? Not I.

    • Lewis M. Dickens
    • BArch