Spring 1998

From Our Archives: The Times, They Were A-Changing

As you glance through yearbooks, photographs, and documents in the Wabash archives, no period on campus outside of World War II appears so defined by the passionate discussion of issues or so impacdefined by the passionate discussion of issues or so impacted by national events as the late 1960s and early 1970s. The mileposts begin with David Kendall's (Class of 66) letter written to Professor of Speech Vic Powell, carefully scribed on toilet paper from the jail in Holly Springs, Mississippi where the young civil rights worker had been arrested. In yearbooks from that era, you'll find photos of students dressed in coats and ties electing Richard Nixon in mock conventions alongside photos of members of the Black Panthers explaining their positions to Wabash students. In 1968, presidential candidates Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, and George Wallace campaigned in Crawfordsville, and students and faculty took to the streets. "W" haircuts on one page are followed by coverage of a short-lived but lively alternative spring weekend "tradition" called Ralph's Mother, whose guest list included the rock band REO Speedwagon and poet Allen Ginsberg.

In 1970, Wabash students voted to join 240 other colleges and universities in a one-week protest against U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, particularly the incursion of U.S. troops into Cambodia.The faculty voted to support the students, but also held classes for those who wished to attend.

Newspaper accounts and letters from the Dean's Office suggest that, through all of this, respect between students, faculty, and administration was remarkable.

Dean of the College Richard Traina wrote to parents: Throughout this week it has been impressive to see the fashion in which students of every opinion and persuasion have handled their debates over such controversial issues."

The front page of the "Strike Issue" of The Bachelor even featured the text of a telegram Wabash President Thad Seymour signed and sent to the White House.

But perhaps the most poignant item from that era is to be found in, of all places, the Wabash alumni magazine of the day. It reports the death of Philip A. Ducat, Class of 1962, killed when his aircraft was hit by mortar fire over Quang Tri province. Ducat became the first Wabash casualty of the war in Vietnam.

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