LET’S REMINISCE: THE GOLDEN ROO CLASS OF 1968
By Jerry Lincecum & Peggy Redshaw
When the Golden ‘Roo Class of 1968 began a “Walk Down Memory Lane” with us, it was clear that they felt a bit disoriented. That was because the room they had just entered seemed very familiar and yet also strangely different. We met them in a classroom where they had spent many hours between 1964-68: Hoxie Thompson Auditorium in Sherman Hall. This auditorium had been the classroom in which they had attended countless required lectures in Basic Studies (a sequence of courses in Western Civilization, fondly known as BS).
But Sherman Hall has undergone extensive renovation, and Hoxie Thompson Auditorium now appears luxurious compared to its condition in 1968. Similarly, the opinions these alumni expressed about their Austin College education in general and some of their professors in particular have also been updated in the last 50 years.
For eighteen years in a row it has been our privilege to conduct reminiscence sessions with the Golden ‘Roos. Each May alumni who graduated 50 years ago return to campus for a class reunion that culminates in their receiving a new diploma and a medallion from the college president. The hardiest souls stay long enough to attend Baccalaureate and Graduation with the current year’s class.
A sentiment expressed by several individuals in different ways was this: “I learned how to think, to examine ideas and ask questions in order to solve problems and discover who I wanted to be.” Sometimes it was a certain professor or specific course of study that provided the impetus. Other times it was the opportunity to be involved in theater productions, be a member of a sports team or musical group, help design and conduct a survey in Sherman, or play a leadership role in student government. There were numerous opportunities at AC which would have been denied these students had they attended large universities.
Several of these alums spoke of relationships they had with faculty. For example, one talked about a course on personality theory he took with Dr. Virginia Love. She wrote him a strong recommendation for graduate study. He kept the textbook and studied it before taking his qualifying exam in educational psychology (which he found easy).
One alum talked about the upper-level courses in math and physics he took to earn his undergraduate BA degree. He moved on to graduate school at a major university but did not feel that he was learning more. In addition, his fellow grad students seemed narrow in their training and thinking. After completing a Master’s degree and taking a job at Texas Instruments, he was given a challenging problem to solve. He realized that the way to do it was to apply three basic steps from his physics courses at AC with Lloyd and Mary Gourley. Throughout his career he kept textbooks from some of those courses on his desk.
These alumni were in college during the ‘60s and they experienced some of the ill effects of experimenting with psychedelic drugs. One person remembered his roommate convincing him to take a little white pill in order to stay up all night studying. He then took an exam in Dr. Ken Street’s class and felt sure he had “aced” it. But Street called him in and showed him his exam booklet filled with squiggly lines that were illegible. Street then allowed him to retake the exam.
One alumnus got off to a bad start with history professor Ed Phillips when he noticed she was knitting during his lecture. He felt disrespected; however, when she explained that her mind absorbed his lecture better that way, he apologized. A couple of decades later, when her teenage daughter needed help with a history project, Dr. Phillips remembered this alum and made several phone calls to help the daughter.
Hoxie Thompson Auditorium was also the place where Kappa Kapers was performed each fall by members of the Kappa Gamma Chi sorority. One man who helped out backstage recalled that during some quick costume changes behind the scenes, “I had to close my eyes to avoid seeing nudity.” (Much laughter ensued.) Another told of a small dog from the Sherman animal shelter who was part of the show one year. After being kept in Coffin Hall (surreptitiously) for about a month, the pup was then adopted by a newly-married pair of students living off campus.
Several memorable presentations by professors like Dr. Fred Eutsler were cited. His BS lecture on “The Song of Roland,” an epic poem from the Middle Ages, showed that the literary work falsified history by blaming Moors for an ambush led by Basques. He then ended with an almost unforgettable pun: “Don’t put all your Basques in one exit,” instead of “all your eggs in one basket.” The college also hosted numerous visiting speakers while these alums were students, including scientist Werner von Braun (forecasting future Apollo launches) and architect Buckminster Fuller (talking about Geodesic Domes and Spaceship Earth). Chaplain Allen Smith inspired many students with his sermons.
1968 was the first year for “minimester” one-month classes in JanTerm. Some of these alums benefitted from such immersion courses as Cecil Isaac’s study of Beethoven and Ed Phillips’ focus on the 1920s (which included him playing his collection of 78 rpm records from the era). Other alums commented on a general feeling that their profs were so dedicated that one felt obligated not to let them down by performing poorly.
We have reported here only a small sample from the 90 minutes of reminiscences. As retired faculty members ourselves, we find it very rewarding that each year’s Golden ‘Roo alumni have had so many positive memories and favorable judgments about their experiences at Austin College and the education it enabled them to accomplish.
Dr. Jerry Lincecum is Professor Emeritus of English, having retired in 2006. Dr. Peggy Redshaw has continued to teach since 2014 as Professor Emerita of Biology. Their scholarly publications include Adventures of a Frontier Naturalist: The Life and Times of Dr. Gideon Lincecum, soon to be reissued by Texas A&M University Press in a 25th anniversary edition. The late Dr. Ed Phillips collaborated with them on this book.