"What I Remember Most" 50 Years Ago
In 1968, the school went from a two-year junior college to a four-year baccalaureate institution. This transition was facilitated by Dr. Ray A. Miller, president of York Junior College from 1959 to 1968 and president of York College from 1968 to 1975.
As we celebrate this milestone in our school’s history, we wondered what it was like to be a student some 50 years ago. We asked Dean Emig ’68, Barb Sleeger ’71, and Scott Hafer ’72, as well as recently retired Graham School of Business professor, Thomas Lepson, Ph.D., to talk about their experiences.
Living in a Period of Rapid Growth
During its transition to a four-year institution, the campus grew to nine buildings including York Hall (today known as Campbell Hall), a Student Center, a Library (which used to be housed in York Hall), Wolf Gym (located where the Waldner Performing Arts Center now stands), and a new Administration building. Administrators knew they needed to restructure in order to accommodate an ever-growing student population. Lepson explained that faculty members played an instrumental role in developing the College into the four-year institution it is today. He said the faculty “were just starting things like internships to get people into this school.”
Although the majority of students like Emig, Sleeger, and Hafer were commuters, four dormitories attracted more than 500 resident students. More women were attending the school than in previous years and, as the College’s 1967-1968 yearbook stated, “The addition of 130 resident women this year has contributed greatly to the maturity of student resident life.” Sleeger fondly remembers that she spent much of her time on campus with her sorority, Lambda Sigma Chi. She says, “being a commuter, I felt less ties with the College in those early years, so I joined a sorority. It was a great group of girls who did a lot of activities to serve the community.”
Life in General
Tuition was $375 for 15 credits and an additional $25 per credit beyond 15 in 1968. Both Emig, a Management major, who went on to work in the manufacturing industry and later own two businesses, and Hafer, also a Management major, who went on to work in the hospitality industry and later became an industrial buyer and then a buyer in retail for 30 years, worked part-time jobs to help pay for their tuition. Emig worked at the York Sunday News as a newspaper carrier and then later became a manager. Both Emig and Hafer would sometimes leave after class to go straight to work. Other days, they spent their time getting involved on campus and getting to know fellow students. Emig participated in the band as the drummer and Hafer spent much of his spare time in athletics.
They discussed politics, civil rights, the role of women in society, the Vietnam War, and protests. As Hafer recalls, there weren’t any protests or gatherings on campus, but “of course there were plenty of protests in the news at the time as the Vietnam War was on everyone’s mind. We did talk among ourselves about the war, but I don’t remember it ever being discussed in class.” Emig said, “Everyone had friends or relatives who were called [for the draft].” Local protests erupted over the war and the civil rights movement. “It was an unsettling time in York,” Emig remembers. It was also a period of momentous scientific change as people around the world watched and held their breath as Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s orbit.
Classes and Professors
There were approximately 55 full-time faculty teaching about 1,300 full-time students in 1968. Some of the 233 classes offered to students with majors in Business Administration, Engineering and Science, Liberal Arts, and Continuing Adult Education included typewriting and secretarial orientation, folk and square dance, vertebrate physiology, and introduction to the Old Testament. Sleeger, a Medical Technology major, still remembers Miss Trevethan, an English professor who “always told us to use ‘gutsy verbs’ in anything we wrote!” Popular classes included advertising, taught by Professor Yoas, and other business classes conducted by Professor Lisk, a “full-bird colonel retired from the Army who told some interesting stories,” Emig recalled. Some of the most popular majors were Business Management, Engineering, and Education.
Dress Code and Traditions
First-years had to wear a York College bucket-hat and large name tag on campus or at college functions. When in class or speaking with a female faculty member or female classmate, men had to remove their hat as a sign of respect. At the College picnic, if the freshman team lost the tug-of-war against the sophomore team, Freshman Week would continue for an additional week.
Emig reminisced that male students had to wear a coat and tie and if an upperclassman caught them breaking this rule, they could be forced to sing the College’s fight song. “The dress code for women was dresses and skirts and for men it was collared shirts and slacks, no T-shirts or jeans.” Hafer recalls a student walkout to protest the dress code. He says, “There was a student boycott of classes for one day to protest the dress code, but no changes were made while I was still a student.” In spite of the strict dress code and quirky orientation traditions, alumni looked back on these experiences with humor.
Spring Formal was one of the big annual highlights. Sleeger remembers being the talk of the campus one year. “When my date came to pick me up, my dad handed him the keys to his nine-passenger business limo. He was on cloud nine!” She said couples piled in for a ride to the east end of town to Gino’s, a popular drive-in, to get 15 cent hamburgers.
Before becoming the Spartans, students were known as the “Flying Dutchmen.” A favorite hang-out spot on campus, the Dutchman’s Pub, was the place to be to grab a bite to eat, meet with friends, and unwind after class. Emig, Hafer, and Sleeger spent much of their time between classes in the pub, and it was one of their favorite locations on campus.
The College had a strong participation in athletics with eight intercollegiate teams including baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, track and field, and wrestling. Hafer spent much of his time on the athletic fields and in the gym playing intramural sports. “I was one of the three students who set a world record for treading water in the College pool,” he says.
In addition to athletics, students also enjoyed guest lectures, music, and concerts. Bruce Springsteen played before a crowd of about 2,000 students with the band Crazy Horse in the College’s Student Center in 1972.
On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated shortly after becoming the democratic candidate for the presidential election. Earlier that year on April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, sparking violent protests and riots. York City was no different. Hafer recalls, “The biggest thing that happened around York while I was a student were the race riots that resulted in some deaths and a city curfew that affected some of my fellow students.” Emig said there were some bomb threats but these were not very serious. Peter Levy, Ph.D., Professor of History and author of The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s, extensively researched this era and the outcome of the civil rights movement in American history. When discussing his book in a CSPAN feature show earlier this year, he mentioned there were revolts specifically in 1968: “York too had also experienced a very significant revolt, but one that almost no one talked about.”
Hafer recalls the looming threat of being drafted for the war in Vietnam. “I remember the day after the first lottery drawing for the draft. Kids with very low draft numbers knew they were most likely to go to war,” he said. His number was 210 so he was sure his number was high enough to make him safe. Emig remembers “in 1966, all males 18 and older had to register for the draft. If you entered college you got a deferment. I never got called for a physical and when the lottery was held in the spring of 1970, I won my only lottery. I was number 356 out of 365. After graduation, I was reclassified as 1A [available for military service] but was never called. They did not get up to my number.”
As Sleeger, Emig, Hafer, and Lepson remembered the tumultuous events and shared memories from five decades ago, they also reflected fondly on their time spent at York. Emig credits York with preparing him for his career: “YJC helped give me confidence to continue my education at a four-year institution. It also laid the groundwork for my time spent in the manufacturing industry.” After retiring, Hafer returned to York College and works part-time in the campus bookstore. Sleeger says, “I feel blessed with the education that was provided to me by the College; it gave me the opportunity for a wonderful career at WellSpan York Hospital lasting 47 years.” She has also served on the Alumni Board of Directors for the past nine years. She notes, “Today, the College offers so much more than 50 years ago. Today’s students have many wonderful opportunities with activities and events to give them a well-rounded education. Being prepared for the next step in their lives is so important and York College certainly offers the students of today many advantages.”