Read the sentiments from six of the First Women from the virtual event that took place on Sept. 10, 2020.
Wow! This is truly amazing to see so many women reconnecting and celebrating-albeit virtual-the pivotal moment in Lafayette’s history with the arrival of woman to Lafayette!
I am Cindy Oaks Linville, Class of 1980, Econ Major and a member of the lacrosse and field hockey teams. I will be acting as your host while we gather virtually to toast our friends, our school, our teammates, and our professors! Please feel free to share your own toasts and memories in the chat!
I would like to set the stage for the timeframe that women arrived on campus. As the US entered the 70’s there was a great shift in our American culture, society and politics. It was a tumultuous time marked by Richard Nixon’s entrance into the White House in 1969 and Ronald Regan’s landslide election in 1984. In some ways the decade was a continuation of the 60’s and feels not too far different from the uprisings that we are seeing in today’s world for those marginalized people. Americans were protesting the Vietnam war and women, blacks, people of color, Native American Indians, sexually fluent men and women, and other marginalized groups were fighting for equality.
The tragedy of Vietnam and the trauma of Watergate created much skepticism toward government and a new political right was born. This was contrasted by personal liberation and rebellion against authority as Americans sought individualism through new outlooks on religion, popular culture, and sexuality.
Fashion trends were flamboyant with polyester and velour being the fabrics of choice. Bell bottoms, platform shoes, high boots, pant suits, track suits, sideburns and yes the tennis headband.
Top movies included Clockwork Orange, Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Rocky, Apocalypse Now, Jaws, and Saturday Night Fever.
Top TV shows were Eight is enough, The Brady Bunch, Maude, Sanford and Sons, and Happy Days.
Popular music included the influx of rock and roll and top groups were Bee Gees, KC & Sunshine Band, David Bowie, Hall & Oats, Grateful Dead, Eagles and of course Bruce Springsteen.
Thank you, President Byerly, Barbara, and Bob, and Cindy, Jennifer, and Dana for taking the time and making the space for us to celebrate our 50th anniversary of women Leopards!
As a first-generation firstborn of two daughters to Iris and Arthur Bailey in Harlem New York, I am thrilled and honored to join with the women on this panel and specifically to represent the other 122 first women on campus, especially the 11 Black women whose paths taken to get to Lafayette where as varied as we were, yet with all of us sharing excitement, nervousness, and a deep commitment to learning and growing into our highest potential!!
After getting over the fact that it was 50 years ago when we first started at Lafayette, the challenge for me was how to turn four years of memories into 2-3 minutes! So for my toast, I raise my glass to a rapid stream of memories, some sad, most joyful, and all cherished! I am largely going to read these to try to stay within the timeframe… My friends, never let an academic speak without a written script! I have put them in ‘chronological’ order, noting a Life Lesson learned after each reflection:
The 1st Day of My 1st Class
Yes, the Board passed a resolution and yet perhaps not surprisingly some of us here heard that first day: “Welcome students and welcome young women. The Board voted you in but know that not all of the faculty agreed.”
Lesson learned: Even within hurtful times you can find not just a silver but a gold lining!
As I look back, I give thanks to that professor, for further deepening my resolve to succeed in everything I’ve ever done!
New Frosh Dorm
Yes, coed cohabitation was a first for me and actually it was the first time sharing a room with someone other than my sister Dawn! Sharing the bathroom with others on the floor, and sharing stories with my roommate Joy, talking about our families and our dreams, usually super late at night… meeting and sharing a washing machine with my first new Black woman friend, Alma.. Putting all of my brand new white underwear in with her white curtains, remembering to keep the ‘whites with whites’ but very unfortunately her curtains turned out to be made of fiberglass… Just thinking about it still makes me itch!!
Lesson learned: Connections of the heart can last a lifetime.
The Lab as part of our Psychology Class
Hearing the professor say “No, she’s not a rat, Darlyne… she’s a white mouse and with her you will really learn about B.F. Skinner and operant conditioning!!”
That was the beginning of my journey with my little mouse I named Pretty Girl, she and I connected. I knew she was smart and I also knew that she could’ve learned much more and much faster with a better teacher… Then one night I overheard the professor and his lab assistant talking (yes, I was there many a night, working with Pretty Girl…). I heard them talk about all the mice who didn’t learn all they needed to know about pushing the lever to get the pellets… In short, by the end of the class those mice would be killed and not bred like the others…!!
As you may imagine Pretty Girl and I went into hyper-mode, often many nights until 10:00… The result? Pretty Girl mastered operant conditioning and I aced the course!! To this day I am certain that the students over the years to come had generations of Pretty Girl’s babies to learn from and with!!
Lesson learned: When those who come together are open hearted and open minded, and focused on a common goal, sheer magic can happen… Even between a young Black woman and a little White mouse!!
Time, Lots of Time, at “The Black House”
Yes, the Black House on campus was actually colored white but it was our home away from home. It had well-served the Brothers, the Black men who had been at the College over the years who started the Association of Black Collegians. There are wayyyy too many stories to tell about times together at that Black House, and frankly our unspoken yet understood ‘code of silence’ was meant to last a lifetime and probably beyond!!
That said, with the brothers who were there before and the 14 younger Black men who also started in 1970, that House saw lots of eating, laughing, dancing, watching TV, and did I say eating??
One memory I can share is watching a basketball game on TV and settling-in, actually squeezing-in on the couch to eat my liverwurst on rye… I looked around and, remembering what my Mom had taught my sister and I about sharing, I took one bite and passed the sandwich around… What came back was much less than one bite..!!
Lesson Learned: When risking to authentically engage with others sharing your thoughts, feelings, and even food, what can come from that, the end ‘result’, can often times look very different than from what you had imagined!!
Honoring Dean David Portlock: Connecting those on “The Hill” with “The Townies”
While most all of the administration were as caring as President Roald Bergethon – Dean Herman Kissiah and Phil Schroeder come immediately to mind- it was the only Black Administrator, Dean David Portlock who won my heart and the hearts of all the rest of us, those of us at Lafayette College on The Hill and those from his home, those Black and Brown young folks in the town of Easton. I remember shortly after arriving when Dean Portlock took Rhonda and I to meet two of the Pratt brothers who, in turn, lovingly opened-up to us their very large family and huge network of friends, sharing home cooking, learning how to ride horses western-style ( yes, there are Black cowboys!!) during times spent off-campus… I remember starting an afterschool program, and jumping into the back seat of a very old convertible with wayyyy too many folks in it to be legal…
Lesson Learned: Different histories, different chosen paths can be bridged by common values and shared experiences.
Easton High Riots
I can still see a van load of us driven by our, short in stature yet huge with love, Reverend Sabey. We were going to help amplify the voices of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters at Easton High School, hoping to de-escalate the tensions, and mediate conversations between them and the police. I remember a police dog jumping on my chest… And I remember being scared, really scared, and trying to be brave.
Lesson Learned: Both courage and compassion must coexist to bring out the best in anyone and any situation.
McKelvy Scholar Dinners
… deep dives into a multitude of topics and lots and lots of food, minds connecting with minds…
Lesson Learned: There are immense opportunities for teaching and learning when we’re engaged in authentic dialogue; exchanges of mind and heart that, as I would later learn from my friend and colleague, Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire, consist of trust in self and other, care of self and other, and positive regard for self and other.
Yes, I remember one of, if not the first, official game… I was #42 and I caught the ball actually intercepted the football, and I ran down the field grinning from ear to ear soaring pass astonished faces amidst cheers (or at least a lot of noise) from the bleachers and feeling so proud that my Mom and Dad and my sister had come and sat in the rain to watch this game!! I remember running as fast as I could and slamming that football down on the ground so hard between the goal posts just like I’d seen our Brothers do in their games… to very quickly discover that I had indeed made a touchdown but it was a ‘safety’, a touchdown for the other team who got two points and even got the ball back as a result!!
Lesson learned: In life, you may sometimes run in the wrong direction, but at least you ran!!
Student Teaching and Researching Students
I remember the gentle and wise tutelage of my Student Teacher Mrs. Brick and how she smiled when I let the students touch my ‘Angela Davis Afro’… You see they had only seen Black folks and Afros on TV…
And I remember collecting information on all of the incredible GPAs and the innumerable national awards that we new Black Sisters and Brothers had received prior to coming to Lafayette. You see, several of us had been told we were there only because Admissions had lowered their standards to follow ‘Affirmative Action’.
And I remember my Dad coming to talk to all of my Sisters and Brothers about his journey- having dropped out of school in the eighth grade, joined the Service, and later getting his GED and becoming one of the first 4 African-American Ford new auto dealers and the first in New York City!!
2 Lessons learned: Both teaching and learning require risk taking. When all involved risk sharing and listening, life-long teaching and learning can happen.
And relatedly, I learned the real meaning of the words later made famous by President Barack Obama “Yes, We Can”, adding, Yes, We Did!!
And lastly, among the highlights of my memories is the 1974 George Wharton Pepper Prize
No, I didn’t win that prize…Harry Norton did, I came in second. Yet I remember getting hugs and major congratulations!!
Lesson Learned: Positions of honor and even power are just that, positions at a moment in time. It’s best to hold both applause and negativity lightly, as neither defines who you are.
So here’s a final Toast to ALL of the women trailblazers, and especially all of my Sisters in the Class of ‘74, here on earth and up in heaven. And most especially Sheila Walker, Alma, Rhonda, Debbie, Sylvia, and a group we called “the Five”… Our journeys were both similar and different and yet we all stayed to the end for our New Beginnings!!
A toast of endless gratitude to you all and our much-loved Brothers, faculty, staff, Administrators, dear friends in Easton, and most definitely our Families…
I am who I am today and tomorrow because of who and how you were with me.
Ellen Kravet Burke ’76
Dr. Burton Cohen, professor of psychology:
He was very stern, he was not as approachable as other professors and I am not sure that he was all that thrilled with ‘women’ being accepted to Lafayette. I just got that feeling. Yet, he was determined to treat the women as equally as the male students.
For example: Some of you will recall that in the basement of Pardee, was the experimental mice area. It didn’t smell too good down there and everyone just knew that there were mice in cages for experimentation. I wasn’t thrilled with the entire idea but the course was a requirement for my major. We worked in pairs and my partner was also a female, also grossed out and afraid of the mice. Dr. Cohen knew this about us, it was obvious to him. I give him credit for talking and walking us through it. He actually coached us on working through our fears and anxieties. Taught us to work things through, head on. We didn’t realize it at the time but the way in which he taught us to just ‘deal’ with things has certainly guided me through several of life’s similar situations. Although we knew that he didn’t love women on campus, he was determined to make us stronger and better.
Dr. Marshall Brown, professor of psychology:
Tomorrow was the first day of freshmen classes and there were already frat parties taking place. How could I go to a party the night before my first class? This would have been unheard of in high school. Yet my brand new friends in Watson Hall said that it would be a lot of fun so I joined the girls’ outing. We arrived at Theta Delt, to meet what appeared to be thousands of ‘guys’ on the expansive front porch. It was overwhelming, as was the heavy scent of beer. A nice guy, presumably an upper classman, asked me if I wanted a beer. I politely declined. There was a shocked look and expression on his face. When I told him that I don’t care for the taste of beer he seriously replied: “you’ll never last 4 years here without drinking beer!” It was almost a challenge. In the 4 years, I was offered beer many times, in many situations, and never gave in to the peer pressure of drinking beer. Peer pressure is a major thing in college and my beer non-experience taught me to always stay strong to your convictions…don’t let others lead you to where you do not want to go. When the following week I shared this story to my College advisor Dr. Brown, he couldn’t praise me enough. He guided me through all of my 4 years and would always remind me of staying strong, not giving in to any type of peer pressure and not following the crowd. Wonderful life’s lessons.
Dr. Earl A. Pope, professor of religion:
I am fortunate to have had 3 dear girlfriends in my sophomore year that joined me in a desire to study abroad….Major obstacle: Lafayette did not have an overseas study program. As we all had Dr. Pope as a professor of religion, we were familiar with his love of worldwide travel. Maybe this was our ‘in’. Our little group approached him to ask that he endorse such a program at Lafayette. He thought it was a great idea but time was not on our side. After much discussion, he told us that if we could collectively find an overseas program at another institution then he would approach the administration to find a way for us to attend, receive credits for overseas courses, and see that our place was held back on campus the following semester. This was unprecedented at Lafayette. We indeed found a program, attended that program in London, and had a remarkable experience. This was the start of Lafayette’s initiative for study abroad. Lesson learned from Dr. Pope …..if there are obstacles in your way, keep on trying until you succeed.
We can all use these basic life’s lessons and I am grateful that these 3 professors encouraged me the entire way.
Hello! My name is Dr. Marion Shapiro Saffer, Class of ‘77 and I want to tell you about some of my experiences at Lafayette College as one of the first women to attend and graduate from our school.
On my first day at Lafayette, I and every other woman was quarantined. Why, you ask? There was no such thing as co-ed dorms. My dorm at Ruef Hall had strict rules about male visitation to deal with the hormones raging in our Lafayette freshmen boys! President Bergethon made sure of that!
My goal on entering college was very specific- I wanted to become a doctor. You might think this is a difficult goal, even now it is very hard to get into medical school, but in 1973 when I started college, women comprised only 5% of medical school graduates. So to even consider applying to medical school I knew I had to be a straight A student. As a math and
science nerd and, even then, a full-time fashionista who graduated high school in 11th grade, this seemed a daunting task!
But Lafayette made it very easy for me! From my professors, Dr. Chase, Dr. Stableford and especially Dr. Majumdar, I was encouraged to achieve my goal. I thought my professors were, thankfully, gender-blind. When I entered Biology, Chemistry, and advanced calculus as a freshman I was sometimes the only female face in class. You could think this was either good…or bad, but I can honestly say that it didn’t discourage me. My first two years were mostly spent either in Skillman Library or the science building Kunkel Hall /studying, studying ,studying – well you get the drill.
But suddenly Junior year was upon me and, having completed all my major requirements for med school, it was time to take a deep breath…and PARTY!!!
That meant going to the fraternity cocktail parties, keg nights, basketball and football games and other social activities around campus (did I mention there were 19 fraternities on campus then-so lots of drinking holes to choose from?). On top of that I ate off campus at Sigma Nu fraternity, where I dated a really cute guy named Michael Saffer ‘77 – did I mention he’s my husband of almost 40 years?
Luckily Michael was on Student Government and had all access to the concerts and they were fabulous!
We saw Hall and Oates, Jethro Tull, Renaissance, Steve Martin and of course BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!!
My most favorite story about Bruce was at that time he had just broken out nationally and was on the cover of Time magazine. We couldn’t believe our luck in getting him to play at Alumni Hall! And afterwards, Bruce, Clarence and the band came to Sigma Nu. He came to the fraternity to wind down and have some fun. Most of the band disappeared upstairs, but Bruce sat down at the piano on the first floor and continued to play. We asked him – what would you like to eat, drink, or smoke. In his deepest set voice he replied – I’d like a root beer please!
When he left he kissed my cheek-which hasn’t been washed since (sorry Michael), a night I will never forget!
In my junior year, coasting along I started a Rathskeller in Marquis Hall and had several fun events like a 50’s night with music and dancing. In my senior year, I completed a senior honor’s thesis on the electron microscope and proctored the incoming science students in the laboratory.
Getting into medical school was my ultimate goal, successful I might add, and I’ve been practicing now for many years, first as an emergency room physician and now as an aesthetic cosmetic doctor. I’ll never know, had I attended another college, if this all would have worked out for me like it did, but I’m forever grateful to Lafayette for supporting my goals as a woman. That is why I’ve continued to give back to Lafayette by being a Marquis member for decades and hosting incoming students at events at my home.
So here’s a toast to all the First women of Lafayette, my professors, and my classmates, who helped make my dreams come true.
My Dad went to Lafayette, so I grew up visiting campus and attending sporting events, but when I walked onto the campus in 1974 I was on my own and to be honest a bit scared. However, everything changed when my cleats hit the field hockey field. Back then, we played on ‘March Field’, right in the middle of campus. I will be forever grateful for the love and acceptance I felt from the upper classmen on the team. The camaraderie, the mentorship, the humor and the grittiness of these woman was un-freaking believable. They had my back on and off the field and they welcomed me into their world….a world of powerful, confident woman. I toast Terri Diorio, Betsy Huston, Anne Shellenberger, Pam Lavelle, Susie Tischer, Stephi Sayegh and many more for loving me and for encouraging me to be a competitor and to bring my best to the field every day.
I also know they had their eye on me in the frat houses, making sure I was ok.
I toast our coach, Sharon Mitchell. We adored her and spent time with her on and off the field. We could never get away with the fun we had with her in today’s world of college sports….it was awesome. And the secrets of what we did…. stay here with me. One of my fondest and proudest memories I have was when a bunch of women, all field hockey athletes, who also played lacrosse in high school, asked “Mitch” (our hockey coach) if she would help us form a lacrosse team and coach the team….she of course said “sure”. I remember her saying, “I never played the game, but I think I took a few courses in college on the game, so I can figure it out”. We recruited basketball players and women who were just really good athletes and we taught them how to play lacrosse and believe it or not, we formed a team. No lag time, no problems with the administration…it just came together and happened. The power of women, getting together and going after what they want, making a mark in Lafayette history.
It was 3 men to 1 woman and we/I never felt intimidated or ‘less than’ or ‘unheard’. Looking back, I know now that the professors and administration and athletic coaches supported us and wanted us to succeed.
I lived off campus my junior and senior years in an apartment that was passed down to us from I believe a bunch of Phi Delts. It was called the Bungalow and I believe we kept the legacy alive since we had some of the best parties on campus….I mean “off campus”. Here was another group of woman, another support system, women I could rely upon. I remember we made a pact the last semester of school…. we wanted to embrace every day of our last semester at school so we made a pact to “socialize every single day”. The rules were that you could go to CHT or a frat house or to a dorm room to visit a friend, you didn’t have to drink, but you could if you wanted to, but you had to socialize every day even if it was for 10 minutes. I think even then, in real time, we were very much aware of the significance of our Lafayette experience.
So I toast the first woman of Lafayette! We were brave, we were smart, we were fierce, we were fun….., and we still are. “Cheers”
I come from a legacy family, a long line of Pards. My father and uncle graduated in ’29, two uncles attended but did transfer, my mother’s father was a graduate (Class of 1897!) and both my brothers, ’66 and ’69. So you would think it was meant to be that I would attend but my father was opposed to the college becoming coed so it was not on my radar. Plus, I was at a small all girls high school and I thought I would go study art. But for some reason my college counselor put Lafayette out there and so I thought why not, it was familiar; and I’m sure my father having resigned himself to women being on campus had a hand in that! So off I went. You would have thought coming from a small and all girls’ school to a college that was 80% male I might be shell-shocked or at least overwhelmed. One would think it would feel odd or daunting but it wasn’t. Somehow the college made the transition easy… how they set up the women’s dorms, how they selected roommates, everything. And when I looked around one day freshman year while sitting in my government class (why I took it I’ll never know) and realized I was only one of two girls sitting in a Kirby building classroom filled with at least 30 plus males, I realized the school had made the transition easy and seamless. That’s not to say I didn’t notice there were lots of opportunities for a fun social life due to limited female population and the ratio of male to female and for better or worse the male centric nature of the campus, but I also realized whether it was 20% female or eventually 50% the school was welcoming to women and would be successful making it as a coed college.
Playing a sport or sports at the college level was very different in the 70s versus now. But even though I felt I had the ability to play when I arrived at Lafayette I didn’t consider playing sports even though I had played field hockey and lacrosse from grade school on I thought it would be too difficult and time consuming in college. But when I saw the hockey team practicing on March field I had to join. March field was where we practiced and played home games while Phi Psi and DKE cheered us on even when it was just practice we always had an audience and inspiration. I played all sports all seasons as did a number of women in those early years and we grew together. And we had the same coach! That would never happen now but it was great for all of us to be in that group. No sororities on campus so we made our own! Now, you can play one maybe two sports but that’s unlikely and never with the same coach. It was an amazing camaraderie developed amongst those women that lasted beyond college.