The Living Memory
Alumni reflections on the Vietnam era at Tufts
A Storm of Liberation
Steven E. Miller, A66
I feel enormously privileged to have come of age at a time when
waves of social change seemed to pound our shores as if a gigantic
storm of liberation was sweeping the globe. The belief those times
gave me that individuals could collectively turn the levers of history
toward a better world shaped my philosophical outlook, my personality
and my life. It was a time that turned a lot of us into "social
misfits" unable to accept our normal place in the status quo,
and for that I've always been grateful.
The 1960s were not just about Vietnam. The antiwar movement had
its roots in the civil rights movement and spawned the women's and
gay/lesbian movements. At Tufts, the various strands of the counterculture
all flowed together: radical politics and poetry, community service
and marijuana, Marxism and hippiedom, adolescent self-indulgence
and deep self-sacrifice.
This was when I first read books by Kerouac, Ginsberg, Heller and
Camus; when I worked with a street theater on the belief that drama
was a way to precipitate social change; when I joined a study group
to uncover those aspects of US history and economics that weren't
being taught in the regular classes. I remember the phone calls,
collecting money, secretive trips, and anxious waiting when women
friends had to get still illegal abortions. Or the shock of learning
that a good friend was gay, a category of people that simply "did
not exist" in the sheltered world of our childhood.
There was the day a fraternity invited a couple of us SDS types
to talk and agreed with us that the student government was a farce.
I woke up the next week to discover that the student government
had dissolved itself. There were clicks on our phone lines. One
day the FBI came knocking and we ran out the back door thinking
that we were going to jail (we didn't). I remember a joyous feeling
of solidarity when we marched in from Medford in an antiwar protest
and suddenly found ourselves merging into a column of tens of thousands
of like-minded people as we approached Boston Common. I remember
the same feeling when we joined a massive antiwar march in Washington,
DC, and ended up being teargassed in front of the Justice Department.
Like many of my classmates, I believed radical change was possible;
now I think that this belief is only honestly available to the young.
Thirty years later, I still see myself as an organizer for a better
world, but I have a longer time frame and a more complicated understanding
of the kind of world I wish to help create. There are some parts
of the past I simply laugh at. Still, I hope my own children have
a chance to experience something like it.
Steven E. Miller, A66, has spent the years
since graduation as a community organizer, teacher, writer, media
commentator, entrepreneur and father. His first book, Civilizing
Cyberspace: Policy, Power, and the Information Superhighway,
will soon be followed by Technology
Is a Tool; Education Is a Relationship.
A Voluntary Exile
Ellen Schmidt, J69
As one of a group of the first seven undergraduates to go abroad
on the Tufts-in-Tuebingen Program, I spent the 1967-1968 academic
year in Germany. I didn't feel anti-Americanism toward me as a person
at all, but there were very strong "anti-imperialist"
sentiments for the U.S.'s role in Indo-China: "U.S. 'aus aus
Vietnam! US 'raus aus Kambodscha!" were the shouted slogans
as the large demonstrations wound through the narrow medieval streets
of the 800-year-old city. The "Amerika Haus" (USIS) was
attacked with graffiti and in the newspapers. In response, the name
was changed to the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut. Some German
radical luminaries of the day, like some of their US counterparts,
later lost their revolutionary fire. Others, such as a law student
who was my housemate in Tuebingen, joined the Green Party.
After returning to Tufts for my senior year and graduating in 1969,
I moved back to Tuebingen, taught special education, and lived there
for seven years. Although the prime reason for living there was
that I had fallen in love with a German student, I consciously went
into voluntary exile. U.S. society, checkered by Vietnam and racial
strife, was feeling far too fast and out of control. I needed to
be in a tradition-laden culture that seemed more grounded. Eventually,
it was just this tradition-laden culture that stifled me. My husband,
our baby, and I returned to live in the US in July 1976, just as
the Tall Ships celebrating the Bicentennial were sailing up the
Six years later while attending a conference in Washington, DC,
I looked up my former Tufts roommate, Margaret Drysdale. She took
me to the newly opened and controversial Vietnam Memorial designed
by Maya Lin. I was not prepared for the overwhelming emotions that
came over me. We walked slowly along the shiny black wall that carries
the names of 50,000 dead people, a wall that bisects the park, in
memoriam symbolically to a bisected nation. As we walked we were
silent. I remember everyone around us was silent. We could see our
own reflections coming back at us from the black marble. I am not
a frequent crier, but tears and sobs came suddenly and relentlessly.
Usually able to describe my feelings well in words, I have trouble
explaining what was going on inside me. Standing in front of this
enormous polished wall, I was shaken by the enormity of the era
it expressed. Images came back: numbing television pictures of Southeast
Asians whose names were not carved in the stone in front of me,
memories of how my my friends, boyfriend, and brother all struggled
with choices of Vietnam vs. Canada vs. prison vs. conscientious
objection, and others left with no choices at all. I stood in front
of this slippery wall of history, a symbol of passion and fear,
a symbol of all wars in human history. I was seized by the pain
of the past and by the mistakes that were to repeat themselves in
the future. It was a pain that wasn't going to go away.
Ellen Schmidt, J69, lives with
her family in Ithaca, NY. She maintains contact with two Tufts-in-Tuebingen
students and with Bob Asch, still director of the Tufts-in-Tuebingen
No Pomp and Circumstance
Evelyn Stern Silver, J70
When my mother attended her grandson's graduation last spring,
she told me that it was the first "real" college graduation
ceremony she had seen. I never thought about it that way, but of
course she was right. Nearly 30 years ago, when her only child graduated
from Tufts, there were no caps and gowns, no pomp and circumstance.
The administration didn't even attend.
In the spring of 1970 it just didn't feel right to celebrate the
end of our years at Tufts in a traditional way. Looking back, I
realize that the Tufts administration did try to accommodate us
by excusing us from finals, allowing the deans to hand out diplomas
and "giving" us the green the day after the traditional
ceremony (which hardly anyone attended). At the time, however, we
were so angry-at Tufts, at President Johnson, at the National Guard-that
compromise was the last thing on our minds.
I was involved in planning the ceremony: we marched in to Dylan,
Congressman Al Lowenstein of New York spoke passionately about the
state of the nation, the Memorial Bells were rung for students killed
at Kent State, and we gave parents flowers instead of programs.
After I was elected Class Speaker, it wasn't difficult to decide
what to say, but it was hard choosing the way to say it. I knew
that the faculty would understand (most Tufts faculty supported
the student strike). But I was pretty sure that many of the parents
would be disappointed if not downright hostile.
I spoke against the moral vacuum of the ivory tower and said it
was time for universities to become "comuniversities,"
that Tufts faculty and administration should not shield students-or
the university-from larger issues off the Hill.
Tolerance of our protests was not enough. If Tufts and other colleges
continued to ignore their "responsibilities" to the community,
graduates would be apathetic and cynical, rather than compassionate
It's hard to convey to my sons the feeling we had that we could
change the world, that we just had to. Since my husband and I both graduated
from Tufts in '70, there have been many dinner conversations about
those years. Now that I have gone over to the "dark side"
of college administrations, I realize just how frustrating the Class
of 70 was for Tufts! But I also can empathize with the frustration
most students feel about the pace of change in a university.
I have very positive feelings about my time at Tufts-inside the
classroom and out. My husband and I became engaged on graduation weekend.
My roommate and I are still the best of friends. Looking back, I think
Tufts handled our special commencement quite well. But that's a
perspective you can only get 30 years out. I don't know if it is
older and wiser, but definitely more mature. The challenge for the
Class of '70 is keeping some of our ideals in the face of all that
My younger son called home from Tufts last year to tell us he
had participated in a protest over the lack of minority faculty
on campus. He believes that protest played an important part in
Provost Gittleman's (who, by the way, was one of my best teachers)
decision to increase funding for diversity efforts on campus. His
moment of activism is the best legacy I can think of from my years
on the Hill.
Evelyn Stern Silver, J70, is director
of Equal Opportunity at the University of Maine. Her husband, Warren
Silver, A70, is an attorney in Bangor, Maine. They have two sons.
Dan is at NYU Law School and Andy is a sophomore at Tufts.
Brian Kraft, A73
We were concerned with moral development and a moral response to
Our gurus were Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. Our temporal leaders
were Professor Saul Slapikoff, and my classmates Gordon Schiff,
Martin Blatt and John Hess. We felt it was a categorical imperative
to act. We were facing a dichotomy of right vs. left; and we unequivocally
turned left.This led to civil disobedience at the Federal Building
in Boston in 1970 and at Hanscom Air Force Field in 1972. When I
was facing trial for disorderly conduct, my father wrote me: "Can't
you understand that institutions are made of people like you and
me-imperfect people? The thing to do it to try to change people-people's
attitudes, and you can't do this if you offend them."
Tufts was a good place to be an activist.
I learned lessons about thinking, about process, and about accountability
that are still with me today. I am thankful for that. We blamed
Tufts and the Fletcher School for complicity in Nixon's war. The
truth is, Tufts is one of the few schools in the country where the
faculty passed a resolution condemning the war.
Brian Kraft, A73, is a civil engineer living in Bethlehem,
Creating a Foundation
Charles Jordan, A69
There were about seven or eight African Americans at Tufts when
I arrived in 1965, and all, like me, from privileged backgrounds.
But we shared a common concern to heighten sensitivity about what
a diverse student body should be.
When we formed the African-American Society 30 years ago, we were
taking only the first step toward addressing our own isolation as
well as a larger goal. In the spring of 1968, we led a demonstration
in front of
Ballou Hall. We spoke to the need for greater diversity and numbers
in our community. Our concerns had an immediate response. Alvin
Schmidt, dean of students, and John Palmer, dean of admissions,came
out to speak with us. President Burton Hallowell and Provost Al
Ullman met with us later inside, and Bertie Harleston was very helpful.
We were invited inside to have an official meeting and two days
later we had an office
in Ballou. We raised $50,000 for scholarships through a mass mailing
parents, students and friends; the faculty also contributed significantly.
Although recruitment was essentially over for that coming fall,
the funds did make a difference in the number of minorities admitted,
about 60 to 70, and from diverse backgrounds.
Tufts was a special place; it was a small campus and the administation
was highly supportive. With John Palmer, I traveled around the country
recruiting from inner-city schools. Al Ullman generously agreed
to a tutorial with me for a paper I was writing on admissions.
If Tufts seemed the center of my universe, it was because it paid
attention to what we had to say. It gave me the security to speak
out and follow my ideals. Previously, I had done what was expected
of me. Tufts provided an environment where I could explore new possibilities
and new ideas-something I still try to do today. Tufts helped to
create that foundation and for that, and many other things, it will
always be important to me.
Charles Jordan, A69, a former director
of finance at the New York Stock Exchange, is president of Charles
Jordan and Co., a brokerage firm, and of Jordan Advisory.
Years of Contrasts
Richard Altschuler, A70
In the fall of 1966, soon after we arrived on the Medford campus,
we were dancing to nonstop Motown atop 3,000 pounds of sand trucked
in from Cape Cod to amplify our Hawaiian luau fraternity parties.
Our coiffure of choice was crew cuts that could easily be confused
for those worn by West Point cadets, and our attire was penny loafers
Fast-forward to the fall of 1969 and the Beatles "Revolution"
that had come musically and politically. We had grown thicket-like
sideburns and hair that draped over our shoulders; we wore the styles
of "Woodstock haberdashery."
In a short time, our political and social world had turned upside
down. These were college years marked by strong contrasts in tastes
and attitudes, which were in themselves an education. The Motown
Hawaiian luau frat parties were soon evaporated memories and gave
way to student strikes and marches in Washington.
For me, one of the most remarkable personal lessons of that time
came about thanks to the gentle advisory hand of the Tufts administration.
I, like many of my fellow students, became critical of capitalism;
we were becoming increasingly convinced that the ideals of socialism
supported a far more humane society. In the winter of 1970, our
university decided that the best way to learn about communism was
to experience it firsthand. I was fortunate enough to be one of
the 20 Tufts students, along with students from MIT, Boston University,
Harvard and Simmons, who were given the opportunity in my senior
year to participate in a program in the Soviet Union.
While traveling for several months in the meteorological and political
frozen tundra of the Soviet Union, my thoughts shifted dramatically
about socialism. It left most people drained of the human spirit
since it didn't take into consideration the human instinct for competition
and achievement. We spoke with many young people filled, like us,
with hopes and dreams, but deterred by the mental inertia fostered
by their totalitarian government.
Back home, I had little time to reflect as we were confronted within
one week of our return in rapid succession with the cancellation
of student deferments, the re-establishment of the draft lottery
and the tragedies at Kent State and Jackson State. The ultimate
response of our class was to refrain from having a conventional
graduation. We were the only Tufts class in the 146-year history
of the university that did not officially graduate.
My class of 1970 was smack in the middle of the crisis in Southeast
Asia. The maelstrom hit with a fury in our graduation year. Yet
during these turbulent times, I still felt like Dorothy in The Wizard
of Oz: there was no place I would rather have been except "home"
with my fellow students and the understanding administration and
faculty. When I reminisce about my college years, I often think
of the irony of the underplay of our university motto, "Pax
et Lux." Although we never did achieve "peace" before
we graduated, I, along with the majority of my classmates felt blessed
that we still had a sense of "light" on the Hill. This
was not only because there was always a glimmer of hope, which was
finally realized by the late 1970s, but also because of the intellectual
freedom Tufts always afforded us.
Today, almost 30 years later, I feel fortunate to have experienced
both halves of my contrasted years at Tufts. They made me aware
and appreciative of surviving significant challenges, to not be
overwhelmed by them, but to learn from them.
Richard Altschuler is a trial
attorney in Connecticut and a founding partner of the law firm of
Altschuler & Altschuler in West Haven, Connecticut. He is chair
of the Tufts Alumni Admissions Program for southwestern Connecticut.
Caught in the Middle
Susan A. Miller, J70, G73
I was happy at Tufts, but it was a very uneasy time to be a college student.
As in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, it was both the best
of times and the worst of times. We were in our own happy and closed
environment, and yet we were also in our own personal hell.
I was in love with a classmate who was an engineering student. And
he was an Air Force ROTC cadet. The United States Air Force was
paying for his Tufts education. We sat around with our classmates
discussing the need and the validity of the Vietnam War. We were
friends. We were on two very distinct sides of a political debate,
a vicious debate that was pulling us apart. Some of my classmates
left the United States instead of submitting to military service.
Yet we were friends. I want to tell you about four incidents that
distorted my junior and senior years and shaped my response to life.
The ROTC classes were held in Sweet Hall. The mood of the campus
was very negative against the military in general and the Vietnam
War specifically. In response, the Air Force and Navy held the ROTC
classes at a time when the guys could put their uniforms on for
the one class and then return to frat house or dormitory to put
on other clothes to go to other classes. Wearing your uniform was
mandatory. In the first two years of our Tufts career the guys could
wear their uniforms all day long in all their classes. I was on
the top of the Hill one day when several friends in uniform were
crossing campus after their ROTC class and I saw them pelted with
raw eggs and rotten vegetables as they ran. This image still shocks
me. We were acting out the political debate by victimizing each
One morning in spring the campus woke up to more than 200 policemen
in riot gear with canisters of mace and huge nightsticks and dogs
ringing the building site now called Lewis Hall. It is a sight that
I will never forget. It was a structure of girders at that time.
Students were sitting on top of the girders in occupation. We were
a university campus. We were in ferment. But we did not expect to
wake up in a war zone. That was the future nightmare reserved for
after graduation. The resolution of this situation was sloppy and
ragged. At one point the university threatened to take our university
IDs away from us. And just as now, it was our pass into the library,
into the dining hall, and into all the other places we needed and
wanted to go.
Later in April we were visited by the events at Kent State University.
This canceled all our second semester exams. It canceled more of
our hope. We seemed to be going from outrage to outrage.
One final indignity was visited upon the man in the Air Force uniform.
He was now my husband. We had been married just before our senior
year began. The Air Force and Navy decided to move the commissioning
of officers off campus. Previously, the commissioning had always
been held on campus the day before graduation, and the new officers
wore their uniforms to graduation. My husband received his commission
at Hanscom Air Force Base, and he did not wear his uniform to graduation
because he did not feel he would be safe.
The ROTC students entered the military service upon graduation.
They were on the front lines in Vietnam and at America's military
bases around the world supporting our wonderful freedoms, including
the freedom of speaking out against the Vietnam War.
We have survived. I have survived. My generation has survived.
We, those on both sides of the debate, are still friends. But we
are indelibly stamped by the Vietnam War.
Susan A. Miller, J70, G73, a
graduate of Suffolk Law School, is a TAAP chair and administrative
vice president of the Tufts University Alumni Council. She is a
regulated healthcare process manager for ID Systems Corp. Her husband
is Peter L. Miller, Jr, E70. Of their children, Peter L. Miller
III graduated from the Engineering College in 1996; (his wife is
Jayne E. Wellman, J96). Andrew graduated in 1998.
Domenico Rosa, A70
The Vietnam War continues to be a very painful experience for me.
Many of my fellow students from Everett (Mass.) High School served
there, and I knew three of the nine who died there. Their loss is
still with me and has been made more bitter by the publication of
Robert S. McNamara's memoirs and of the taped telephone conversations
made in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson.
I was not an antiwar activist, but I was opposed to the Vietnam
War from the beginning. My family emigrated from Italy after I had
completed elementary school, and my political-historical views had
been shaped by the Italian Risorgimento. At Tufts, I attended numerous
meetings and rallies that sprang up every time there was some major
escalation in the war. Before the massive rallies of May 1970, 20
to 100 people would show up, and you could usually count on a variety
of perspectives and strong political opinions.
I will never forget hearing MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who stood
in front of Ballou Hall in the spring of 1967 and gave an excellent
overview of Vietnamese history, of the French attempts to reestablish
control after WWII, and of the subsequent US involvement. A heckler
challenged almost every point that Chomsky tried to make, and an
officer who was an instructor in the Navy ROTC program gave a rebuttal
in which he stated: "We are in Vietnam for one reason and one
reason only: to stop China."
At another small rally in front of Barnum Hall, several students
started debating the U.S. and Soviet systems. Saul A. Slapikoff,
professor of biology, articulated a point that impressed me, stating
that in the Soviet Union brute force was used to control people,
whereas, in the US, economic policies manipulated people. I also
remember listening to Hugo A. Bedau, professor of philosophy, who
was strongly opposed to the war.
Elliott Shapira, a professor of French, was of a different view.
I recall one rally where he stated emphatically that the U.S. was
defending freedom throughout the world. He was a WWII veteran, and
he saw the Vietnam conflict as an extension of that war. I remember
when he became clearly disillusioned with student speakers, he responded
by saying most Tufts students had been pampered and privileged,
that we took freedom for granted. Though I disagreed with his view,
I admired him for speaking from his principles.
That is why I think one of the most indelible experiences of the
Vietnam years is the courage of those teachers and fellow students
who spoke up and put themselves on the line for their beliefs. I
was a passive participant; I watched from the sidelines as I worked
toward my degree in mathematics. Perhaps because I was an immigrant
who had been in the country less than 10 years, I didn't have confidence
to state my opinions in public. But the responsibility is still
there, and that is why I write this short piece now: to share what
I remember and to hope that others might not be silent when they
Domenico Rosa, A70, is a math
professor at Teikyo Post University, Waterbury, Connecticut, an
affiliate of Teikyo University in Japan.
Stephen Amberg, A77
A common observation about the student movement of the 1960s is
that it could not overcome the four-year cycle of students through
the universities. Each new "generation" of students had
to be organized afresh, brought to the teach-ins and demos, have
their consciousness raised, and taught the organizing techniques
to carry on the movement. Tufts was one of the most active campuses
because student organizers sustained the movement across "generations."
When I arrived on campus in February 1973 from Grand Rapids, Michigan,
Tufts seemed alive with political activity. A year later, I was
a cofounder of the Tufts Political Action Group (TPAG), which was
mentored by antiwar leaders among the upperclassmen, Tufts graduates,
and former Tufts students who had dropped out and/or had been jailed
as a result of the police confrontation during the takeover of Ballou
Hall. I had been a high school antiwar activist from a liberal perspective,
but TPAG introduced me to the panoply of American radicalism. The
mentor-organizers had been members of SDS (then defunct), followers
of eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin, active in the Indochina Peace
Campaign and many other organizations including Tufts' Collective
Effort. We joked that TPAG had a name that was as innocuous as Students
for a Democratic Society. The American war in Asia was almost over,
but there were many, many things to do because the lesson of the
war was that it was not an isolated mistaken policy, but one instance
of a pattern of policies that frustrated democracy. We were activists
and we put ourselves on the line. We organized protests against
imperialism, such as the U.S.-promoted coup d'état against
the democratic socialist government of Chile, the American-supported
Greek junta, the Franco regime, Portuguese colonialism in Africa,
and military recruiting on campus. We did grassroots education,
including a rally on prisoner rights at which Denise Levertov and
Danny Schecter spoke, regular leafleting of the dining halls and
letters to The Observer, a series of political films, and book-reading
groups that studied social and political theory and history.
We mobilized students to support union struggles by joining the
picket lines at the Chelsea Produce Center for the United Farm Workers
Union, at area clothing stores for the garment workers on strike
against Farah, and at Boston-area restaurants being organized by
the feminist-led Independent Restaurant Workers Union. We protested
corporate control of American government reflected in the Nixon
administration and the American Bicentennial Commission. We carried
petitions in Somerville for the impeachment of President Nixon,
helping to gather about 16,000 signatures in one weekend, and trucked
students to the big rally of the People's Bicentennial in Concord.
TPAG was an important part of an exciting, fulfilling education!
Stephen Amberg earned a Ph.D.
in political science at M.I.T. He is a tenured professor at the
University of Texas at San Antonio where he teaches American political
development and labor politics. He is an organizer of Progressive
Texas, a multi-organization, statewide network of community and
Thomas Stevens, A68
After thirty years of struggling with how to put some of my thoughts
to paper, I feel now it is important to speak up for those Tufts
graduates who did not march in parades or stage sit-ins to protest
the war in Vietnam, feeling a different set of values guiding their
reaction to the war and all it meant to young men at that time.
In my case that value structure came largely from my father and
grandfather, both Tufts graduates and both men who served their
country after graduation in World War I and World War II.
I went to Vietnam partially pressured by family and tradition and
also out of curiosity-a curiosity instilled in me by my Tufts educational
experience. I went because I wanted to know, firsthand, the truth
about Vietnam. I graduated from Tufts in 1968, was drafted in 1969
and was sent to Vietnam in 1970, where I served in the military
police. I came back from Vietnam in 1971 to do graduate work at
Tufts. Where the war had had little or no impact on me during my
undergraduate years, when I returned to Tufts, I felt distinctly
like a pariah. I was now outside of the mainstream of the Tufts
community, most of whom had been involved in protests and sit-ins
while I was gone. For all their involvement in war protest, I found
people didn't really want to know what Vietnam was all about from
the people who had been there. I think this had to do with a tendency
on the part of most to confuse the moral issues of the war with
those forced to fight it. After a year there, I knew it was immoral
just as they did, but we couldn't seem to connect. My experience
was too different from theirs, a situation which many vets have
felt, which leads them to associate with other vets because they
feel, as I do, that a person who has not been there can't possibly
Today I feel it is important to remember that there were Tufts
people like me faced with difficult moral decisions at a young age.
They did what they thought was the best thing to do. I think the
confusion of the war among those who fought it has not changed much
over the years and I still find that most people don't want to hear
about it, don't want to know what happened there, what it did to
us as Tufts graduates; they don't want to try to understand. I hope
we do not end up, to paraphrase Santayana, not learning from the
lessons of history, and end up condemned to repeat them.
Thomas Stevens, A68, has spent most of
his working life sin shipbuilding and marine design, most recently
as senior designer for the Naval Architectural firm Gibbs &
Cox. He resides in Dover, NH.
Years of Experiment
Lynn Zuckerman Gray, J71
His name was Jim, I think,
and he lived in our lounge on the third floor of Tilton Hall. He
appeared one day-he was someone's friend. He looked like a dozen
other guys on campus, long hair, beard, worn clothes.We brought
him food and he just hung around. He had been drafted but he wasn't
going to Vietnam to carry a gun and fight a war that he opposed.
He lived in our lounge until Thanksgiving when the dorm closed for
the holiday weekend. We were all too involved with our own holiday
plans to think about Jim. No one could take him home-he was a draft
evader. We didn't know where he would go. We just assumed he would
be back. The pay phone in the lounge rang one night in early December.
It was Jim. He was in Canada. He called to say good-bye. We never
heard from him again.
The Tufts I found when I entered in September 1967 was a very different
place from the one I left in June 1971. Those were four of the most
turbulent years in American education. No beautiful brochure filled
with interesting courses and colorful campus pictures could have
prepared us for the four years that followed.
Although a New Yorker from birth, I came to Tufts naïve about
the challenges that I was about to face. Orientation was about wearing
brown and blue beanies, learning the elephant walk (try finding
someone who knows how to do that now) and mastering the dorm rules
about curfew, checking in and out, and the Sunday male visiting
hours. Betty Bone was the dean of Jackson and Miss Pierce was our
strict dorm mother. The girls in the dorm gossiped about the senior
who was suspended because she did not ask the dean's permission
to marry. We were required to wear skirts to classes except in blizzard
conditions. At the end of each night, our dates were only permitted
in the "fishbowl" at the entrance to the dorm.
By senior year, dorm rules were gone, the dorms were coed and we
had "dorm autonomy." Antonia Chayes, our new dean, revolutionized
the Jackson way of life. My matching sweaters and skirts were replaced
by torn bell-bottoms, body shirts and beads. The sex experts Masters
and Johnson gave an on-campus lecture that was so well attended
that speakers had to be set up in several adjoining buildings.
Tufts in the late 1960s was not a particularly radical place. But
no college at that time could escape the anger, fear and pain caused
by the Vietnam War. The war was something we did not want, and many
of our alumni and classmates faced the terror of being sent to fight
it. We lived for each day because tomorrow might not come. We experimented
with drugs, we shared our bodies. The war was a reality more frightening
and more important than our GRE scores.
Today, my generation sits on boards, writes books, and teaches on
college campuses. We enjoy our families. But underneath the suits,
flannel shirts, and T-shirts and jeans, we still have peace signs-maybe
not on our cars or on our T-shirts, but still in our hearts.
Lynn Zuckerman Gray is a senior
vice president at Lehman Brothers in New York.
A Safe Haven
Betsy Banks Epstein, J73, G74
Arriving at Tufts from a
private girls' day school in the fall of 1969, I was hurtled into
a maelstrom of antiwar activity. It wasn't long before I retired
my plaid skirts and matching sweaters for patched jeans and tie-dyed
T-shirts and was swept up in the turmoil.
As a freshman I joined a march from Medford to the Boston Common
with many newfound friends. On the Common, construction workers
jeered us as we chanted: "All we are saying is give peace a
chance." That spring after Nixon authorized the invasion of
Cambodia, I boarded a bus bound for Washington, DC, where the White
House was protected with bunkers and armed soldiers.
I remember a warmer reception from Senator Kennedy, who, impressed
that we were canvassing for signatures door-to-door, held private
session with Massachusetts' students. He seemed to genuinely share
our "stop the war" vehemence.
On a more personal front, there was my boyfriend's impossibly low
draft number. Since we were morally opposed to the war, we thought
about leaving our families and resettling in Canada. Many young
men relied on doctors' letters documenting old knee injuries or
back strains. My boyfriend relied on wearing his body down so that
no member of the armed forces would be interested in inducting him.
On one occasion, he spent a whole night jogging back and forth between
the Medford campus and Harvard Square with me keeping him company
by riding my bike beside him.
For all the upheaval and uncertainty of these years, Tufts was a
relatively safe haven from which to explore tough issues. Yet it
was hardly static. The Experimental College, with its emphasis on
creative problemsolving, gave us a chance to study in new ways.
As a child study major, I was grateful for a seminar led by Robyn
Gittleman, who encouraged informal discussions about alternative
teaching methods in public elementary education. These kinds of
courses enriched the department offerings, and more. My boyfriend,
now my husband of 28 years, took advantage of the Experimental College's
film courses to explore opportunities beyond the traditional curriculum.
He credits these innovative classes with keeping his attention during
a chaotic time to be in college.
Coming from a conservative high school, I learned at Tufts to express
my thoughts and take action. In contrast to the stereotypical "Establishment,"
the university included professors who were approachable and willing
to exchange ideas. Similar to a large number of Tufts students,
I got my first real taste of political activity during these years.
Many of us realized that instead of sitting around and complaining
about what was going on in our country, together we could have an
Betsy Banks Epstein is a mother
of three and a writer living in Cambridge with her husband, David
R. Epstein, A72.