A response to “A Partial History of Connecticut College”
Yesterday afternoon I received an email from David Clark ‘73, one of the 28 men in Connecticut College’s first coed class. He was responding most specifically to my thesis’ chapter on coeducation. In it, he confirms that the Camel mascot was chosen because it had humps, and men at Conn hump. He remembers seeing half the campus leave on weekend nights to visit their boyfriends at other schools, and tells me that among the first men, “There’s an astro-physicist, a Broadway mogul, an ornithologist, a jewelry handcrafter, a musician, a preacher, and at least two have been mayors.”
Please read for yourself below:
The very first four men to graduate - all return to college students - in 1971.
Three men dining in Harris. 1970s - exact date unknown. Photo by John Robbins.
Admissions slideshow, “Connecticut College: Now for Women and Men.” Caption reads, “Individuality is respected and encouraged.” Video File. 1971.
Admissions slideshow, “Connecticut College: Now for Women and Men.” Video File. 1971.
Three men moving in, 1984.
I came upon your honors thesis about CC on the internet. Spectacular job! You made so many great interviews. Your writing style was a delight to follow. You told me stuff I never knew, and reminded me of events that were hazy or forgotten.
I’m David Clark. I am one of the original co-eds that first came to Larrabee in September of 1969, and graduated in May of 1973.
While I could tell you lots more stories, my training as an editor confines me to offer one commentary and one update. Please enjoy and use them as you see fit.
First the comment. You cite the letter from an alumna criticizing the decision to go co-ed in 1969:
She continued, “But most important of all, what kind of men do you really think are going to be attracted to a formerly all girls school?…they will either be girl crazy or so strange no nice girl would care to associate with them. Then what will become of our fine image!”
My Comment: Jane Bredeson, who interviewed me on January 24, 1969, had it right when she said the admissions office scrambled. The initial yield after the college’s offers and the applicants acceptances deadline of May 1st was just seven men. Thanks to some fast telephoning to guidance counselors around New England (and even as far as Colorado) the admissions office found several good candidates who had been “shot down” by all their college choices and were looking for somewhere to go. By some demographics, 1969 was the height of the baby boomers going to college, and competition was tough. So some of the original coeds were (probably badly) counseled into just applying to the Ivies and nowhere else.
The result however, was that everyone was glad to be there, even if CC wasn’t their first choice. There was a strong feeling amongst us that while this was an experiment, it was an experiment that was going to work. Everyone seemed glad to be a pioneer. And all of us coeds had the experience to be in a small minority, which can be very good training for dealing with the larger world. As far as braininess went, the women were so much smarter than we were it wasn’t even close; so we learned much from our female classmates and all the upperclasswomen.
Girl crazy? I can think of only one of us who seemed preoccupied with dating as many women as possible. Strange? Well we were all peculiar in our own way, but we were probably not much of a different mix of young men as you would have found at any other college that year. While classifications aren’t always the nicest way to talk about people, I’ll offer up these descriptions that may help tell something about us. There were jocks, recluses, stoners, studybugs, anarchists, preppies, eco-freaks, and techies. Thankfully no one was a bore.
Maybe the worried alumna thought we would all be effeminate, or even worse gay. And some of our sister classmates whispered the same thoughts. Again, we turned out to be the usual cross-section of society. As they began to know us as individuals, the women of the student body began to respect us for who we were, enjoyed our company in the classroom and around campus, and as more than one alumnae has told me, “you have no idea how much you were worshipped for helping take the college on its next steps.”
Did we have accomplishments? Sure did. Some bright boys became Phi Beta Kappa. We started the first basketball team and gave it a name (and Carrie Kent is spot-on when she says it was sexual). We even beat Vassar. We became a force in student government. We joined clubs and wrote for the paper and re-started WCNI. We sat in wonderment in classes like Ruby Turner Morris’ lecture on money with the gold (chocolate) pieces, and Wayne Swanson explaining how small the pool of presidential candidates might be (Blacks? Women?) and Walter Brady and Ernie Schlesinger trying to teach us calculus.
Did we have disappointments and worries? You bet. A typical weekend saw more than half of our sisters leave the campus to visit boyfriends at other schools. Some of us buckled under the academic pressure. Immaturity manifested itself in kitchen raids that bordered on vandalism. We played Frisbee in the halls of Larrabee and scratched the paint on the walls. Some experiments with alcohol and drugs turned nasty. The Vietnam war and the draft and the lottery picks of December 1, 1969 made our plans for after college uncertain. The killings at Kent State and Jackson State were scary. The May 1970 strike made us all think about where the country was going and the relevance of our education.
But all in all we survived, even flourished. And so did CC. As good an image as the school had before coeducation, I think there’s universal acceptance that it became even better. Hopefully our scared alumna who worried about what kind of men we would turn out to be can feel better about us and the college now.
“Twenty-seven men moved into the first floor of Larrabee in September of 1969, while the others were put on one floor of Lambdin and in a few dorm basements.”
As you and Peggy note, the numbers were really small and there were some day students and exchange students on campus. I don’t recall any men being housed in Lambdin that year, in fact it was the running joke that Lambdin was the dorm least friendly to men. In its original configuration the Plex had five dorms made from tan bricks, but for Lambdin the exterior brickwork was white. Hence the joke: “Why is Lambdin made out of white bricks? Because every girl in there is a virgin.”
They were succeeded there by Tim and Terry Napier, and then in 1972-1973 by yours truly as it became acceptable to have single men as housefellows.
It’s worth noting that apart from any occasional “sleepovers” that may have occurred that three women also lived with us and eventually married their boyfriends, all three couples are still married as I write this. Bobby Chappell and Timmy Dahlgren, Barbara St John and Peter Vickery, Sarah Nash and Harvey Moseley.
You may ask “what are we doing now?” Well I am the youngest of the lot and I just turned sixty, so we are all preparing for semi-retirement. As far as professions go, here is my quick count for those I can identify with certainty. There are five lawyers, including a former state Attorney General. Three went into medicine. Three (at least) went into teaching. Two are magazine writers (National Geographic and Sports Illustrated). There’s an astro-physicist, a Broadway mogul, an ornithologist, a jewelry handcrafter, a musician, a preacher, and at least two have been mayors.
Again, many thanks for the great work. All the best wishes for the future. If I can be a source for future endeavors, please feel free to be in touch.
MR C. From ’73.