Equipped with fond memories of their college days, the Classes of 1973 celebrated their 35th Reunion by heading back to the classroom for a forum on the 1970s. Led by Professors of English Grant Holly and Daniel O’Connell, the discussion kicked off by reminding alums of their youth - a time when calculators and computers didn’t exist, when there was less pressure to conform to a traditional education system, and when political and social action was common among students and faculty.
“For me, the 1970s were a time of possibility,” says Holly, who joined the HWS faculty in 1970. “There really was a sense of revolutionary possibility in that period that is not found today.”
Alumni and alumnae unanimously agreed, citing the numerous social change movements they witnessed or took part in that defined the era, including the women’s peace encampments along the shores of Seneca Lake, the Vietnam War, and the bombing of the ROTC building which put Hobart and William Smith Colleges on the national news.
Alums excitedly exchanged stories about ‘Tommy the Traveler,’ how the times have changed, and professors who changed their lives by opening their eyes to the world around them. The Classes of 1973 also had the opportunity to look through some “antiques” from their college days, including several Herald
publications, newspaper articles, and a sheet brought in by one of the class members, originally hung from one of the Colleges’ flag poles, spray painted with a peace sign.
Holly and O’Connell commented that HWS students of that era, and those from the Classes of 1973 in particular, were more daring and outspoken than students from other colleges, which ultimately led them to have a much more meaningful educational experience.
“I think one of the most important things I’ve come away with is the power of one and how one voice can make a difference,” says Trustee Gail Herman McGinn '73, who, as the Senior Language Authority for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is the highest ranking civilian woman in the Department of Defense. Like her classmates, she has found inspiration in the HWS liberal arts education, and has devoted her life to serving others.
Whether they became doctors, lawyers or teachers, the Classes of 1973 have demonstrated their desire to make change, raise their voices, and make their actions visible to the world so that they may improve the lives of those around them.
“A lot of us here felt we were on the cusp of a revolution,” explains Dr. Ira L. Mandelker ’73, a sociology major who went on to earn his Ph.D. from New School for Social Research. “But it wasn’t just a political revolution; it was a social and cultural revolution as well.”