UW News

May 25, 2018

Class of ’68 reflects and looks ahead

UW News

Assassinations. War in Vietnam. Racial clashes.

Far more than simply the generation who lived the Summer of Love, members of the Class of 1968, which celebrates its 50th reunion next week, recalled their college years during a turbulent time in the nation’s history.

“My most enduring memories are that President Kennedy was killed my first quarter on campus and Robert Kennedy was killed during my last,” said alumna Sharon Maeda.

The Vietnam War weighed heavily on the student body. There were campus protests opposing the war, and — with an active draft in place — male students knew that if they didn’t stay in college, the result could mean a deployment to Vietnam.

“You had to keep up your credits or you’d be classified 1A and be drafted,” said alumnus Chuck Lesnick. “You made sure you passed your courses.”

Now, as the class celebrates five decades since graduation, they’re reflecting on their experiences and looking ahead to help a new generation of Huskies. This year, the Class of 1968 decided to set up the Boomer Endowed Student Scholarship Fund to serve as their class reunion’s gift. The scholarship aims to help students whose families earn too much to make them eligible for need-based scholarships, but who still struggle to make ends meet.

“What do you do for students whose families don’t have all the resources to pay the full load, but aren’t eligible for other programs?” said alumnus Dave Stone. “We’re trying to give to students in that box. We might, in some small way, help these students have a Husky experience rather than being ground down by having to carry a full load and hold down a job.”

Since 1964, when Stone was a first-year student, in-state tuition has gone up more than 2,600 percent, he said. Families need support to help this generation to succeed. The Class of 1968 also will encourage other classes — and all baby boomers — to contribute to the scholarship fund.

Thinking back on the turbulent 1960s, it was almost like two different college campuses, remembers alumna Rosemary Barker Aragon. “In 1964, we entered a collegiate culture from the 1950’s quiet, mostly white, suburban campus”. By the time she left everything was changing or had already changed. Activism had seized college campuses nationwide.

“Civil rights, the war, our right to have a voice in student and national affairs, and emerging concerns about women’s rights, were front-and-center on our minds”, Aragon said. “And then, by spring 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, the Tet Offensive had taken place and Bobby Kennedy was killed during finals week.”

The shocking national events rippled through every dimension of American life, including at the UW.

Even though there were civil rights and anti-war demonstrations on campus, it was hard to gain perspective on the enormous events that would shape the next generation. But those formative years have paid off, the alumni said.

“I didn’t realize the value of what was going on until I got out in the world,” Stone said.