Ms. Denise Franklin Terry ’68 recalls an Albertus experience formed during a vastly different (but significant) period in time. While dress codes have dissipated and House Mothers have evolved into Resident Assistants, the Dominican tradition still provides the backbone of an Albertus education.
On June 6, 1968, my class stood in front of Rosary Hall to receive our diplomas. We were all women then, women who had no idea what we would face as the world and the culture transformed. We trained to be teachers and social workers, and many of us married young. The Women’s Movement was a small seed, not yet an embryo, as we tiptoed forward, well educated and confident.
People talk about “the 60s” as if the country were filled with hippie communes. Rather, at least on Prospect Hill, rules changed slowly. A student at Albertus Magnus, particularly a resident student, was bound by curfews (and silent study hours and 10 p.m. lights out on weeknights). For meals at Dominican Hall, she followed a full-page dress code: skirts, of course, but also detailed descriptions of acceptable types of shoes, sweaters, and blouses.
If she wanted to take a walk or a bike ride in slacks, she had to put on a trench coat and leave the dorm by the back door. She could return a book to the library in this outfit, but not study there. She attended tea parties, wearing white gloves; she knew how many cookies a lady takes and how to manage a teacup.
In some ways, these were comforting routines. House Mothers kept an eye on sign-out charts and locked the doors at midnight. Male visitors, including fathers and brothers, remained on the first floor of dorms, with few exceptions (moving in and moving out days).
I hope that students still take three years of Theology and Philosophy; in those classes the class of 1968 learned the skills we would need to analyze and question assumptions and traditions as the world around us shifted.
Off-campus, we “baby boomers” volunteered: tutoring in New Haven; building in Mexico; organizing political campaigns; marching for peace and for civil rights. We were dancing to a whole new musical sound.
Yes, the class of 1968 made changes to a few rules concerning curfews and dress codes, but more importantly the student government officers worked with faculty and administration to change the power balance, making Albertus Magnus a more open and cooperative institution.
During our senior year, 1967 – 1968, the pace of change increased. A presidential campaign focused on U.S. involvement in Vietnam pushed a seasoned politician and sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, to decide not to run for a second term. In the spring, on April 4, we witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the widespread riots that ensued. As our senior year in high school had been shadowed by the death of President Kennedy, four years later, our final year in college was even more steeped in tragedy.
Two months later, we graduated. We wore pastel dresses on Class Day, surrounded by our happy families. But, on that day, just after midnight, Robert Kennedy had been shot. He died on June 6, the day we graduated.
More than forty-five years later, though, we still remember much joy on the Albertus campus, and we marvel at the diverse and vibrant campus headed by Julia McNamara.