College Archives

Fifty Years of Change: Franklin & Marshall, 1956-2006

This exhibit was originally prepared in 1996 for the 40th reunion of the Class of 1956 by College Archivist Ann Keene. It has been reposted and updated in commemoration of the 50th reunion held in 2006. ---Michael Lear, Archives and Special Collections Assistant, 2006

When the Class of 1956 arrived on the Franklin and Marshall Campus, you were greeted by President Theodore "Prexy" Distler. He welcomed an all-male Freshman class of 292 out of a total enrollment at the College of 1,100 students. Freshmen who were not commuting to campus were required to live in the rather spartan quarters provided in Hartman Hall. Upperclassmen, however, had the option of living in fraternity houses and in rooms rented in private homes. For the privilege of attending F&M, students paid $1,310 a year for tuition and room and board.

In 2002 President Fry welcomed a much different Class of 2006 to the F&M campus. Forty-seven percent of the 528 students entering the College in 2002 were women. The Board of Trustees ended the all-male tradition at Franklin and Marshall in 1968 with the first class including women entering in the Fall of 1969. For the past 20-30 years the school has focused on providing a more diverse climate for our students to live and learn. In the class of 2006, for example, approximately eleven percent of entering Freshmen were from multi-cultural backgrounds and eleven percent were foreign students. Residential life is also quite different. The construction of Marshall-Buchanan Hall, Benjamin Franklin Hall, and Weis Hall allows nearly three-quarters of the student body to live very comfortably on campus. Most first and second year students (no longer called "Freshmen" and "Sophomores") choose to live in the co-educational residence halls (no longer called "dormitories"). Student rooms are equipped with telephones, voice mail, and cable television hook-ups. All student rooms in the residence halls are wired with Internet connections which allow them access the library catalog, email and the world-wide web from their room. As you may have guessed, the comprehensive fee for tuition, room and board has risen substantially in the past fifty years, to around $40,000 for the 2005-2006 school year.

Hazing was a major part of the Freshman experience on campus during the 1950s. The College Blue Book, published each year for the incoming Freshmen, enumerated the regulations. Among the rules were:

* Freshmen shall purchase the traditional identification badge and hat. These must be worn at all times on campus with the brim down.

* Freshmen shall roll their pants up to the knee.

* Freshmen passing Old Main must remove their hats, place them over their hearts and say "We Hail Thee Alma Mater" three times.

These rules were enforced by the Sophomore class for the majority of the first semester unless the Freshmen were able to defeat them in some sort of challenge like the "pants fight." Hazing of this sort disappeared from the college landscape by the early 1960s. In recent years, incoming students have participated in a number of class unity-building activities such as Convocation and an Orientation weekend during their first few days on campus.

The mid-1950s was a time of transition within the College administration. President Distler resigned in 1954 and was replaced by William Hall. Hall served the College only one year before Frederick Bolman succeded him in 1956. The confusion caused by this revolving door of presidents led to a mix-up with the diplomas to be received by the Class of 1956. The ones given during the 1956 commencement had to be returned because the wrong signature was printed on them. Corrected diplomas were distributed in August. During this unsettled period, the College relied heavily on the guidance of Mac Darlington, Dean of the College, and Richard Winters, Dean of Students, to continue smooth operations.

The curriculum has had its share of changes since the mid-1950s. In 1956, students were required to complete 120 semester hours of work and pass a final comprehensive exam in their major to graduate. All students, except seniors, were required to attend three College assemblies and four chapel services a semester. Today, F&M is widely recognized for excellence in liberal arts education, granting degrees in 25 fields of study including Theatre, Dance and Film, Women's Studies, Africana Studies and Art. Students are required to complete 32 courses - 1/3 Major, 1/3 College Studies, 1/3 elective. The College Studies program was implemented in the mid 1960s to provide a wide exposure to a variety of themes in liberal arts. Students take at least one course in: scientific inquiry, the arts, foreign cultures, historical studies, literature, language and systems of knowledge and belief in order to graduate. In addition, students have increasingly become involved in original research with faculty members through the Hackman Scholar Program. Recently introduced to the curriculum are first-year seminars. This experience brings 15 first year students together during their first semester to live on the same dorm floor, attend a common course and ultimately become a support network for each other. This program has become quite popular, with enrollment exceeding the number of seminars offered. While attendance at lectures on campus are no longer required, students today are provided the opportunity to hear many nationally and internationally known speakers, such as John Updike and Maya Angelou, through the various lecture series sponsored by the College.

Some aspects of student life have not changed since the Class of 1956 attended F&M. While the Green Room Theatre (where many of you participated in productions such as "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial," "Mr. Roberts, "Bernadine," and "Jacobowsky and the Colonel,") has been replaced by the Roschel Performing Arts Center (opened in 2003) theater productions are still going strong.

Intercollegiate athletics are still an important part of the F&M experience. During your time here, the college sponsored 10 athletic teams. Today, the college sponsors 23 intercollegiate men's and women's teams and 7 club sports with over 25% of the student body participating in at least one sport. The Men's basketball team, in particular, gained notice in the last ten years participating in the 1996 NCAA Division III Final Four. Some of you will remember the Phi Sigma Kappa touch football team who went undefeated in five years of intramural play (1951 - 1956). This tradition continues with large numbers of students participating in co-ed volleyball, basketball and touch football each year.

Fraternities were major players on the social scene at F&M during the 1950s sponsoring weekend dance parties and yearly formals. In addition, the College organized exchanges with Hood and Wilson Colleges to bring female students to campus for social events. Today, Ben's Underground, a student-run nightclub housed in the basement of the Ben Franklin Residence Hall provides a venue for comedians and student and local bands. For over 25 years the College held the Spring Arts Festival where student-created art works were displayed at various locations across the campus and Hartman Green hosted the "Battle of the Bands" where local and student musical groups vied for prizes.

The greatest changes you may notice while visiting campus are the facilities.

For instance, the Fackenthal Library and its fondly remembered Browsing Room has undergone a great deal of change. In 1982, it was renovated and expanded to become the Shadek-Fackenthal Library. The Martin Library of the Sciences was constructed in 1990 to house the College's extensive collection of materials related to the sciences and psychology. It is also home to the Center for Information Systems and Computing Services which maintains the campus' Internet connections and computing resources and provides a computer workroom for students to write papers, browse the Internet and complete coursework.

Stahr Hall was the home of many of the physical science classrooms in the 1950s. It also housed the College's natural history museum until moved to the new North Museum in 1953. In 1966 the Pfeiffer Science Center was constructed as the home of the physical sciences, ending Stahr Hall's role as a science building. The building has been renovated several times during the years, the latest being in 1985. It was renamed and rededicated Stager Hall in 1988.

The Campus House -- now named Distler Hall --contained a canteen/snack bar and student lounge, and later the campus bookstore (1960-1976). The building was remodeled in 1977 to hold administrative offices such as the Personnel, Registrar and Business Offices. In 2004 the building was renovated and returned to use as the campus bookstore as well as a coffee shop.

East Hall was used as the Academy building, as a dormitory, and for a variety of administrative offices until it was razed in 1977. Steinman College Center, constructed behind this site, was completed 1976. The College Center has become the hub of student activity on campus, housing the Student Center, WFNM (the College radio station), various eateries, the post office and the Phillips Museum of Art.

Hartman Hall served as the Academy building, a dormitory, and the Student Center at different times in its history until it was torn down in 1975. The space on which it stood has been converted into Hartman Green.

To make room for the construction of the Pfeiffer Science Complex, the Scholl Observatory was razed in 1966 along with the last of the Quonset huts which stood on campus. The Campus Observatory has been moved to the Baker Campus, a few blocks west of the main campus, and has been renamed the Grundy Observatory. Pfeiffer underwent extensive renovation in 1996 to expand its space and modernize its laboratory facilities. The new complex is known as Hackman Physical Science Center.

Construction of the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center on the North Campus was completed in 1995. It provides an Olympic sized swimming pool, an indoor track and fitness equipment. This new facility is a welcome addition to the physical education facilities on campus.

Between 1998 and 2000, Hensel Hall was completely renovated to become the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts. Completing President Richard Kneedler's vision of an Arts quad, the Roschel Performing Arts center was constructed between the College Center and the old Biesecker Gymnasium and Fackenthal Pool. This facility now houses the mainstage theatre as well as expanded music and dance spaces.

In 2002, new College President John Fry began a series of exciting projects, including the construction of a new Writers House and an International House on College Avenue. Also under construction are a mixed-use retail and student housing complex on Harrisburg Pike, as well as a new Life Sciences building to house the Biology, Psychology, and Philosophy departments. Other initiatives involve raising the number of applications to the College, raising the College's national prestige and name recognition, and increasing the number of faculty.

I hope that you have enjoyed this virtual trip through the past forty years at Franklin and Marshall. My thanks to George Hoeltzel (F&M '56) for sharing memories of his College days, Dick Orkin (F&M '56) for encouraging the development of this page and Mo Oakes (F&M '56) for providing several of the photographs used in this presentation.--Ann Keene, 1996.

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