Class of 1951...
Many members of the class of '51 graduated directly from City College into the army. Ominous reports from the battlefields of Korea created anxiety on campus and led to increased enlistment into the ROTC.
Students with ROTC uniforms and veterans were a common site on campus. As the editor of Microcosm explains: "The large percentage of veterans at the College made us aware of our inexperience; they gave us a goal, and we aimed for it....As freshmen, we looked upon the veterans as "big brothers;" we were the kids. We respected them, and, in many cases, we followed their example. To them school was a serious business; few of them mixed school with pleasure."
As the veterans returned home and resumed their studies, City College's enrollment grew. With additional students on campus, the need for more space became pronounced. In January 1947, the college was given the first of its "territorial acquisitions," a three-storied red building on the corner of Convent Ave. and 136th Street. This building became South Hall and provided a gym for men and women, and many classrooms. The College also received Army Hall for additional library space and classrooms, which it later gave up in order to acquire the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart. Stretching along Convent Avenue from 130th Street until 135th Street, Manhattanville offered City College a much expanded campus.
In addition to acquiring a campus, the College attracted top faculty and began offering Master's degrees in psychology, technology, and education. The entire Engineering Department was also renovated and new laboratories were created. Without a doubt, the College was growing and thriving.
Along with long hours of study, students also enjoyed a number of special social events on campus. For one, there was the annual charter day which was celebrated with a colorful academic procession and a series of notable speakers. The members of the class of '51 entered City College in the midst of its Centennial Celebration in 1947, which included an even greater number of events commemorating the College's long and proud heritage. There was also engineer's day, when students in the tech school showed off their laboratories and work. Moreover, students enjoyed House Plan parties, the annual Christmas-Chanukah sing in Lincoln Corridor, and the annual boat ride organized by the Student Council.
Departing from a long tradition of June proms, the class of '51 held their senior prom in December. The change was decided upon by the Senior Council as a means of assuring that January grads who would be drafted before spring had a chance to attend prom. Two hundred couples turned out for the prom which was held at the Astor Roof.
The veterans on campus sought to find a voice for their experience through the creation of a second College newspaper, Observation Post. The newspaper, which started publication in February 1947, was sponsored by the Veterans Association to "emphasize the role of the veteran as a student."
In 1948, the College was given its first national championship by the fencing team. Leo Wagner '50 came to be known as the Beaver's "Mr. Football" because of his outstanding achievements on the gridiron. In 1950, the College's basketball team broke precedent by winning both major post-season tournament crowns in one year, beating Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, in the deciding game each time. Three members of the Lavender's basketball team represented the United States in the Israeli Olympics in 1950; where they led the team to victory.
Eleven months after the basketball team had earned the title of "Grand Slam Champions" by sweeping through both major post-seasonal tournaments, it was discovered that members of the "Cinderella Team" had accepted bribes to "dump" three games during the '50-'51 season that were played at Madison Square Garden. Consequently, guilty players were suspended and the '50-'51 season was cancelled.
On April 11, 1949, CCNY students went on strike to protest discrimination on campus. This strike was covered by the media and much exaggerated with The New York Post running the headline, "Students riot at City College." According to Microcosm, "Students were fighting for the abolition of bigotry and discrimination from a free municipal college where such bias was contrary to a free exchange of ideas and to everything for which the College stands."
The "ominous specter of war" weighed heavily on the class of '51. The editor of Microcosm states: "This expression of extreme depression and pessimism was not an exaggerated symbol of true student sentiment; it did indeed clearly express the then prevailing mode of opinion. It was one of sharp concern for the inability of youth to dream, to plan to map out an individual future. It was one of complete despair. Male graduates of 1951 found it difficult to project themselves into the future; to them only the present was real. Somehow, the future, though vague at most times, was still vaguer, dense and ominous with the foreboding shadows of a war-like military future."
Many of these class notes are excerpted from the 1951 Microcosm, Editor-in-Chief Jerome Levinrad.