(HOST) As commencement season ends commentator Dennis Delaney has been
thinking about his own college years – the good, the bad and the better.
(DELANEY) As the graduation season comes to a close this year I
find myself reminiscing about my own university days. People of my
vintage are entitled. Those days were the early 60s – just before
Woodstock, flower power, pot, Richard Nixon and Jane Fonda behind an
anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam.
My diploma in 1963 was a
study in exquisite calligraphy, where my new status was spelled out in
classical Latin, which I even understood. Sure beats email. Commencement
speakers in those days were more likely to be scholars and authors than
celebrities and politicians.
College days then were heady with
intellectual fervor. We were excited to read good books and to know the
thoughts of great women and men who came before us.
I once signed
up for a course on the writings of Quintus Horatius Flaccus. You know
who he was? Well, we know him as Horace. Good old Horace had the
reputation for being the toughest Latin writer to translate and
comprehend. And you can take it from me, he was.
for the course was Dr. Graeber, a classicist to his socks. He was so
enthralled with the poetry and thought of this guy who lived 2000 years
ago that he carried with him a volume of Horace to read on the
battlefields of World War II.
Sui generis is what I call that. That’s Latin and a loose translation is: They don’t make them like that anymore.
students in those days were known as co-eds and they usually lived in a
gulag of women’s residential halls, presided over, I think, by former
female concentration camp guards! You could visit a young lady in her
dorm – but only in the parlor on the ground floor. And the unwritten
rule was: "Four feet on the floor —at all times"!
About the only
way you saw women connected with sports was as cheerleaders, on the
sidelines. That was a bad part of the good old days. But all that
changed in 1972 with Title IX, a federal law that forbade discrimination
in academics and athletics. That’s a good part of today.
the name Ernie Davis? He graduated from Syracuse just before me. He was
the first African American athlete to be awarded the coveted Heisman
trophy for football. Ernie was spectacular in both sport and character.
recently made a movie of Ernie’s life, and I was astounded to see
depictions of the racism hurled at black athletes back then. I’m not
proud of that aspect of my times.
But if not the greatest, my
college generation was still pretty good, and it did have something
significant that this generation does not have – the kind of college
debt that won’t take years if not decades to repay.