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Class of 1959...



“Don’t – as you graduate – carry away the notion that your education is finished,” wrote President Buell G. Gallagher to the Class of ‘59 as part of his message in Microcosm.

The Class of ’59 entered CCNY as its campus experienced a major growth spurt in September, 1955: The new South Campus opened, transforming the College from “a spacious court surrounded by stately buildings of Medieval design,” as described by Mark Twain in 1906, to an eighteen and a half acre tree-spotted patch of greenery in the middle of the bustling metropolis of New York.

Lists and affiliations were recurring issues during the Class of ’59's four years, as compulsory membership lists, initiated the term before the class arrived, were required of every student organization, drawing strong protests. Reflecting the tensions of the times, an invitation to Paul Robeson to appear at the annual Academic Freedom Week ceremonies was revoked, as Student Government President Jared Jussim expressed the fear that Robeson’s visit might make the College look bad in the eyes of outsiders. Eleanor Roosevelt subsequently spoke on campus about conformity in Russia, while Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Peoples Rights candidate for the City Council, was banned by President Gallagher on the grounds that she had been convicted under the Smith Act.

The campus continued its transformation process. The Morris Raphael Cohen Library opened, and Drill Hall was torn down to make way for the new Tech building. With the cooperation of the Atomic Energy Commission, an atomic reactor was installed under Lewisohn Stadium.

The last Friday Night Dance, a College tradition since 1943, took place at the end of the 1957-58 school year. A lack of funds was blamed for its unfortunate demise.

Senior year, “Benny the Beaver,” a 5.5 ton sculpture by CCNY alumnus Robert Russin, took up residence behind the Finley Center, facing the new library. A sportscaster named Bill Stern labeled City College, NYU, the University of Chicago and Harvard as “hotbeds of Communism” because they didn’t have football teams (though, in fact, Harvard did have one). His observation was met with laughter by the student body. The Senior Prom was held at Tavern-on-the-Green, and a good time was had by all. The Farewell Ball, which took place just before Commencement, was a smashing success. Then came life after City College, with the hope, again expressed by President Gallagher, that graduates would “continue a life-long self-education,” thereby giving their alma mater “good reason to rejoice.”


Many of these Class notes are excerpted from the 1959 Microcosm, Editor-in-Chief, Robert Steinberg.




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