50 Years Later: Stories and Shenanigans of Dear Old Rose from the Class of 1965

Monday, September 14, 2015
Members of the Class Of 65 at the 2015 graduation.

Members of the Class of 1965 received special 50-year recognition at Commencement in May.

Laughter bounced off warm wooden cabinets full of memories as members of the class of 1965 gathered this spring in Hatfield Hall's Alumni Center. Years and even decades had passed since some of the group had set foot on campus. Now, they reflected on those youthful times as they prepared to receive special recognition during Commencement the next day as Rose-Hulman's 50-year graduating class.

In the mid-1960s, the shadow of the Vietnam War stretched around the globe and across campus, and their time at Rose Poly would span some of the most tumultuous years in our country's modern history. The war in Southeast Asia, Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the space race would each influence the young engineers of the class of 1965.

"We all had a great feeling of patriotism," recalls Elmer Guerri (CHEM). Despite the heavy weight of the times, the young men retained a sense of optimism, a belief that science and engineering were the tools for creating a bright new future, and a healthy sense of humor.

It is those memories that were bubbling over as they met 50 years after their own Commencement.

Terry Fenimore (CHE) recalls the days with a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he shares the story of the group's freshman physics final exam, which was conducted in Shook Fieldhouse.

The group had procured a live chicken, and sneaked it into class in a briefcase, he says with a grin. About halfway through the final exam, one of the guys got the chicken out and threw the squawking fowl into the air. Choking back laughter, he adds, "Last we heard, one of the maintenance men was able to chase it down and it ended up going home with him for supper."

Ron Esserman (EE) recalls the ongoing rivalry between the students of Rose Poly and Indiana State University. Among the infamous pranks was the time someone "mixed up some epoxy and glued a piece of ladies' apparel" to a particular statue on the downtown university's campus.

In those days, the men recall, it was a rite of passage for freshmen to be taken on "road hikes," a prank that consisted of the victim being driven out into the countryside, dropped off and expected to find his own way back.

The class of '65 was able to elevate this particular tradition to a new level, thanks to Mike Wadsworth's (ME) pilot's license. The first "air hike" proved unsuccessful, however, according to Esserman, when the pranksters unknowingly left their victim just down the road from his own home.

Fifty years have passed since those misadventures, and the group marvels at the changes to the physical landscape and those that new technology has brought to bear.

"The facilities just blow me away. Our labs were well-equipped, but we didn't have the things they have now," Guerri says.

"What's still consistent is the attitude of the teachers and the students," adds Peter Canalia (ME). "The values that are still constant in the school."

At the core, they say, things that made Rose-Hulman excellent then are the same things that make it so in 2015. The hard work forges perseverance and problem-solving wherewithal just as it did back then. The value lies in more than just a degree.

"That's where you learn how to get stuff done," Wadsworth observes. "When you came out of Rose Poly you could analyze and tackle any problem. You get in the real world and it's a piece of cake when compared to here."

But it isn't just rigorous academics, Guerri says, that make a Rose-Hulman education unique.

"One thing that there is absolutely no change in is the relationship between the students and the faculty. I thought that every faculty member I had was there to teach me. I felt every one of them cared about me and was there to help me. That's still the case today, as I hear professors in their offices talking with their students," he says. "It's all still personal. It's family."