One delight of my job is the invitations I receive to speak to various gatherings about days of yore at Emory. Such a gathering occurred during Homecoming last month as the Emory College Class of 1977 convened in Ackerman Hall of the Carlos Museum to renew friendships and swap reminiscences.
Emory Morsberger, who had served as Student Government Association president during the class’s senior year, recalled the astonishing fact that he won the Domino’s Pizza–sponsored pizza-eating and beer-drinking contest. What was astonishing about the event was not who won it—the identity of the victor is really immaterial—but that the university sanctioned the event at all. The drinking age in those years was 18. But still . . . Bishop Candler surely was turning in his grave.
Charged with the task of commemorating the class’s era in seven minutes or less, I went to work in Rose Library digging through the Campus yearbook, the Emory Wheel, and other sources, then penned a bit of doggerel to read aloud. For those readers who have memories of the era, some of the lines may ring with a note of familiarity.
Epic of the Class of Seventy-Seven
It was back in the autumn of seventy-three
When the Watergate scandal was raging,
And the gas lines were long because OPEC was strong,
And your parents were all middle-aging.
Pharrell Williams and FedEx were born in that year,
Hip hop launched a new genre of music.
On the other hand, Bruce Lee, Picasso, Jim Croce
All fell to the Grim Reaper’s choosing.
By the time that year ended King beat Bobby Riggs,
Nixon told the press “I’m not a crook.”
And the people before me—alumni/alumnae—
Had taken to life with a book.
It was then, as I’m sure you remember quite well,
That you came in your tie-dyes and blue jeans
To this old Druid Hills with its woodlands and rills,
Trading family and home scenes for new scenes.
And the fall of your first year at Emory was wild:
A Dooley’s Den coffee house opened;
Yom Kippur brought a war; gas prices still soared,
But at Horton’s, The Grille kept you copin’.
The dean who made Wonderful Wednesday resigned,
While the president looked toward retirement.
He enjoyed his pipe smoke while the students would toke,
Though today’s smoke-free campus would fire him.
In the fall of your second year traipsing the Quad
You could hear a quite famous exhorter,
As the great Margaret Mead told the students, “Take heed—
Your tuition’s nine-fifty a quarter!”
There was fear that old Emory was just for the rich,
While financial aid needed some boosting.
Meanwhile AMUC, alas, didn’t have enough class
As a place to support student roosting.
Through the culture at large there pervaded a sense
Of bleak doom that the era was rousing.
Yet if all went to pot, the doom simply would not
Put a damper on campus carousing.
By the time you were juniors a theme had emerged
In the pages of Campus, the yearbook:
Every party and dance seemed to offer a chance
For each student to have their own beer truck.
As September of seventy-six rolled around
You were wrestling with things existential:
Should you plan on more school, find a job, or play cool?
Meanwhile questions arose presidential.
For the nation was voting that fall to decide
Between Ford and our own peanut farmer.
While much closer to home, Sandy Atwood made known
He would take off his president’s armor.
As the board of trustees got a search underway
For the seventeenth leader of Emory,
Lots of other good things came on stage from the wings—
Let me name some and freshen your memory.
In November Theology remade its home
As a library, painting it pink.
Although students were pissed for the chapel they missed,
They soon left off from causing a stink.
In curricular matters, ten years of hard work
By a Methodist chaplain named Boozer,
Endowed a chair newish for studies quite Jewish.
David Blumenthal, hats off to you, sir.
At the business school two million dollars was tabbed
For enhancing the school’s future picture.
Soon a three-story stack was tacked onto the back,
And the Rich Building thus became—richer!
On the student front, life often felt like a grind,
Or so said a Wheel editorial.
The inadequate gym, dormitories quite dim,
And the ancient Alumni Memorial
Raised the question if twenty-five years farther on
There would be any student activities.
Surely something must change to address the full range
Of students’ creative proclivities.
As the search for a president grew more intense,
Unfortunately so did the winter.
That year it was colder than Aspen or Boulder—
Even Yankees at Emory felt bitter.
Well, the spring soon arrived, and the trustees announced,
After being with questions just peppered,
That theology deans were the stuff of their dreams—
They chose Laney to be Emory’s shepherd.
As you marched on the Quad in regalia in June
To receive your new-minted diplomas,
You may have felt shaken, as if now awakin’
From four-year-long undergrad comas.
For the world now before you was risky and cold
When compared to your warm alma mater.
But you went forth with grace and a smile on your face
Marked by Emory’s hard-won imprimatur.
Forty years have flown by in the blink of an eye.
Here you are for a wondrous regathering.
I have talked long enough about lots of old stuff
And should leave you to drinking and chattering.
But before I sign off, let me offer a toast
To the spirit with which you have leavened
Your Old Emory dear. Let us give a loud cheer
To the Class of Seventy-Seven!
Gary S. Hauk
Read to the reunion of the Emory College Class of 1977
At Carlos Reception Hall, October 21, 2017
Emory then and now 1977 2017
Fall enrollment (total) 7,572 15,252
Varsity athletic teams 8 18
Full-time faculty 904 3,000+
Degrees conferred 2,010 4,721
Total operating budget $136.3 million $4.8 billion
Sponsored research $25.7M $628M
Endowment market value approx. $165M $6.5B (8/31/16)