About Site


Alma Mater
Back to Top of 1st Quarter

Start of 3rd Quarter . . .


O Junior, leave your love awhile
     And say a fond good night
And tread with us a merry mile,
     All in the clear starlight.
For college days too soon must end
     And Time shall sunder friend from friend.

Won't you come along?  Won't you come along?
     Just four good friends together?

Wednesday, September 20, 1967

Well, beyond the fact that things are pretty busy, not too much news has accumulated.  I've had only one day of each class, so it's too early to tell exactly what they're going to be like.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be busy, though:  three classes in the morning and a lab in the afternoon, plus an assembly on most Thursdays.

Let's see, what can I tell you?

Paul Sturm is in the hospital with a mild case of food poisoning or something; nothing serious.

The dining halls are rather crowded in the evenings, due in part to the reshuffling of dorms I was reading about in the paper.

Jan Olson is wearing her hair shorter now.

First Church had another good service Sunday; I'm glad I switched to that one.

Dave Richardson asked if I'd heard from Jack Heller this summer; he and Jack were friends.

The radio station had some technical problems the first couple of days but now is mostly okay.

I had brought my own larger mirror and better-looking bedspread from home.  See pictures of my room below.

They didn't come around to pick up the mirror and bedspread until yesterday; I had them stuck out of the way behind the leather chair in the meantime.

I may never get to know the other people in my section, but they seem harmless enough neighbors.

CR isn't going to be a soccer manager this year.

One thing wrong with the umbrella:  when it merely sprinkles, I don't want to go to the bother of getting it out and then putting it away again, so it doesn't get used.

Newscasters Krulwich and Field resigned.

And I'm running out of ideas for things to tell you.


Sunday, October 1, 1967

My class hours are as follows:














Phys 35

Phys 33

Phys 35

Phys 33

Phys 35

Phys 33







Russ. Lab















Phys Lab


Phys Lab


Phys Lab

Phys Lab


Phys Lab

Phys Lab

Physics 35 is on waves and light.  Physics 33 is electronics, and that's the lab on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The lab is also open Friday afternoons if we want to come; I didn't this past week but may in future weeks.  The Russian lab on Saturdays wasn't scheduled originally, but Mrs. Hoover decided to ask us to come in to listen to tapes; in return, she isn't going to give us any homework over the weekends.

What makes things especially hectic on Thursdays is the assembly Math is over at 11:50; we rush over to Finney chapel to hear what the speaker has to say at 12:00; at 12:30, we hurry to lunch; and at 1:30, the physics lab begins.  This is the first year I've had an 11:00 T-Th-S class and so is the first year I've run into this problem (if you don't have an 11:00, you can eat before assembly).  But Mr. Montgomery, the physics professor, does give us an extra ten minutes by not actually starting the lab until 1:40.

I'm still withholding judgment on my courses.  At the moment, Physics 35 seems too easy, Physics 33 and Math 21 seem a bit too hard, and Russian doesn't seem rigorous enough.  She's trying to get us to speak Russian, and all I want to do is to be able to read it, but we aren't doing any reading and not even any memorizing of vocabulary yet.  Things will change, of course, within a month.

When I returned to campus each September, I felt like a football player who has "butterflies in the stomach" until the game starts and he actually hits someone.

As a shy person, I was somewhat nervous about resuming my social contacts.  But once I got back into the swing of things, everything was fine.

I haven't been able to figure out whether it's the excitement of getting back to school or the shock of switching from home cooking to SAGA, but the past two years I've had very little appetite for the first week after I've been here.  My appetite returned this year last Monday, and I've been eating normally ever since.  But during the days when my stomach was contorting itself when I got it half full so that I didn't care to eat any more, I lost some of that extra weight I had when I came back.  I've not had a chance to weigh myself, but I have to pull my belt up about an inch tighter now.

Oh, one interesting thing (for me, at least) happened last week:  Jan showed me a hologram another fellow had given her.  I'd heard a lot about holograms but never seen one before.  This one is a piece of film in a cardboard mount, sort of like a giant slide you would show in a slide projector, except that if you just look at it, it appears to be nothing more than a piece of greenish-black plastic.  But if you shine a flashlight on it, the microscopic pattern of interference fringes on the film modifies the flashlight light so that the film appears exactly like a rather dirty window, through which one can look and see things in three dimensions.  If you look through the left side of the window you see one side of the objects; you can move your eye to the right side of the window and look at the other side; or you can move your eye to the top of the window and look down at them from above.  The objects in this case are merely a series of green block letters which spell out SQUIBB, the name of the company that made the hologram.  The letters appear to be about ¾ of an inch tall.  They seem quite real since they're in three dimensions.  The only problem is you can't see them too clearly because of various problems which will have to be corrected before these toys come into general use.  But they are fascinating to look at.  We let a few of the physics professors in on it, and they seemed as happy as boys with a new train.

I didn't even bother to listen to the Cleveland-New Orleans game this afternoon.  I've about given up on the Browns; they don't seem to be doing too well this year.

I did go down to the Conservatory this afternoon to play the organ.  I've got some new music, purchased at the bookstore:   the Oberlin College Song Book, consisting of old college songs, none of them written after 1925.  It's got some interesting stuff in it.  For instance, "Ten Thousand Strong":

"Ten Thousand Strong" is actually the college's official alma mater.  It was written by Jason Noble Pierce.

Another song from the book is here.

3. Ye colors old, crimson and gold,
          Kissed by gentle wind
          In victory float on high,
     Or should thy form wrestle with storm
          Then thy foe will find
          We'll conquer for thee or die,
          We'll conquer for thee or die!
     Alma Mater, Alma Mater,
     Hail to thee, Oberlin, honored Mother!

CHORUS.  Old Oberlin forever
          Our Alma Mater dear,
     We crown thee "fairest college,"
          They name we love to hear,
     Long reign in royal splendor,
          Our hearts shall be thy throne!
     Old Oberlin, brave Mother,
          Thou reignest alone.

And with that I close this four-page letter.  Aren't you proud of me?  Maybe I won't write at all next week, I wrote so much this time.

Room 309 in Noah Hall was my home for both my sophomore and junior years.

Click here for another view that actually includes me.


Sunday, October 15, 1967

The physics club meeting was the second of the year; Mr. Weinstock spoke, on a subject that you wouldn't understand if I told you what it was.  The idea of it was that we can use some results from theoretical mathematics to tell how far the atoms in a crystal are from each other if we just take an X-ray of the crystal and measure the picture we get.

Afterwards, we ate dinner at Dascomb (about thirty of us, including professors Weinstock, Palmieri, Richards, and Montgomery).  The after-dinner discussion, led by the four professors, was on graduate schools:  general stuff on what they're like, whom to talk to about getting in, when to apply, how to get money, etc.  Apparently the usual procedure is to work straight through for five or six years, emerging with a Ph.D.  At least that's all the professors talked about (none of them had stopped at the M.S. in their graduate study and gone back later to work for the doctor's degree).

It was generally assumed that all of us physics majors would go on to graduate study, although I was not particularly excited about it.  Checking out the possibilities over the following summer, my parents and I visited MIT.

Most scientists in graduate school work in order to get the necessary money, usually first as teaching assistants (the graduate students who teach introductory courses at OSU are an example) and then as research assistants.  This last may not even be work at all, as the research may be directed toward the doctoral dissertation.  This paper takes about a year to research and write, but one doesn't do the research on one's own; rather, one gets together with some professor at the graduate school, helps him on his project, and writes a thesis on it afterwards.

The best-known grad schools for physicists are Harvard and MIT in Massachusetts and Berkeley, Stanford, and Cal Tech in California.  These are also the hardest to get into, and according to the professors many others are just as good.  So geography perhaps should weigh as much as any other consideration in picking one school.  Of course, it's suggested that you apply to half a dozen; the Oberlin physics professors will write letters of recommendation to as many as you want to apply to, since that's part of their job.

In pursuit of a degree in electrical engineering, Jack had transferred from Oberlin to Ohio State, a much larger school.  We had speculated about the big university.  Would there be huge classes in which the professors would speak to TV cameras and the students would watch on monitors scattered across campus?


Oh, here's some news I haven't given you yet:  excerpts from Jack Heller's letter which he wrote a week ago.

"Although OSU is large, you'd never notice it.  Except for a large chem. lecture, all my classes are fairly small (about twenty).

"The only TV course is in lab, where they show a poorly-made film of the experiment.  (Experiment Two had the lowest Nielsen ratings, so I think it's going to be replaced with I Love Lucy.)

"The food is rotten, although the lines are shorter than at Oberlin.

"I'm rather reluctant to make comparisons with Oberlin because it's too early to evaluate everything.  However, as far as I'm concerned, OSU is more personal than Oberlin if only because it recognizes the necessity for a social life as well as an academic one.  This doesn't mean that the girls are flocking my way (I haven't met any); instead it means that you can do what you like Friday and Saturday nights and not be behind in your classwork."


Our plan:  my parents would pick me up Saturday morning and take me halfway home, to the campus of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.  There I would be Oberlin's play-by-play announcer for that afternoon's football game.  (Apparently I didn't have to show up until half an hour before air time!)  After the game, we'd drive the rest of the way home.  I'd return to Oberlin on Monday morning.

Sunday, October 22, 1967

Let's get to one important thing first:  when you should be here next Saturday.  I've already decided to miss the Russian lab (unimportant) and the math class (I'll borrow Jan's notes), and yesterday Mr. Montgomery informed us that there would be no electronics class on the 28th, so I won't be going to any classes at all that day.  Therefore, I can leave here as early as necessary.

The game starts at 1:30, so I should be there before 1:00.  We figure it takes about two hours to get from here to Gambier, and I'll want to eat lunch (maybe in Mt. Vernon or thereabouts).  It would seem we should leave here about 9:30, or before to allow extra time.  So why don't you leave Richwood about 7:00 — that's only getting up an hour early — and I'll go to breakfast at 8:00 as usual, coming back to the dorm about a quarter to nine and looking for you to be here shortly thereafter.

If you want to leave earlier, go ahead.  We can always drive around looking at scenery if we get to Gambier early.

My Monday 9:00 class means we could leave Richwood about 6:00 Monday morning on the return trip.

This will be a pretty big week coming up.  Tomorrow morning Mr. Warner will hand out a Physics 35 take-home bluebook, due a week from tomorrow, which I'll take on Friday; on Tuesday Mr. Brown will give us an in-class math bluebook, for which I'll be studying most of tomorrow; and we have an electronics bluebook scheduled for Tuesday the 31st, for which I'll be studying most of the 30th.  There'll also be a Russian quiz, probably before the month is out, and there's the usual radio work plus a Physics Club meeting on Friday the 27th.  Everything happens at once.

And I guess I gave up on the Cleveland Browns too soon.  They've won four in a row since.


Sunday, November 12, 1967

Another round of visits in professors' homes has been completed.

Last Wednesday Mr. Montgomery, my Physics 33 professor, had several physics majors come up to his bachelor apartment on North Main Street for supper and socializing.  There were juniors Ed Francis and me and seniors Scott Weir, Sue Jones, Bill Mosely, and Ron Wollf.  The supper consisted of a ground beef/rice/chili bean/tomato paste casserole, salad, and French bread, and afterwards we talked about all sorts of subjects until 11:30, when we finally got around to leaving.

And then this afternoon Mr. Warner, my Physics 35 professor, had the class come to his house on Forest Street.  About eleven actually showed up; we had hot cider, cookies, and ham and Swiss cheese for refreshments (at about four in the afternoon), and we also managed to work in a little class business by demonstrating some phenomena on the Warners' piano, which would have been hard to do in the pianoless physics building.  By the way, he has four little girls, the youngest nine months, and they were much in evidence throughout the afternoon.  We only stayed three hours this time rather than five, since it got to be time for supper.

All the physics professors seem to be really nice people.  During my freshman year, when I was still awed by professors with doctor's degrees while I had only graduated from high school, I certainly didn't expect that two years later I would be on practically friendly terms with over half the physics department staff.  But it isn't hard to do:  there are seven physics professors and only eight majors in the class of 1968 and fourteen in my class of 1969, which is a pretty good student-to-professor ratio.  And the Physics Club meetings and these invitations to the homes make it simpler to talk to the professors about subjects other than that which they profess.

My checkbook shows a balance of $19.21, counting a check for $8.00 I wrote on October 23.  I'll be writing a fifteen-dollar check to CRF, the campus version of United Fund, in a couple of days, so maybe you should keep an eye on the balance and add a little if you think it's too low.

Oh, and with ten days to go, I have remaining eight underwear tops, nine underwear bottoms, and nine pairs of good socks, plus three pairs of somewhat thinner black socks.  So it won't be the socks I'll have to double up on, but the underwear.  Looks like I have a 21-day supply of tops and a 22-day supply of good socks and bottoms, overall, which is about what I'd been figuring.

At Oberlin I had no car, no bike; I went everywhere by walking.  The Browns' house on the edge of town wasn't that far out, probably only a mile and a quarter from my dorm.  It's a small town.

Tuesday, December 12, 1967

One more professorial invitation:  Mr. Brown, the math instructor, is having the class out to his house from 4 to 7 next Sunday afternoon, presumably to eat.  Appranetly, I mean apparently, he lives sort of far out, maybe in that new housing addition which is just south of where we come into town on Route 10; he's going to give us directions Thursday.  If we can get back to town in time, Jan and I are then going to go to the carol service (all three choirs singing) at First Church at 7:30.

Cleveland did even worse than that, losing 28-24 at Philadelphia and then losing the playoff game at Dallas 52-14.  That allowed Dallas to go to Green Bay on New Year's Eve for the famous "Ice Bowl" championship game.

I predict the Cleveland Browns will let down, almost get beaten by Philadelphia this Sunday, and then lose to Dallas on Christmas Eve by ten points.

Among the things I'll want to get during Christmas vacation is another pair of bulbs for my Tensor light.  Last week, I had to put in the second replacement in the 2½ years I've had it.  So remeber that, or if you prefer remember it, in case I don't.  Type 93.


Sunday, January 14, 1968

They say there's eighteen inches of snow on the ground, most of which fell between yesterday morning and this morning.  At any rate, it's about knee-deep except on the well-traveled sidewalks and the streets.  The cars are having a hard time getting around, and it probably took the Case basketball team three hours to get back to Cleveland last night after beating us 68-66.  Today it's seemed like spring, though, with no wind and a temperature in the forties.

It was still snowing at seven this morning when I got up, and I have a ten-page paper to get written for Physics 35 by Wednesday, so I decided not to follow my usual routine of going to breakfast, going to church, going to the drugstore to get a Plain Dealer, coming back to the dorm, and reading the newspaper, all of which takes four hours.  Instead I stayed in my room and worked on the physics paper.  I got so interested in it and things were going so well that I worked nine hours on it without a break, which is a new record for me (I usually have trouble concentrating on anything for more than two hours); I'm about 70% finished now, and a few more hours tomorrow afternoon should wrap it up.  I'm really glad I got that much done, because I had had visions of staying up all night Monday and Tuesday working on it.

The gold blazer is holding up well.  I've worn it to three basketball games, two of them a long bus ride away and the other a home game, and the only noticeable wrinkles are a little puckering of the sleeves in the front near the shoulders.

And I'm holding up well, too.  No sign of any flu or anything of the sort, though I have had a very slight sniffle ever since I got back up here; normal for this dry steam heat and the cold weather, I think.  Even my not eating a meal today until supper didn't bother me; if you decide you don't want to eat, you don't get hungry.  (I did have six chocolate cherries and a package of pretzels during the afternoon session, though.)

I think I've been enjoying myself at Oberlin more the past two months than ever before:  the radio work and the people I know are a lot of fun, and I'm worrying less about my schoolwork — while still working at it just hard enough to get good grades.  I hope I'm not slighting it; I don't think I am, but we'll find out when the grades come out.


Much of physics and math requires manipulating complicated equations.  I once simplified one such equation to the point where it read 2=1, which is obviously not true, but I was unable to find where I had made any errors.  Ever since, I have firmly believed that two equals one.  (Of course, as John Cooper has said, "It is my firm belief that it is a mistake to hold firm beliefs.")


Sunday, January 21, 1968

Well, I got an "A" on that paper I spent all day Sunday working on.  I wasn't quite satisfied with it — there were a few minor things wrong, I thought — but evidently it was as good as any other paper turned in, and Mr. Warner thought I did a good job, so I'm proud.

Yes, I am glad the math final was canceled.  Mr. Brown had good reasons for canceling it:  when you get into such advanced stuff as this, it isn't so much a matter of what you can do from memory as of what you can do with the appropriate reference books in front of you, because that's the situation you'll have when you're actually putting the math into practice.  Therefore, he's counting the seven "problem sets" (week-long homework assignments) as about 70% of the grade, and the two bluebooks as about 15% each.  He didn't think he could ask us anything relevant within the two-hour time limitation for a final, since the course covered so much territory and since it takes so long to work out a particular problem.

We do have a lot of water and slush up here, and some of the slush is frozen, which makes walking difficult.  Frozen slush is harder to walk on than snow is to walk in.


Jan dropped by the radio station one day to confer with her lab partner, but she found that I was tied up in meetings.  (I was now the program director and would soon be named to the top position, station director.)  She decided that next time, she'd have to make an appointment.

Sunday, February 11, 1968

For Physics 38 lab we need partners, so Jan and I are working together (she's the only girl in the class).  It's working all right so far except that both of us are what you would call "perfectionists":  we're so careful to try to think things through and get them right that we're going at about half the speed we should be.  We'll have to learn another approach.


Monday, March 4, 1968

I'm a day late in getting this letter out, but I suppose that's excusable since yours didn't arrive till today.

I just tried to remember when the clothes got here, for your information, but couldn't.  I used to be able to remember such things, but I seem to be about twice as busy now with the radio work and don't have time to replay the week every now and then so that I can remember the details later.  If you'd asked me last year what the weather was the preceding Friday, I would have been able to tell you, but I have very little idea now what the weather was like last Friday.  I'm too busy doing things to think much about them.

And I'd better get an hour's nap in now, so that I can stay busy tonight.  I'll write you next Sunday.


Monday, March 11, 1968

Well, here I am late again.  My excuse this time is just a lot of work.  Physics 38 assignments are due on Mondays, and I usually spend most of Sundays working on them.

I may get next week's letter written on Sunday, and I may not.  Wait and see!


Sunday, March 17, 1968

A beautiful spring day after the fog lifted.  I really enjoyed being able to walk to church without wearing an overcoat.

I sort of hope we aren't going to Kentucky next week; I'd like to have the whole week to catch up on my sleep.  I've only been getting about six hours a night for the past month, and I'm beginning to feel it.

Jan has to leave by 3:00 Friday in order to get her plane home, so we won't be able to work in the lab the full afternoon (we're going to work Thursday to make up for it).  So maybe you could come earlier than the time I mentioned before, say to be here by 3:30?  Then we could be home before dark easily.


As my spring vacation drew to a close on Sunday night, March 31, I watched on TV as embattled President Lyndon B. Johnson made the unexpected announcement that he would not be a candidate for re-election.

Four days later, back at Oberlin, I read on the teletype that Martin Luther King had been shot in Memphis.

But in that eventful week, there was also news about me.


Sunday, April 7, 1968

I'm now a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  The letter came Thursday, and Friday I wrote a check for $19.25 to cover the key, membership fee, etc.  There were only five other juniors elected, so apparently I'm in the top six in my class by grade average.  About thirty seniors were elected, since the standards for electing students in their last semester aren't as high as for electing students who still have two and a half semesters to go.

Jan seems quite thrilled about my election — she'd predicted it before spring vacation, though I didn't have as much confidence in myself as she did — and I imagine you are, too.  You've never heard of the other five juniors who were elected, and I'm not sure myself who all of them are.  They're chosen by a committee made up of the 63 faculty members who are Phi Beta Kappa members.

A note from Grandma Thomas that came during vacation:  "Dear Tom.  Nice of you send a card in memory of my birthday.  Would love to hear from you often.  I am doing O.K. healthwise.  We have snow on the ground with Easter flowers in bloom.  One can never tell what March will bring.  Thanks and by by.  I go listen to the political talk on T.V.  Love, Grandma."

Mr. Weinstock had a group of his students over for supper Tuesday evening:  Jan, sophomore Doug Brown, three senior boys, and myself.  We stayed till 10:00, discussing the situation in the cities, the change in students in the last five years, and the merits of popular music.  The meal was roast beef and asparagus.

Martin Luther King's Assembly speech at Finney Chapel, from the 1965 Hi-O-Hi

From the time of Dr. King's death on Thursday evening until Saturday morning, we canceled our regular WOBC programs and played only classical music and recordings of King speeches, including two he delivered here in 1964-65.  We also carried live a memorial service held in Finney Chapel Friday evening at 7:00.

The reaction here to the assassination was apparently only a little less intense than that to Kennedy's, but this time the Negroes on campus were the ones that seemed to be doing most of the reacting.  Nothing in any way violent, though.

Beautiful weather today, but I'm not enjoying it too much since I'm taking a twelve-hour Physics 36 open-book bluebook.  I'll be returning to it after supper, to which it is now almost time to go.


Sunday, May 5, 1968

We had the Phi Beta Kappa dinner last Thursday in the new French House, a very nice dorm with a large, comfortable lounge and dining hall.  Unfortunately, the speaker wasn't very good — they always seem to get bad ones for Honors Day, for some reason.  This one was a lady history professor who told us about the Grimke sisters, who lectured for abolition of slavery in the 1830's.  But the dinner was fine, despite the fact that the whole thing lasted three hours.

Also that day, Jan anonymously sent me a two-pound box of homemade fudge with a typewritten note, "CONGRATULATIONS!  This is for being a good boy . . . keep working!"  I've got it about half eaten by now.

I engineered the Mock Convention radio coverage from 7 to 10:30 pm on Friday and from 9:30 pm to 3 am on Saturday night.


Tuesday, May 21, 1968

Things are getting busier for me this last week of classes, so I'm just now getting around to writing my Sunday letter.  Since I probably won't have another chance to write until a week from today, I probably won't write, since you'll be here two days later.

My exam schedule is Tuesday, May 28: Physics 38.  Wednesday, May 29: Russian.  Monday, June 3: Physics 36.

Your being here on Thursday, the 30th, will make a good break after those first two exams, which will be the hardest two.  I'll want to get together a lot of things to go home — the next paragraph will tell you why — so why don't you not leave Richwood until after lunch, say about 1:00 to arrive here at 3:00?  That will still leave us six hours before dark.

As station director of WOBC, I was not going home at the end of the exam period; I was staying on campus through the Commencement ceremonies.  For some blank verse I wrote at the time, click here.


I don't understand the system exactly, but they want to have only certain rooms of Noah open during commencement, and 309 isn't one of them, so I'll be moved to a single on the fourth floor for about six days.  I'll probably move about June 5, the last day of exams.  Naturally, I won't want to move anything upstairs that I won't need, so I'd like to send a lot of books and clothes home on Decoration Day, plus the typing table and the typewriter.


Monday, July 8, 1968 (from Richwood, to Jan Olson)

Ow.  My left leg is still sore from going bowling Saturday for the first time in a year.  As I may have indicated to you previously, I'm a bit uncoordinated. 

Although I was delivering my slow straight ball reasonably well, I was having trouble sliding on my left foot.  I'm surprised my right knee isn't black and blue; I toppled over onto it enough times after releasing the ball.  This lack of balance and stability on that last step adversely affected my accuracy.  High game was a 102.  Low game I've forgotten about.


Friday, August 9, 1968 (to Jan)

My family's going down to Kentucky for the weekend to visit my only surviving grandparent, my Grandma Thomas.  Instead of a long vacation trip this year (like last year's Expo 67 journey), we've been taking short weekend trips.

Six days ago, for instance, we attended a Cleveland Orchestra concert at the new Blossom Music Center.  Robert Conrad [of WCLV radio] had given me complimentary tickets because WOBC carries the Orchestra broadcasts.  Blossom is a large, beautiful place, and the program wasn't too bad either:  after two short contemporary works for orchestra, Van Cliburn played two piano concertos, MacDowell's #2 (thumbs down) and Rachmaninoff's #2 (thumbs up).


. . . End of
3rd Quarter