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Start of 4th Quarter . . .



O Senior, doff your cap and gown
     And let your thesis be;
Then lay your heavy burdens down
     And stroll once more with me.
For college days too soon must end
     And Time shall sunder friend from friend.

Won't you come along?  Won't you come along?
     We're all good friends together!

Monday, September 9, 1968

It looks like the new food service, Hi-Continental, is going to be very much like SAGA.  What differences there are, are improvements (better-quality meat, more concern for serving the students and less for making a profit).  But since they're using the same facilities and (except for the managers) the same employees, there really isn't much change from last year.

I have no classes before 10:00 this semester.  Here's the schedule:





















Phys 47


Phys 47


Phys 47



Math 33A

Phys 45

Math 33A

Phys 45

Math 33A

Phys 45









Phys Lab


Phys Lab



Phys Lab


Phys Lab



Phys Lab


Phys Lab


By the way, the textbook for Math 33A is a two-volume, 1,978-page set that cost $37.00.  The two physics texts put together only cost half that much, so I've still got about forty dollars left in my checking account.  Now to breakfast.

For my senior year, I lived in room 109 on the ground floor of Noah Hall.  A few ants also lived there that winter, possibly because the steam pipes passing through my room to the upper stories heated it so much that I had to shut my radiator off and leave my window slightly open.

The yellow arrow points to my window in this 1968 photo.

Sunday, October 13, 1968

Well, as I predicted there isn't too much to report.  We lost the football game yesterday 68-0 to Baldwin-Wallace, in case you haven't heard; that was sort of embarrassing.  I watched the astronauts go up Friday on a color television in one of the new men's dorms.  Aside from that, things have gone pretty normally for the past three days.


Oberlin had recently decided to insert a month of independent study into the calendar.  As I recall, each student could opt out of one Winter Term during his four years, which meant that we seniors could avoid it entirely.  But most of us decided to stay and thus had to find a project.

This led to my only published work in the scientific or academic fields.  Nowadays, I don't even recall what the title means.

Sunday, November 3, 1968

I can't remember whether or not I mentioned this possibility to you the last time I saw you, but this past week I finally decided on a project for Winter Term (January 6 through February 1, between first and second semesters). 

Mr. Warner, one of my physics professors, wants someone to write a programmed-learning textbook on angular momentum wave functions and operators, for use in the quantum-mechanics course that's taught to second-semester juniors, and I decided I'd like to try that.  It's as much pedagogy as it is physics, so it'll be a change.  (I'll explain what it's all about this weekend, if you want to know.)


Wednesday, November 20, 1968

Sorry I'm so late writing, but things are pretty busy up here.  A lot of math and physics problems to do, but every time I go to the station I find a lot of things there that have to be done too, so I don't have much spare time to sit down and write a letter.


Monday, January 13, 1969

Everything's going well here.  Namely:

1.  No sign of the flu.  I still sneeze once or twice a day, but I'm usually that way December through February anyway.

2.  The radio's working fine.  There are many stereo stations near Cleveland; one even broadcasts classical music in the evenings, and another what might be called "progressive rock," so there's a good selection in stereo, plus the other stations.

3.  The ant trap seems to be working.  When I first punched the holes, I set the trap down a few inches away from an ant who happened to be going across the floor at the time.  He stopped, sniffed with his feelers, turned around, went over to the trap, crawled up on it, found a hole, and went inside.  That's an efficient trap!

4.  My Winter Term project seems to be off to a good start.

5.  Life magazine last week had some good pictures in color taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts of the moon and the earth.

6.  Oberlin actually won a basketball game last Tuesday, beating Western Reserve.  We now have one win and four losses; poor Reserve is 0 and 9.

About the only thing that isn't co-operating is the weather, which has been very cold and snowy with some wind.  But I don't have to be out in it very much since there aren't any classes to go to, so even that isn't anything to complain about.


Monday, February 24, 1969

Steak was served on Saturdays in the dining halls.  This resulted in long lines.

As for March 8, I imagine the best time for you to arrive as far as I'm concerned would be about 4:00 in the afternoon.  That's assuming you don't mind driving back after dark.  Saturday night meals with Hi-C are about the worst of the week, mainly because it's necessary to wait in line for at least half an hour but also because the steaks are never very good, so I'd like to miss that meal rather than lunch.


During the winter of 1968-69, after much pondering, I came to a momentous decision.  I would change my career direction from science to broadcasting.

These letters that you're reading preserve no record of those deliberations, because the discussions took place in conversations.  But here's what happened.

In high school my best subjects had been science and math, so when I went to college I became a physics major.  However, I had other interests.  There was music; I often went over to Oberlin's Conservatory to play the organs in their practice hall.  (The halls of the practice hall sounded like this.)  There was radio; I had become the station director of WOBC.

Gradually, to me, physics became increasingly abstract and removed from everyday phenomena.  I was enjoying my work at the radio station much more. 

It was assumed that, as a physics major, I would continue my education in graduate school at some larger institution.  But I gradually came to the conclusion that it would be better to pursue a career that I enjoyed.  When I did go on to graduate school, it would not be in physics; it would be in radio and television.  I applied to the highly recommended master's degree program at Syracuse University.

I felt a twinge of guilt about becoming a mere broadcaster instead of a more prestigious scientist.  Would I be "wasting" my abilities?  Would I be "wasting" the four years of education that had cost my parents tens of thousands of dollars?

But everyone agreed that, in choosing a career, it would be best to do what I wanted to do — not what someone thought I ought to be doing.  And the college experience had not been a waste.  I had discovered my future career, and much else besides.




Monday, March 17, 1969

The application has been sent off to Syracuse, and I've got the Boston University application about half finished.  I may not send applications to Northwestern and Wisconsin, since they both require a large number of undergraduate courses in the field of communications, which of course I haven't had (partly because not that many courses are offered here, partly because I've been a physics major).  That leaves only Columbia, which I haven't really looked at yet.


Sunday, April 13, 1969

Letter from Syracuse, dated April 9 (I got it yesterday):

Dear Mr. Thomas:

The Graduate School has forwarded to us your completed application for admission to Syracuse University to study in our department.  Based on these credentials, which are outstanding, I am pleased to recommend that you be admitted.

You will be receiving official notification from the Graduate School in due time, but I wanted you to know of our action at the earliest moment.

May I add that I was particularly impressed with your discussion.  It is unusual to switch from a field in which one has done relatively well to a new field.  I sympathize with you, however, because my first degree was in chemical engineering!

If I may be of further assistance, please write.  Otherwise, we will be in touch during the summer prior to fall enrollment.

Lawrence Myers, Jr.
Chairman, Dept. of Radio-TV

Which means that I don't have to worry about applying to any other schools.  I still hadn't gotten around to completing the Boston application, which saves me ten dollars.

Terry stopped by this afternoon to show off his new car.  Looks nice.


Monday, May 5, 1969

Two banquets coming up in the next week:  Phi Beta Kappa on Thursday the 8th, and the WOBC banquet on Monday the 12th.

By the way, the last classes are May 17, and finals are from May 20 through May 28.


Monday, May 19, 1969

Nothing much happening here — the latest "recruiter demonstration" was a complete flop, as it appears the demonstrator types are too busy studying for finals to demonstrate — but I do have these commencement tickets.  If you have no use for the pink ones, please send them back; I think I can get rid of them here, as there are some people in the graduating class who have more than five members in their family who are coming to the commencement, and they need extra tickets.


Four years of hard work and all that money for this one piece of parchment, and it isn't even written in English!

The story continues on another thread which has been on this website since 2001:  "Leaving Oberlin College," detailing the Commencement of the Class of 1969 and the aftermath.  Click on the diploma to go there.



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