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Super 8: Tappan 1975
Written May 16, 2013

This is part of a series of articles based on images from my 1970s home movies.  For more details, click here.

In the spring of 1975 at Oberlin College, I attended my five-year reunion.  It was actually six years after my graduation, but the event was planned for a cluster of three classes (four years, five years, six years) so that we could reunite with a larger number of friends.  My lengthy letter detailed the weekend.

The climax of the festivities came on Monday morning, May 26, when friends and family of the Class of 1975 gathered to see the seniors graduate.  That's when I brought out my movie camera.

The commencement ceremony took place outdoors, on Tappan Square in the center of the northern Ohio campus.

In some years rain has been a problem.  My own commencement in 1969 was held indoors.  But this year, 1975, the skies were sunny.

Across Professor Street from the square, the Academic Procession  in their traditional medieval caps and gowns stepped off from Peters Hall.

Other streams joined the procession.  This one is led by 62-year-old Joseph Reichard, who taught German at Oberlin for 44½ years.  I was one of his students as a freshman.

My fellow seniors in 1969 had worn caps and gowns, but almost none of the 1975 graduates did.  The college community was freeing itself from the stodgy old ways.  However, in future years, many graduates did return to the tradition.


Over more than four decades, I’ve witnessed several other Oberlin commencement processions.  The links below will take you to the photos.  Also, this one leads to a 1965 speech.






The 1975 procession marched through the Memorial Arch to the center of the square, then made a U-turn back to the area where the speeches would be made.

On the left is Dean of Students George Langeler.  On the right is Robert Longsworth, a faculty adviser to the Wesley Fellowship when I was a freshman, now Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

And in the black robe is Emil Danenberg, the twelfth President of Oberlin College.  Earlier that week, I had attended his inauguration ceremony at Finney Chapel.

Danenberg had been Professor of Pianoforte in the college’s Conservatory of Music since 1960.

Further back in the procession, the seniors continued to march onto the square,

while the spectators awaited their arrival.  In the background we see the roof of the stage, which was set up in front of the Arch.

President Danenberg led the dignitaries onto the stage, faced by hundreds of chairs which would soon be filled by the Class of 1975.

Elsewhere on the 13-acre square that weekend, other Obies were dressed more casually.

They’d even dug a pit for a pig roast.

And what was this approaching?  Another procession?

A small group of students dressed in black walked backward around the perimeter of the square, expressing their displeasure with something.  I never did succeed in reading their signs.

Their counter-Commencement marched not to musicians from the Conservatory but to a single drum.

Here they pass a boulder of granitoid gneiss from Plum Creek, 600 yards to the south.  Seniors installed it on the square one December night in 1897 for the edification of geology students. 


According to the Oberlin Heritage Center, this rock and another like it “became public billboards in the 1960s. Today, anyone can paint them on a first-come, first-served basis.”  In May 1975, the message was addressed to the graduates.


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