I am approaching another City College class reunion. It has been 50 years since I along with all the other young men of the Class of 1963 graduated from the 33rd and Alameda “Castle on the Hill.” It will be my second class reunion; the first one I attended was the 30th reunion in 1993. It was a wonderful experience; we were only 47 years old then—still young.
At 67, the group is no longer young, indeed we are coming to grips with something, none of us bothered to think about in 1963—old age. In spite of this drawback, I am nevertheless looking forward to sharing with my aged classmates our experiences at the Castle. However, my anticipation for the 50th appears somewhat different from the thoughts I had when I approached the 30th reunion.
As the 50th approaches, I am thinking a lot of the men we have lost since the 30th. The list is long and hurtful and enhances my need to see the surviving classmates, at least this one last time.
I find myself also dwelling on how our three years at City College changed the young men in my class as a group.
City College in 1960 represented an enormous change engine for me and most of my classmates. We were six years out from the integration mandated by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. City had a White majority, a large Jewish population and an emerging Black population made up of east side Blacks who for the first time, among other things, found themselves mingling with their west side brothers. City in 1960 was a cultural vegetable soup.
I don’t remember there being any significant racial tension in my class, however, even in the first year when many in my class had never experienced being in an integrated school. We were nevertheless aware of the racial tensions reflected by the Freedom Riders and other demonstrations for civil rights the country was immersed in at that time. Blacks were beginning to break into levels never before reached or permitted. Our class reflected the emerging changes when it elected James H. Gilliam Jr. a young Black man as class vice president. I believe this was the first time a Black person had been elected to an executive class office.
As I recollect how the Class of ‘63 emerged from its City College years, the racial and religious differences we entered City with became submerged in the excitement of the accomplishments we achieved individually and as a group during our tenure at this institution. At graduation, we were more animated about having earned the right to wear the famous black and gold City College ring and joining the ranks of those who preceded us in advancing the academic and ethical ideals we learned during our formative and exciting years at the Castle on the Hill. I am sure that excitement will be exhibited again at this upcoming 50th City College reunion as a reminder that the ideals we learned during our tenure at City continue to make “City Forever” a lifetime experience. Next stop—the 70th in 2033.