Pacific in 1968: Port in the Storm

by Rachel Burbank

Dear Dad,
I suppose I should be concerned with the legalize marijuana movement and the free speech movement and all those other movements. But no one else is really interested. In fact, I'm more concerned with getting clean sheets and understanding the Darwinian Theory than I am with such ideals that the press tries to convince us are in vogue on campuses today.
— Tom Mann, Editor and Columnist for The Index, 1968

Pacific University has been known for its academic rigor throughout its history; not much has changed. Forty years ago, students were still falling in love, pulling pranks and stressing over midterm exams. Pacific's remote location shielded students from the riots and unrest in the rest of the country, but they were hardly tuned out.


On April 9, 1968 The Index asked, "Pacific University students, have you contemplated much today?" Protest signs hung in dorm windows and the civil rights movement inspired Pacific's Black Student Union, but there is not much evidence of campus commotion compared to other colleges and universities. Still, members of the Class of 1968, who gathered once again under the oaks this spring, remember like it was yesterday.


Pete Truax '68 recalls sitting on the Gamma Sigma porch listening to President Lyndon Johnson announce he would not seek reelection. Truax called the 1968 election a baptism of fire as a new voting citizen. A Vietnam veteran, Truax is awed that he survived through the turmoil. "We threw a President out of office," Truax said, and with that power to change helped raise awareness for future generations. He said, "If we had the same rules today in place as we had in the 60s, I feel very strongly we would not be fighting in Iraq."


Regardless of their views on the war, Monica Marvin '68 remembers "males and their female friends were preoccupied with their concerns over the draft." The Index was an opportunity for some students to voice opinions on the war. One female student wondered why she wouldn't be drafted while an accompanying editorial compared going to war and going to college.


The discipline Bob Emerson '68 developed during basic, advanced and officer training in the U.S. Army was fundamental to the success in his business career, he noted. Tom Love '68 remembers Sen. Wayne Morris speaking on campus telling men not to enlist. "Don't go off and die in a rice patty for no reason. This war isn't like WWII where there is an obvious evil enemy," Love quoted from the senator's speech.


The Forest Grove campus saw many other notable speakers during this era, but according to Bruce and Judy Bishop '68, the campus was far from radical. Even so, the Bishops, Marvin and others in the class were inspired by the civil rights, free speech, and women's movements to go out and make a difference as attorneys.


As for one of the largest honored classes at Reunion Weekend 2008, Bruce Bishop reflected "Some of us were returning to a campus unvisited for 40 years, but it was still a sanctuary under the oaks for students. Those were the days we thought would never end."