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College of Forestry

Departments    Forest Engineering, Resources & Management | Forest Ecosystems & Society | Wood Science & Engineering

1960's: New Attitudes

by John McGhehey, '65

MAYBE it was the sign of the times or maybe it has more to do with reminiscing, but whichever, in reflecting back, the 1960's and my years at OSU and the School of Forestry were quality times. The emphasis was a studying, learning the skills of the professional forester and working within the system. Yet there was always opportunity and time for personal growth, fellowship and fun.

As freshman we were told that few of us would make it through the rigors of the School of Forestry. The staff was right. If the studies (or the lack of it!) didn't get you, then the violation of the unwritten moral code often did. For the survivors it meant hard work and a "clean life". The slide ruler seemed to smoke during those engineering quizzes where only the right answer mattered. The mensuration work problems kept us at the mechanical calculators the nights seemed even longer. Interestingly enough, not a single female student got weeded out.

As with classes before and after us, our common end goal was to become professional foresters, and the professors provided a very conducive setting for obtaining our goal. Dean McCulloch often questioned the student's receptiveness to academia, though, when we took such delight in throwing axes and burling logs at Spring Thaw and spitting snoose in cans at the back of the bus during field trips. One time we did try to sophisticate our image by having sky divers parachute into Cronemiller Lake during the Spring Thaw festivities. The event almost ended in disaster when one of the divers became entangled in this rigging and nearly drowned.

SOMEHOW, though, we assimilated that fact that the practice and the profession of forestry were changing. As witnessed by a proliferation of federal legislation throughtout the 60's, society was no longer looking to the forests just to provide logs. We were entering the era of the multiple use concept, environmental impact statements, and -- paradoxically -- the set asides of huge acreages of forest land for specific single uses. The faculty responded by adding courses and a complete new curriculum. Students were seemingly expected to become instantly interested in subjects previously foreign to the profession of forestry.

As faculty and students contemplated the public's new interest in forest management and sought new attitudes toward their growing responsibilities as professional people, the rest of the world also seemed destined to change. President Kennedy was assassinated. the Vietnam War escalated to its final heights. As a student I saw academic freedom exercised for the first time as professors openly protested against the war over the objections of the school administration.

Also, as the war escalated, the high rate of married students within the School of Forestry seemed suspect. Personally, I spent many hours explaining that the fact I got married and that we had a child while in school and then moved to Canada upon graduation had nothing to do with the military draft. However, it wasn't just the students themselves that became sensitive to public suspect and opinion. The married students wive's club felt compelled to change its name from Forestry femmes to Forestry Conifers as the club grew in size and gained more recognition.

LOOKING BACK at the 60's would not be complete without a reflection, also, on campus life in general. The atmosphere was almost tranquil. Demonstrations were the exception. Students were busy learning how to become a productive part of the system. As it may be now, the Commons was the social focal point of the campus between classes, and the "O" club was the spot to meet for lunch. The women were not allowed to wear slacks to class, and the men usually supported a crewcut (except for the guy who shaved one side of his head and the opposite side of his face).

Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was mandatory and was the "in" thing if you became a member of the Persian Rifles. Until the Columbus Day windstorm devastated most of the elm trees on campus, an umbrella was almost required to get to class in the spring, after the grossbeaks arrived. As I'm sure all classes claim, it was a time of transition not only for the individual but also for society.