A Year of Change: 1970

Kerry O'Hara '74

We, a.k.a.  "the skirts," or the "schodes"  (not misspelled – a made-up name for us) were  welcomed with open arms, open tequila bottles, open wine and beer bottles, you get the idea. I still have many close college friends, and we have often talked about how lucky we were to be in such an amazing environment at such a special time in our lives and a special time in the college history.  

One good friend would always jokingly (I think) remind us that he didn't vote to have us there, but this same friend, years later, after a few drinks, told me that had he known the group of girls that did arrive, he might have changed his vote. (One of the best compliments I have ever received.)

I was the only female in Brother Ron Isetti's history class, and each morning he would begin with "Good morning gentlemen, and Miss O'Hara." I was excused from some PE classes where I was the only girl because Coach MacAfee was going to discuss groin injuries.

Few of the original female freshmen of 1970 graduated from SMC – I want to say that we started with 100 and ended up with 10 or so, with few of those being resident students. Believe me, I am not only proud of being one of those four-year resident students, I feel truly lucky and privileged!

Marianne (Veglia) Hamilton '74

I arrived on campus short, overweight, spotty-faced and terminally nearsighted, yet refusing to wear glasses. I couldn't see any of my new neighbors. Still, there was no mistaking the electric atmosphere. It was apparent that the presence of females on campus was being met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Among the upperclassmen, the response to our arrival was often guarded.  

After I unpacked and my parents left, I nervously ventured out to explore the campus. Within moments, two nice-looking men strode up and asked if I'd like to be one of the fist female cheerleaders at Saint Mary's. I recall attempting to laugh and asking if they were asking all the girls, and they said no.

A few days later they confirmed the request, and I met the other two female cheerleading pioneers: Andrea Swift and Lenda Fink. We were given blue ski sweaters with red trim; we made our own red and white plaid skirts. 

When I've pulled out the now-brittle package, I smile thinking of the crisp Saturday afternoons on the football field and endless renditions of "The Bells" at every game's end. I imagine that if I removed the plastic, I would catch a whiff of cigarette smoke, White Shoulders and hairspray.

And fear. And joy.

John Blackstock '71

As ASB president, I had the honor to introduce new coed Kathleen Swift to the trustees and administration as an ambassador for the first girls on campus, but I sensed this was more than just a reception, this was an historic event.

Ironically, just a year before, I had listened to a senior's pledge to drop out of school and toss his college ring into Lake La Salle if Saint Mary's went coed!

These were extraordinary times for Saint Mary's: adding to the start of modern era football; the radical changes to our curriculum initiated by SPAN (Students for Progressive Action Now); Vietnam War protests that shut down the college; and now girls on campus.

Bringing women to Saint Mary's required many changes, but it was well worth it. I believed that the female gender had a unique perspective into all things. It was important to hear their views in class, plus it was simply nice to have girls around. Although they were small in number at first, these coeds seemed to soften the rather hard edge of our all-male college.