Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marietta College Reacts to the Kennedy Assassination

With the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the lives of Americans everywhere, including those of students attending classes at Marietta College, were suddenly and shockingly disrupted. A few weeks later, on Friday, December 13, The Marcolian carried a two-page feature commemorating the day that would never be forgotten. Students' reactions to the loss of the nation's leader were poignantly described by Marcolian editor Judith Vago, Class of 1964:  

By two o'clock we all knew and our knowledge was marked by silence and furrowed brows. At twenty to three as Erwin's bells chimed the finality of the day, professors quietly closed their books and dismissed class. Most students went directly to the Student Center, many walking alone, others in twos and threes. In the Center there was no rock and roll blaring from the juke box. There was only the measured voice of Walter Cronkite telling us the President of the United States was dead. We had many thoughts, many questions, but they were left unanswered as we listened in incredulous silence.

We didn't call him President Kennedy; he was JFK. He was too young. We felt he understood youth, us. We felt he respected us, our beliefs, our problems. We are Baptists, Italians, Lutherans, Catholics, Poles, Jews, Negroes, Irish, Japanese, but we had two things in common at exactly the same time - our youth and our feeling of loss at the death of JFK.

 Many things told of this loss. The flag flew at half mast. Students gathered around the campus bulletin board and read teletype releases with the latest news. We read newspapers and found in all of them that the story was true; the President was dead. So we held our heads in our hands for a brief moment to try and believe in the enormity and solemnity of the history we were experiencing.

The Reverend William Smith, assistant professor of religion and philosophy, led the memorial service on Saturday.  We wore solemn faces, the rain pattering on our umbrellas as we half-listened, half-thought. Dr. Frank E. Duddy Jr. sent a telegram of condolence which was later acknowledged by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Although we cannot see the private moments of grief and bewilderment each of us felt as America buried its President, the experiences we did witness belong to all of us as did JFK himself. He was a twentieth century man with twentieth century ideas. He worked to bring together the cultural, the intellectual, the political. We respected him as a man and a leader.

So it is to the memory of the man we had to give up to the ages that we dedicate this small and insignificant reminder of the fact that 'Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise.' And the youthful walls of freedom echo 'Let us begin.'"
- J. M. V.