Graduates from the class of 1968 spent part of reunion weekend sharing stories about the controversial times when they graduated from Webster.
Martin Luther King was shot dead during their senior year. Robert Kennedy was assassinated a year after they graduated. Race relations were unstable in America.
The 1968 graduates began to talk about the dividing times when they were in college, remembered former Webster President Jacqueline Grennan-Wexler, and spoke of the empowerment they felt as women graduating from college.
Susan Fitzpatrick still remembered what former Webster President Francetta Barberis told her before she came to Webster.
“When people came here, they were used to seeing the world in black and white,” Fitzpatrick recalled Barberis saying. “When you come here, you’re going to see shades of grey.”
Webster’s class of 1968 was enrolled with mostly women. Fitzpatrick said she felt like she could take on the world after getting her degree in history.
“We came at a time when women were coming into education in greater numbers,” Fitzpatrick said.
The college served only women for nearly 50 years until it opened the door for male students in 1962.
Webster University President Dr. Beth J. Stroble joined the graduates of 1968 at the reunion dinner to hear stories from their days in college.
Stroble acknowledged Webster’s roots as being a place where women could go for an education, something she said was not accepted as much as it is now.
“Fifty years ago, most people didn’t necessarily think that women could have these careers that were of high quality,” Stroble said.
Stroble herself filled a position dominated by men when she became the President of Webster. Only 30 percent of college presidents in the U.S. are women, according to a survey in 2017 from the American Council on Education.
Three round tables in the Edward Jones Commons were filled almost entirely with women at the private dinner with the president. Only two men attended the reunion dinner, an example of how Webster College was far ahead of its time.
Stroble spoke to the attendees after they ate dinner and caught up with old friends. Stroble then opened the floor for people to share stories from their days at Webster. Moments of silence followed. Nobody jumped to talk after Stroble prompted them, but once one spoke, the conversation picked up and did not stop for a long while.
Madelyn Cain volunteered first. Cain was involved in Webster’s conservatory in the 1960s.
Cain studied at Webster’s conservatory when the university decided to make the Loretto Hilton a professional theatre company.
“I’m hoping I get to go downstairs to the dressing room,” Cain said, “ and see the beginning and my thankfulness to this school.”