Arriving at Lehigh
Editor’s Note: The stories submitted by alums are presented in chronological order.
Eric A. Weiss ‘39
My first day at Lehigh was in mid-September 1935. In the fall of 1938, I was asked by the Epitome editor to write something for the introduction. I wrote four paragraphs, one for each year, which were printed in the book and later used for Lehigh promotion. Here is my freshman recollection, exactly as I wrote it three years later:
"This, then, was Lehigh. From the station all you could see was the chapel spire and beyond, to the right, the tower of Packer hall. And it was raining that first day. That night, your first at school, you slept in your new bed and were a little afraid and a little anxious but quite happy for this was college and the new life. Then the next day, Freshman Week started. You were just one out of approximately 400 bewildered youths milling in the spotlight. All kinds of strangers told you all kinds of things that you listened to and promptly forgot in the whirl of fraternity rushing and new friends and a new town. But before you were quite ready, school started and you learned to divide twenty-four hours among classes and studies and fun and sleep and activities and that was the Freshman year, ended almost before it began."
The style is Hemingway-nostalgia. "Approximately" is an awkward insertion by the Epitome editor who had no ear for the rhythm of writing. I met many of his fellows later. My bed was in a single room on the second floor of Price Hall which cost me $120 a year while tuition was $400. I do not think I want to go back.
Marcus H. Russell ‘47
I graduated from Toms River, N.J., High School on a Thursday evening in June of 1944 and traveled to Bethlehem the following Sunday. I had accepted James Egan Golden's invitation to stay at the Sigma Chi house at 240 East Broad Street. My parents and I were met there by Ted Shook (son of mathematics professor Shook) and shown through the house. My parents left and Ted asked the girls, who were waiting on the cellar stairs, to come up. We then went for lunch at the Saucon Valley CC. (My "date's" father was a member and a VP of "Steel.") Lunch on the screened porch surely impressed this 16-year-old from Toms River.
James O. Rohrbach ‘59
I transferred to Lehigh from Moravian College at the beginning of my junior year. As I parked my car I had thoughts like, `I don't know a soul here,’ and it was a very strong feeling of being alone as I searched for the building for my first class. It was a much more alone feeling than I had when I started at Moravian because there were a lot of people starting with me. As I entered my first classroom I realized that the students didn't know I was new. After all, how could a junior be new? So that alone feeling left me right away.
I fit right in and my fellow students treated me as though I had been there all along. I immediately made new friends and enjoyed my next two years at Lehigh. I was working my way through college as a veteran and was pleased to receive a scholastic scholarship in my senior year. I loved Lehigh, and the education I received has helped me through the years. I am now an internationally recognized stock market timer and founder and president of Investment Models, Inc.
Robert Farnham ‘69
I had just gotten out of the Army, and was a freshman (again) on the GI Bill at age 25. I was sincerely fearful that all these whiz kids right out of high school were going to make me look very stupid, as I was sure that I had "lost it" while trying to dissolve my brain in the Army. I was walking toward my first class and was about 100 yards away when my courage broke. I ran to the nearest bar, knocked down two beers quickly, and then ambled fearlessly to class, arriving on time. I wound up with a 4.0 that term. There's a moral in this somewhere.
Gene A. Lucadamo ‘71
My roommate Joe and I arrived in September 1967—buddies from the coal regions dropped in the big city. In those days, most students selected colleges via guidance counselors, budget, word of mouth, and proximity to home. Our parents drove us to Dravo and we hauled our belongings to the fourth floor—our first introduction to Lehigh’s daunting topography. Dorm space was at a premium, and we were assigned what had been a single room—with bunks, desks, an armchair, and a dresser wedged inside a small closet. With only a table-top radio and a portable record player, and no computers, lofts, or refrigerator, everything fit—with a bit of room left for books.
After agreeing on the bunk assignment and learning to pronounce “Gryphon,” Joe and I stood overlooking the smoking view of Bethlehem, wondering together: “What the heck do we do now?” First days were not as organized as today. But instinct soon kicked in—it was time to enjoy our first Lehigh dinner. Entirely clueless, we walked into the UC cafeteria—without ties and jackets! The maitre de told us that from now on, if we wanted dinner, we needed to dress for it like Lehigh men. In our jeans and T-shirts we shuffled to a side table and ate in isolation, while the properly attired (apparently familiar with their orientation booklets) gazed at us uninformed, un-uniformed bozos.
That was 1967… two years later, students (arts and business first) converted to bell bottoms, cut-offs, sandals, T-shirts, long hair, and earrings. My recollection of that first day is an image of the pre-‘60’s university. The following revolutionary years were an awesome time to be on campus—an eye-opening education even without the courses!
Eric Wallace, ‘74
My parents, sister, and I carried all my stuff into Dravo, met my roommate and new hallway friends, joked around and tried not to be too profound about the first day of college for anyone in our family. Then we walked back to where they were parked. I think that's when it hit me: I was staying, and they were leaving, not just for a week of summer camp or at a cousin's house, but this was the Great Moment for which we had studied and saved. My Dad said, "Treat yourself good; you always have." With that the three of them drove off and after I watched the car disappear around the curve, I walked back to my room with an odd mix of sadness and elation. It was up to me to make it, or fail. A few moments later I was on my way down to the UC and ended up shooting pool. Boy was I a man of the world now!
George Otto Schneller IV ‘75
I recall pulling into the parking lot at Christmas Saucon as a brand new graduate assistant in mathematics, having graduated from a small Ohio College (Mt. Union) with a modest bachelor's degree in mathematics. I wandered up to the math department counter and a secretary (later I learned her name was "Judy," an extremely funny and nice young lady) finally looked up and asked what I wanted. "I'm a new graduate assistant, Schneller's the name." I said.
"Schneller!" she replied. "You're teaching two consecutive sections of Calculus I, Math 120, starting tomorrow at 8 a.m. Here's your textbook and room assignment."
And she handed me some paperwork and a brand new book, the Johnson & Kiokmeister 1st edition, which I would come to love and learn much from (that I probably was supposed to already know), in the coming months.
It was challenging and liberating to have Lehigh put that much faith in me right off the bat; I loved it and I believe I justified that faith … eventually.
Jim Esch ‘79
The strangest part of my first day was standing in the foyer of the impressive Alumni Building, and learning I was an outcast—not because my home was 400 miles away, outside of Cleveland, and 90 percent of the other freshman were from Pennsylvania, New York, or New Jersey—but that I was assigned to Bishopthorpe as a freshman, an old house away from main campus near St. Luke’s hospital. Having come from a dorm built in 1865 (my senior year in high school, while boarding at Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire ), it was not so much the age of the house, but that it mostly had juniors and seniors who were on the fringe. Yet, I eventually met my roommate (from New Jersey), and as we were in the same housing situation together, felt some immediate camaraderie which lasted throughout the year.
Caroline Power Gangl ‘85
When I got to my room on Dravo A-3, my roommate had already moved her things in. I remember that the room looked so small, I assumed the door to the closet was the door to our "real" room! She obviously expected the room to be larger, too, as evidenced by all the items her parents had to take back home for her.
Although the next memory wasn't my "first," it is certainly my most vivid. The Gryphons on A-2 and A-3 got our two floors together to mix, and being from New Jersey, I remember lots of people asking me, with a distinct northern New Jersey or New York accent, "What exit?" I had to explain that being from the easternmost part of south central New Jersey meant I didn't have an exit or an accent!
Gary Stern ‘85
When I first got a notice in the mail before starting my Lehigh life, it said my roommate was "single." I was relieved to know I was not being put together with an older married person ... and was even happier when I found out I actually got a "single" room in good old Dravo. The one negative was that I had to find other people to bond with during those first few days. But there were lots of scared and friendly freshman there to share things with. In fact, I still am in constant contact with one of those people on my floor I met the very first day over 20 years ago!! It was a great start to a really great four years!
Robert F. Walko Jr. ‘98
Being a member of the band, I was able to get into my new dorm room a few days early to drop off my stuff before band camp. My new roommate, Scott Fitch, happened to be dropping off his stuff as well before an outdoor adventure trip. We had enough time to say hi and that was about it.
A half hour later, I was having lunch getting ready to go to band camp when another freshman band member, Aubrey Fecho, asked if she could join me. After talking through lunch, the bus to camp, and bus ride back to campus, we quickly became friends.
To make a long story short, soon after band camp, I introduced Aubrey and Scott. A few months later they started dating ... and as the saying goes, the rest is history.
So as the guy who introduced them, I was honored to be their best man. At their wedding, I started dating the maid of honor, Kim, a high school friend of Aubrey's. When Kim and I got married a couple years ago, we returned the favor and made Aubrey and Scott our matron of honor and best man.
Melissa Markle Snitzer ‘00
The day I moved into Brodhead as a junior transfer student was one of the hottest days of the summer. After my parents had helped me lug everything up to the sixth floor, we went to eat at Goosey and then said our goodbyes. We had put our air conditioner on before lunch to cool off the room, but when I returned the room was still blazing. I propped open the door with a chair and started organizing my stuff. One of my roommates came and after introducing ourselves we both set to work again. After a while, a guy stopped by our room and stuck his head in.
He asked if he could borrow my ID card to get in the main door to move his stuff in. He was going to be living 2 doors down the hall, but hadn't gotten to campus early enough to get his ID card. I was really skeptical about the story and didn't want to hand over my card, so I offered to help him move in instead. My new roommate, Beth, and I helped him lug his stuff up to the room (all the while commenting to each other on his clothing.) The guy, Mike, was living with three other guys in their room. That first year, Mike's room and my room became close friends and pretty much stayed that way until we all graduated and beyond.
After being friends for almost two years, Mike and I started dating each other two months before I graduated in 2000. We were married one year ago in Lake George, N.Y., and are now temporarily living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ironically, there are so few Lehigh grads in Utah that you can count them on one hand, but when we bought our house here, we found that our neighbor was a grad student at Lehigh years ago!
Shane Sauer ‘03, ‘04
It was the first day of class and, of course, I had a 7:45 a.m. lab. I managed to oversleep, and then proceeded to lock myself out of my room when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t know the Gryphon had keys, but I remembered the security building was right down the hill from Richards (were I lived). As I ran down, I slipped and stained my pants with mud. I eventually got down to the building and had them open my room. I ended up being a little over an hour late to the lab. It was a good start!