At Long Last, Commencement
Class of 1970 returns to take care of some unfinished business| From Commonwealth | By Cynthia K. Buccini. Video by By Nicolae Cioragan and Katie Koch
In the video above, Clif Garboden (CAS’70) and Esther Wineburgh Rothkopf (SED’70) discuss the political turmoil at BU in the spring of 1970, the Kent State shootings, and what it means to finally graduate.
When BU canceled its Commencement in 1970 amid the nationwide turmoil of campus antiwar protests, Rachelle Dinstein felt cheated.
“We deserved to graduate,” said Dinstein (née Gabel), an English literature major. “We had put in four years of hard work.”
But forty years later, when the University invited the Class of 1970 back for the graduation they never had, Dinstein was ambivalent. “Why didn’t they do this after ten years, after twenty,” she said. “Why now?” In the end, she said, “my husband convinced me this is an experience I should have had, and I should go for it.”
So on Commencement weekend, Dinstein (CAS’70) was back on the BU campus, wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt, a peace symbol, and a halo of silk daisies in her hair. She, along with more than 200 alumni from her class, watched a slide presentation by photojournalist, author, and music historian Peter Simon (COM’70), attended a service at Marsh Chapel to honor deceased members of the class, and mingled at a reception at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. On Sunday, May 16, the alums donned caps and gowns for their own convocation, at the College of Fine Arts Concert Hall. They then joined the Class of 2010 on Nickerson Field for the University’s 137th Commencement exercises. Finally, they remembered a few things about solidarity.
Dinstein recalled the many students who helped an AWOL soldier who had sought sanctuary in Marsh Chapel. “We brought him food, visited him, took out letters for him, and supported his cause, which was, he didn’t want to go to Vietnam,” she said. “We didn’t want to see anybody go. There was always a little sense of terror, especially among the guys — all you had to do was flunk out one day and you would be crawling on your belly in the jungle the next.”
At the convocation, the Class of 1970 marched onto the stage at CFA, waving at family and friends in the audience. And just before the closing remarks, they began to sing: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”
Leslie Clarke said there was something therapeutic about the weekend’s events. “I’ll start talking about it, and I’ll well up,” said Clarke (SON’70). “I think there’s a grieving and a letting-go process that we’re going through. It’s a release, and it’s like, wow, this business is done.”
Video clips of alumni interviews and the Class of 1970 convocation are at facebook.com/bostonia.