50th Anniversary Class Reflects on How It Was, and How It Has Changed

June 7, 2011

It was a year when egg creams with Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup and hot salted pretzels were all the rage among the college set in Brooklyn. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as the country's 35th president. The Berlin Wall was constructed. A fast-food restaurant called McDonald's was beginning to pop up all across the landscape. Civil rights activists known as Freedom Riders, who were mostly from colleges across the country, rode interstate buses into the South in order to test local laws and customs that enforced segregation. And it was a year when more than a few students met and fell in love.

It was 1961, and while they noted that the campus actually looks relatively the same as they remember it, members of the Golden Anniversary Class, back for the 2011 Commencement Exercises, noted that the world has changed drastically.

"I came here for the free tuition," said Renee Chernoble Kibel, who majored in elementary education and went on to become a teacher. "For me, it was Brooklyn College or no college. And it opened up the world for me. I just wish today's students didn't have the burden of tuition."

One of her favorite memories was of attending a county fair that was held on campus each year near Roosevelt Hall, which was hosted by the sororities, fraternities and what were then called house plans — "sororities and fraternities for those of us who weren't as pedigreed," explained Kibel, with a laugh.

Irvin Homer remarked on the "splendor of diversity" among the current graduating class, noting that as an African American student, he didn't see many others who looked like him on campus in his time.

"I still had some wonderful years here," said the former sociology major who became a teacher and administrator. "But I'm glad the face of Brooklyn College changed for the better. It reflects the community now, and that's something to be proud of."

Arlene Colman-Schwimmer, who majored in speech, theater and English, also grew up in a family with few resources. "I had aunts and uncles who did alterations and sewed," said Colman-Schwimmer, who became a lawyer, married, and had two children — a daughter who is now a lawyer and a son, David Schwimmer, who is a well-known actor and director. "I was smart, I didn't want that life. That's why I came here and the college really changed me."

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