Tag Archives: Wes History

Weird Old Wesleyan: Olla Podrida, Captioned

"Got this dank shit from Colorado over break. It's pretty chill. Can I borrow your baseball mask though? I need to send my mom a selfie"

“Got this dank shit from Colorado over break. It’s pretty chill. Can I borrow your baseball mask though? I need to send my mom a selfie”

Incoming class of 2020, you are not worthy. Well into the cyborg age, we are all not worthy. We could never be cool enough to be photographed in sepia. Never. Wes used to be worthy. To see this, one only needs to journey up to the 3A stacks and check out Olla Podrida, Wesleyan’s old yearbook that was discontinued after 147 years in 2009 because I guess people stopped buying them during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Basically, I was bored and did exactly this. And oh lordt was I rewarded. I was so inspired that I “couldn’t even.” What I could do though was add historically irrelevant captions to every single one of my fave photos from Olla Podrida and compile them into this post for a target audience of #millenial #weskids. Also, found a photo from the 1978 yearbook and we def think it’s Michael Roth ’78 so that’s cool. SEE THE GALLERY:

The Douglas Cannon Resurfaces


The Douglas Cannon, a 140-pound brass cannon that is periodically stolen and returned to Wesleyan for a cult ritual I don’t understand, has resurfaced. I got an e-mail on Friday with the photo above and the following message:

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 11.33.07 PM

The official base of the Douglas Cannon is between South College and the Memorial Chapel, though it’s never actually there. The last time the Douglas Cannon was on campus was in 2012 in the Zelnick Pavillion. Before that, it was briefly on campus in 2010 and at President Roth’s inauguration reception in 2007.

Football Team Loses… in the late 1800s

the football team on November 27, 1885 in New York, before losing to Yale 61-0 (from Wesleyan Special Collections & Archives)

the football team on November 27, 1885 in New York, before losing to Yale 61-0 (from Wesleyan Special Collections & Archives)

Wesleyan isn’t really known for its athletics, despite our sports teams being pretty good. (I think… why–when I know nothing about sports–do I keep doing this?) This year’s scheduling probably isn’t helping matters: homecoming has been conveniently scheduled during fall break. In any case, in honor of tomorrow’s homecoming game against Amherst, wherever you are to experience/ignore it, here’s a look into Wes Football’s (pretty embarrassing) early history, including a spectacular 136-0 loss to Yale and a triumphant 26-0 win… against New Haven High School.

“Where Are They Now?”: An Interview with Former President William Chace

Our second (and maybe final) presidential interview is with William Chace, president from 1988 to 1994.

William Chace was only president of Wesleyan for six years, but between firebombings, racially charged graffiti, student occupations, and hunger strikes, he probably dealt with enough strife and campus unrest to fill two decades of Wes history. Twenty years later, Chace, a literature scholar and former Stanford administrator, still wrestles with his Wesleyan experience. “Those were the hardest years of my life,” President Chace told Wesleying. “It was a tough place for me.”

“Perhaps some of the problems were of my own making,” he conceded, “but I didn’t bomb my own office.”

Back in the fall, we contacted President Chace, who left the presidency of Emory University in 2003 and now lives in California, for an interview. “Well, of course,” Chace soon replied. “But please keep in mind that I left Wesleyan in 1994, some 18 years ago, and I do not have with me records of the time. So it will be memory, all memory, a facility at once pregnant with apparent certitude and often quite erroneous.”

“Where Are They Now?”: An Interview with Former President Colin Campbell

Wesleying finishes off the year by catching up with the presidents who used to run this place.

President Colin Campbell's portrait on the main floor of Olin.

President Colin Campbell’s portrait on the main floor of Olin.

At 35, Colin Campbell was the youngest president in Wesleyan’s history, and after 18 years at the helm, he became one of its longest-serving leaders. Though he wasn’t a Wesleyan alum and has never earned a Ph.D., President Campbell succesfully presided over some of the most immense change in the University’s history, from coeducation to the construction of the Center for the Arts and the Williams Street apartments. Beloved by a wide range of alumni and faculty, Campbell got to hang out with everyone from Joss Whedon ’87 and Michael Bay ’86 to Bill Belichick ’75 in the process. He left academia in 1988, but if you try to schedule a phone interview with him today you’ll learn that Campbell is Wesleyan’s busiest former president: he serves as president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which is funny considering a lot of Wesleyan alums end up in Williamsburg, but usually not that Williamsburg.

Back in the fall, Wesleying rather ambitiously set out to catch up with each of the three surviving former occupants of South College and give them a chance to reflect on their time in office. We weren’t entirely successful (we couldn’t get President Bennet ’59 to reply to our emails), but President Campbell enthusiastically replied within the hour to express his delight at the idea. pyrotechnics and I called him up one morning in February and chatted about everything from South African divestment to Das Racist to the time he nearly got pied in the face. Oh, and he also told us about the time a young Michael S. Roth ’78 occupied his office in protest in the 1970s. We found President Campbell to be a remarkably friendly dude. Read on for the interview.

“The Funniest Prank Ever,” Part Two: An Interview With the Guy Who Put a Mummy in his Hallmate’s Bed

Last year I interviewed a guy who found a mummy in his bed. Meet the guy who put it there.

A little more than a year ago, I posted an interview with a guy who returned to his Nics dorm room one night in early 1990 to find a rotting, 3,000-year-old mummy occupying his bed. Both the victim, Tim Abel ’93, and the perpetrator went on to champion the incident as the “funniest prank ever.” But what happened after the prank unexpectedly revealed quite a bit about Wesleyan in the early 1990s, the interconnected campus community, disciplinary confusion, mass media, the stranger side of alumni gift-giving, and perhaps even Egyptology. (Okay, maybe not that.)

For months I’ve wanted to talk with the perpetrators of the prank, who remain unnamed in news accounts and faceless in a TV interview. When one of them posted a comment (since deleted) on the post, I managed to get in touch. Let’s call him Craig Smith ’93. Smith (not his real name) is now a professional musician and a dad. But he’s not sure he’ll ever top the prank he pulled in the Nics 23 years ago this month.

As I wrote in 2012, the Middletown Mummy Mystery was more than just a good prank. I was an intergenerational legend that has “solidified its place in the lore of early 1990s Wesleyan history, providing some semblance of levity during a turbulent academic year characterized by generally unprecedented campus unrest, including a firebombing, a week-long hunger strike, racist graffiti in Malcolm X House, and the fatal shooting of Nicholas Haddad ’92.”

And here’s the other side of it. 

“Forces Greater Than Ourselves”: An Interview with Sheila Tobias, Wesleyan’s First Female Provost

“What we were doing at Wesleyan was taking place in the context of a much larger sweep of change in American history and culture.”

Sheila Tobias with NOW Founder Betty Friedan in the 1970s while Tobias was Associate Provost for Coeducation at Wesleyan. Image courtesy of Ms. Tobias.

In September of 1970, the same month Colin Campbell became Wesleyan’s youngest ever president, Sheila Tobias arrived at Wesleyan as associate provost. A noted author, scholar, and feminist activist, Tobias’ task at Wesleyan was different than that of any previous administrator—and different than any provost since then. Wesleyan had only just begun admitting women, and for the next eight years, Tobias was to oversee the inclusion of women in student life and assist the University in hiring and retaining female faculty. She was also instrumental in bringing the first women’s studies courses to Wes.

“It wasn’t a party school, but it was a school that catered to young men in all their glory,” Tobias says of the Wesleyan of the 1960s. “That was the place that I was invited to help change.”

While Tobias says that Wesleyan transitioned into coeducation more swiftly than many of its peers (“Wesleyan did it right”), she insists that the changes on campus were part of a much larger movement. “What we were doing at Wesleyan—namely, integrating a formerly men’s college—was taking place in the context of a much larger sweep of change in American history and culture,” Tobias says.

Wesleying is psyched to present an interview with Sheila Tobias, whose published books include Overcoming Math Anxiety, They’re not Dumb, They’re Different, Breaking the Science BarrierRethinking Science as a Career, and Faces of Feminism: An Activist’s Reflections on the Women’s Movement. For more on Sheila Tobias and her career at Wesleyan, see her website or this Special Collections blog post by Cordelia Hyland ’13

From the Special Collections and Argives: An Awesome Picture of Richard Nixon at Wesleyan in 1956

Yes, the same Richard Nixon.

Do you keep up with the library’s Special Collections and Archives blog? If that’s a no, you may have missed archivist Leith Johnson’s “Pick of the Week,” which depicts then-Vice President Richard Nixon’s momentous visit to Wesleyan on October 18, 1956. Here’s your bi-weekly reminder that an institution of higher learning can change a lot in 50 years or less, and that Martin Benjamin ’57 once looked like this.

Shot by Fraser M. Lyle ’58, the above photo finds Tricky Dick on a Connecticut campaign stop less than a month before Eisenhower securely won reelection:

The Argus reported that Nixon spoke to about 400 students who crowded around him on High St. Suzy Taraba included this photograph, taken by Frazer M. Lyle ’58, in her recent presentation on alumni gifts of archival materials to the University Relations major gifts team. This photograph is particularly remarkable because it’s a color print, something that is rare among our photographs from this time period.

From the Argives: Headlines


These are some headlines that I have come across while perusing the Argives, more or less at random (and for most, there were dozens of other articles like it I could have included). If you’d like to read more about one, go look it up! The Argus archive is located along the North wall of the main stacks section, floor 3A, Olin Library.

“A look at the bare facts of nude modeling at Wesleyan,” by Yinka Bogdan ’88, published 23rd September 1986

“Celebrants stampede coat room at end of Senior Cocktails,” by Bobby Zeliger ’03, published 13th February 2001

“Students spared slaughter,” by Jon Dube ’94, published 1st November 1991

“Should Attendance Upon Recitations Be Compulsory?” by a mysterious H.C., published 12th February 1876

“Why Austerity: Wesleyan Must Cultivate New Income,” by B. Kent Garlinghouse ’63, published 24th April 1962

“Students disrupt campus tours to speak about sexual assault at Wes,” by Linda Wong ’90, published 4th November 1986

And two dozen more:

From the Argives: Student Caught “Tanning”

That almost-mythical not-corner of Olin 3A.


Back in 1985, being spotted exiting a Middletown tanning salon was evidently enough to land you on the front page of The Argus. On Friday, 6th November 1985, the front-page headline quite seriously pronounced “Winter break to be shortened by two weeks,” and vaulted into rote Argus material. Just below that, however, still on the front page, Argus ran one of the most bizarre articles my eyes have ever traipsed across in the great (worthwhile) time-suck that is the Argives. The headline: “Wesleyan student spotted in downtown tanning salon.”

So goes the story: one particular freshman had a crush. To look good for his crush, he wanted a tan. But it was almost winter, and the Connecticut sun was rapidly retreating to the Southern hemisphere. So he went to a local tanning salon a few times. After one fateful zap-session, a group of girls — crush included! — spotted him leaving the establishment, at which point he looked away and walked off as quick as he could. And everyone, except the freshman himself of course, that the whole affair was uproariously funny. A Wesleyan student! In a tanning salon! How preposterous! (Oh, the huge manatee!)

The author proceeds to quote the crush (who thought it was funny, and was flattered, but felt objectified), the crush’s friend (who couldn’t stop laughing), the freshman’s roommate (who felt for his roomie), the freshman’s mother (who wondered if she could take a message), the freshman’s RA (who sympathized), and the owner of the tanning salon (who worried that the freshman’s tan was still at a delicate stage).

Seriously, this must have been a joke issue. Subsequent pages, detailing an argument between the Editor and Staff about drinking on the job, seem to support this hypothesis. Any 1985 Argus staffers want to weigh in, in the comments? Author Chris Chester ’86? Editor Aaron Schloff ’87, perhaps?

Article text (and subsequent pages) post-jump.