There is something about the number 50 that triggers an emotional response in most people. Is it the onset of “middle age?” Is it the numerator that marks a half century? Is it the Golden Anniversary of, well, anything? For me and the Reunion Class of 1964 (Brown’s Bicentennial Class for those who are celebrating the University’s 250th anniversary), it brings me and, I suppose, my fellow classmates back to an event that happened in the fall semester of our senior year and a day that will live forever in my mind and in the minds of Americans for generations to come.
I will never forget that day. How brightly the fall sun struck my skin
as I walked across the College Green from Professor Hedges’s American
History class in Manning and strolled with my dear friend, David
Garbus, to Mrs. Kay’s sandwich shop. It became a ritual for the two of
us to scrape enough money together to escape the Ratty and splurge at
Lloyd's: a grilled ham and cheese with a vanilla Coke for me, and
pastrami or corned beef and a regular Coke for David.
Following lunch on November 22, 1963, David headed back to the Kappa
Sigma house, where the weekend was already in full swing. I meandered
down Thayer to window shop before wandering down Prospect to my Faunce
House mailbox. My desultory walk was interrupted by snippets of news
emanating from some of the stores. Something was happening in Dallas
concerning the president.
I sprinted to Faunce and reached the Blue Room television in time to
see Walter Cronkite take off his glasses and announce that John F.
Kennedy had been shot in Texas. Shot and killed. The room, now packed,
fell silent. People started to cry. Our world had just been turned
upside down and changed forever.
Still in a daze, I went to the mailroom, opened my box, and tossed out
a few meaningless pieces of junk mail, but not before I heard someone
(yes, I remember his name) yelling into a pay phone: “Sell all of my
I recall that, as I walked out the door and headed toward Carrie Tower,
I passed a nun in front of University Hall. I said, “Sister, please
pray for us.” She looked startled and asked if something was wrong. I
said the president had been shot. She let out a horrific and mournful
scream, and as her knees buckled I gently held her up. I then headed
toward the fraternity house, at which on most Friday afternoons the
stereo would be blasting and the beer would be starting to flow. Not
this day. Except for the television set that repeated the awful and
still unbelievable news coming from Dallas and Washington, the place
It is said that there are moments in our lives when an event becomes
embedded in our memories like an insect that can be trapped and
preserved forever in amber. November 22, 1963, is such a moment for me
and I would guess for the members of the class of 1964. But for Brown
the event has a special meaning: in November 1960, Providence had been
the last of JFK’s campaign whistle-stops before he returned to Boston
for his final pre-election rally. It was also the place where I, as a
newly minted freshman, went downtown to hear the young presidential
candidate deliver his speech. But in November 1963 I was preparing to
graduate and leave Brown, the place where I witnessed the birth of the
New Frontier and the death of Camelot.
Everything Changed My Senior Year
By Larry Rand ’64 / July/August 2014
July 2nd, 2014