I was one of 60 or 70 sophomores who rejected bicker and the selective club system and, instead, committed to join Wilson College for their junior year. I actually had joined Wilson Society in January 1967 at the outset of the second semester of my freshman year. Somehow, I convinced the Dean of Students that Commons was bad for my digestion (I think the neanderthal practice of "spooning" got to me). In any event, I was already a veteran member of Wilson Society when a group of sophomores, lead by Rick (now, Eric) Leenson, joined together in the Fall of 1967 to form the nucleus of the group of founding members of Wilson College committed to join in 1968.
As Eric has recently reminded me, the administration was very supportive of the formation of Wilson College as an alternative to the clubs, but wanted to be sure that there would be enough sophomores committed to join as juniors so that they could justify the commitment to transform Wilson Society into Wilson College. I'm not sure what was entailed in that transformation, other than getting more members and establishing Wilson College as a slightly more formal institution that would be attractive to a wider range of students. To me, Wilson Society was already attractive due both to its informality and to the diverse and creative community of students who were already in it. Those characteristics continued to identify Wilson College after its official formation in the Fall of 1968. But, in addition, there was the excitement of joining together with fellow sophomores who considered bicker to be an archaic system of social selection unlikely to lead to a broadening of our horizons during our junior and senior years.
The great attraction of Wilson College, and Wilson Society before it, was the opportunity to interact with students from different backgrounds rather than to join (what appeared to us to be) a self-selecting group of like-minded individuals who were deemed suitable, via bicker, to fit within a particular club's self-image. This was, after all, the late 1960's when conformity was losing its cache. No doubt, those of us who formed Wilson College's founding class were reflecting, in part, the rebellious spirit toward traditional institutions growing in society at large.
From my perspective, Wilson College was, from the outset, a great success. I was able to share meals and glasses of sherry with, by way of example, mathematicians, musicians, actors, and economists; students from India, the Cameroons, Ghana, Bolivia, Mexico, Newark, New York, and California; students from the suburbs, the inner cities, the Great Plains, and New England; pre-medical, architecture, history, engineering and English students; and on, and on. I never knew, when I headed to the dining room, who I would end up sitting with or what we would discuss. But one of the great pleasures of dining at Wilson College was the daily respite provided by the evening meal's combination of camaraderie and conversation. It made be feel that I had a home on the campus, and that my home was filled with all sorts of interesting people I looked forward to knowing better.
Finally, a few specific memories: of course, the Friday afternoon sherry parties (legal age for drinking was 18 then); the Saturday night special events, including a jazz night at which my jazz quartet, The Quorum, plus folksinger Gene Beresin, performed; Masters Jaynes and Fleming providing support, stimulating discussion, and a welcome, informal connection to the faculty; watching the Mets and the Jets when their championships in the TV room upstairs; presenting Reverend James Robinson to discuss the Operation Crossroads Africa program in the upstairs lounge; jam sessions on the steps of 1937 Hall; a mud sliding free-for-all on the incline below 1937 Hall on a day of very heavy rain; volleyball outside Wilcox Hall; classical music recitals inside Wilcox Hall; Frisbee in the old-new quad; hanging with roommate-for-life Russ Vasile in Suite 112, 1937 Hall.
I look forward to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Wilson Society/Wilson College on November 20th, and I am very glad to see that current students, faculty and administration have together strengthened and expanded an institution which was so central to my very positive Princeton experience.
-- Bob Bernstein '70 --