WSW: WMU's Class Of 1968 "Grew Up An Awful Lot"

Aug 30, 2018

Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium opened in 1968
Credit WMUK

Western Michigan University’s 1968 senior class president says it 50 years ago was an amazing time to be a student on a college campus. Rick Markoff says major issues faced the nation and the world in 1968. He says those included race relations, the Vietnam War, and major cultural changes. 

The class of 1968 is holding its 50th reunion this week. A series of events are planned around the season opening football game. The Broncos face Syracuse Friday night. The game kicks off at 6:00 at Waldo Stadium.

Among the many historic events of 1968 was Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination in April that year. Markoff says the next day he and other student leaders waited outside the student union where African-American students had locked themselves inside. Markoff says “all of us grew up an awful lot in those days of April of 1968.”

While there was turmoil in the nation and the world, Western Michigan University was growing. A big jump in enrollment started the 1967-68 academic year. Miller Auditorium opened in January of 1968. Markoff says Western enjoyed strong leadership in those years. He says it was an exciting time with a lot do on campus. Markoff says that didn’t always help his grade point average, but helped him develop personally.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from WMU, Markoff earned a Master’s Degree and an ROTC Commission at the University of Missouri. He went on to serve in Vietnam. At that time he was able to connect with fellow Western graduate and longtime friend Norm Gottlieb. The two men are the main volunteers working on the 50th reunion for the class of 1968. Markoff went to a career in college, hospital and non-profit administration. He is now retired, but plans to release a book later this year on fundraising.

Asked to compare 1968 with today, Markoff says civility seems to have disappeared. He says 50 years ago even strong disagreements included a show of respect and finding ways to compromise and work together. Markoff says his service in the military showed him the blessings enjoyed by the United States. He says if people realized how fortunate they are to live in this country, they might work harder to “find solutions to whatever seems to ail us.”