Many Lou Fackler '76 was carrying a large stack of books on the Ohio State University campus one day when a friend of her brother asked her. "Why aren't you at Radcliffe?" That night she sent a letter off to Harvard, asking if she could apply.
Griff Marton '75 was wounded on patrol in Vietnam and spent three months recovering in a Japanese hospital. He wanted to study Japanese foreign relations and felt that the only scholar who had anything worthwhile to say on the subject was Edwin O. Reischauer, University Professor.
Alice Barton '75 wasn't happy about the way the Tufts University Fine Arts Department was being torn apart by a sex discrimination suit, especially after her advisor and Renaissance art professor was fired. Besides, the academic atmosphere at Tufts was "low key--not at all exciting," and Harvard has "an excellent art history department."
Fackler, Marton and Barton are among a select group of students who have transferred to Harvard or Radcliffe from other colleges. They and other transfer students are an elite within an elite--characterized by histories of superior academic achievement and a special determination to get what they consider the best education possible. Nonetheless, their personalities, backgrounds and interests are as diverse as those of four-year students.
Mary Lou Fackler--whose real name is America Lou--is a tall, slender blonde with long, straight hair, lots of blue eyeshadow and pink nails that match her pink jersey and the long, gauzy scarf around her neck. Like most of the transfer students I talked to, she says she applied to Radcliffe because of academics. "I always grew up with the idea that this was the best place," she says, a belief reinforced when she noticed that all the psychology textbooks she used at Ohio State University were written by Harvard professors.
Ohio State, with a student population of about 53,000, offers a far wider range of courses than does Harvard, but Fackler didn't feel it was preparing her to go on to law or graduate school. One can major in agriculture, home ec, phys ed or train to be a butcher at Ohio State but courses there are generally taught in large lecture halls and exams are computer scored and multiple choice. "I had to opt to write papers," she says. Studying for courses meant highlighting with felt tip pens and then marking special passages with small colored dots of tape, she says, pulling out an old textbook festooned with a rainbow of different colored highliters and dots.
Still, she got A's and that's what got her into Radcliffe.
Admission to Radcliffe or Harvard from another college is even more competitive than admission to either college as a freshman and "academic credentials are far and away the most important criteria" according to Calvin N. Mosley, associate director of admissions for transfers and special students. Mosley says that one year he stopped counting when the number of unsuccessful applicants with 4.0 averages reached 200.
Mosley estimates that there will be between 30 and 50 resident places available to transfers for 1975-76. Harvard expects to receive over 400 applicants; Radcliffe, according to Louise A. Cohen, associate director of Admissions, about 200. This year for the first time transfers to Harvard and Radcliffe will be admitted under an equal access policy supervised jointly by the admissions offices of the two colleges. The experiment is conceived as a dry run for the full merger of the two offices that seems almost certain in the near future.
So far, Harvard courses have lived up to Fackler's expectations. Whatever she lost by not being able to use her pilot's license to fly one of the 24 aircraft that were provided for students at Ohio State has been gained back in better facilities activities and a lower student faculty ratio. The member of students who have special talents and skills also impresses her although she says that she came here. I had this terrible misconception that everyone who went to Harvard was a genus much a great that he looked like a genius, or else had a long lineage." She started her first fall term "studying like a fiend" and found herself surrounded by people who wanted to go to mixers and movies. Before too long, however, she learned to integrate work with play.
But one activity Fackler has yet to integrate into her life at Radcliffe is baton twirling. Fackler has been twirling since the age of nine and she's a member of the World Twirling Association--but the closest thing to performing as a majorette at Harvard is beating the "world's largest" drum in the Harvard band. When Fackler was a senior in high school and again her freshman year at Ohio State she won the senior division in national twirling competition. Then, in December of 1974, she was named the "World's Most Beautiful Majorette (Collegiate Division)." She is out of competition now, but she keeps in good form by cheerleading (minus her baton) for Harvard's teams. But she still misses going to the Rose Bowl and huge Buckeye Stadium jammed to the top with cheering fans.
Many transfers were active in their old schools; but most, faced with only two or three years instead of four in which to fulfill departmental and general education requirements, devote their full energies to their studies and to trying to feel at home in a community that they perceive as one in which friendships are close and usually formed in freshman and sophomore years. Time to sample and experiment, in academics and with extracurricular activities, is a luxury they don't have.
Even those students who come with a specific academic goal, sometimes run into problems. Griff Marton, after two years at Harvard, expresses more doubts and disappointments with his experience in the University. He is a large man, over six feet tall and heavy boned. A thick brown mustache makes the lower half of his face more prominent. Several feet of newspapers, from which he will eventually clip articles about international relations and Japan, are stacked in his room. At 26 he looks and feels older than his classmates and he speaks with a measured succintness, as if he has answered these questions before.
Marton graduated from a Philadelphia high school in 1967. He spent his first year at a local college playing basketball, subsequently flunking out and then worked for a construction company. Christmas of '68 he received his draft notice a few days after enlisting in the Army. He was discharged two years later then traveled, eventually settling in California. There he enrolled at El Camino College, a two-year school in Los Angeles with a student population of 23,000, many of whom were returning veterans.
His experiences in Viet Nam and especially his stay in Japan had an enormous impact on his attitudes toward school. "I really had something I was interested in studying and had goals I was working for for the first time." Japan seemed to him to be a "country or people that somehow mattered more than other countries in the overall scheme of things," and one that too few Americans know anything about.