Fifteen Minutes: Behind a University's Very Close Doors... 'The JFK Suite'

There are no neon signs or gaudy trimmings proclaiming the site of room 14 in the F entryway of Winthrop House. A simple blue placard tacked to the door identifies the dorm room haunted by, as one visitor called it, "The Ghost of Charisma Past." Welcome to the JFK Suite.

On May 29, 1970, in commemoration of the 53rd birthday of John F. Kennedy '40, the Institute of Politics created this cozy home-away-from-home for assorted visiting dignitaries, scholars and public figures. Once the posh pad of JFK and his senior year roomie--future Congressman Torbert H. MacDonald '40--the suite is also let out to supplicating students who want to bask in the nostalgia of JFK and his memorabilia.

Behind the locked door lies the New Frontier, a frontier that tickles the nose with "a whiff of history," as another guest put it. The door opens to a quaint sitting room, bedroom, kitchenette and bathroom while books by and about the President overflow the bookshelf and framed photos and newspaper clippings deck the walls. Here, a snapshot of the swimming team; there, JFK attending the Harvard-Columbia football game in 1963; upon the bedroom door, the 1940 University Class Day Program announcing all the swingin' graduation activities. "There's a flavor to it," says Catherine L. McLaughlin, deputy director of the IOP. "That's why we didn't change it. We want to maintain the feeling of a dorm room." Vivian M. Song '02, modern-day inhabitant of F entryway, acknowledges the positive aura of the room, but, as an advocate of progress, regards it as "A little shabby. I would have done a little more work with it, especially in the bedroom."