25 Years Later, Turbulent Times Have Left a Mark

But Many Graduates Have Settled Down

In his senior year, Henry R. Norr '68 had to turn down a fellowship for study at Cambridge University because he wouldn't have received a deferment from the draft.

"Between the escalation of the war and the assassinations of Martin Luther king and Robert Kennedy, one really had the feeling in those months that the whole world was unraveling," Norr says of the spring of 1968.

Norr, like many of his classmates, had the course of his life changed by the turbulent, wrenching events of the time.

Upon graduation, most students were greeted not by a comfortable post-collegiate life, but by difficult moral choices which could sometimes lead to violent death.

"[That spring] shook me loose from an academic track," says Norr. In order to avoid the war, he went to his medical exam with peace symbols painted on his underwear and antiwar slogans on his feet. After getting sent to a psychiatrist. Norr was deemed mentally unfit and received a medical deferment.


The members of the class of 1968 were faced with by decisions and situations, like Norr's which few other classes have had to face--the consequences of which have often impacted them for life.

"I haven't regretted [getting a medical deferment], but the thought that someone else had to fill my place possibly getting killed is a funny thing to carry around with you," Norr says.

The war didn't just change graduates' immediate plans: the life goals and ambitions of many were a direct product of the trying times that faced them upon graduation.

Classmate Michio kaku '68 was "part of a small, elite group of bright scholarship students" while an undergraduate.

Upon graduation he had to enter the U.S. Army because he was unable to obtain a deferment.

"My experience in the U.S. infantry left a deep, lasting impression on me, changing my world outlook. After my discharge. I began to organize against the Vietnam war," kaku wrote in the class report prepared for the 25th reunion.

Kaku says that if it hadn't been for the war, he probably would have ended up like many of his University colleagues, working at the Livermore weapons laboratory at Los Alamos designing third generation hydrogen warheads.

"I realized I had to be involved in social change," kaku says.

Instead, kaku pursued an academic track, teaching physics and working to complete the "super string theory," which seeks to unify and explain all physical forces.

Kaku speaks out against nuclear testing as a member of the National Advisory Board of National SANF/Freeze, the largest disarmament organization in the U.S.