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Vets Flooded Campus Under GI Bill

By Robert K. Silverman, Crimson Staff Writers

Francis J. Rosa '49 grew up in Somerville, minutes from Harvard Yard. As a boy, he enjoyed walking to the University's campus and visiting the collections housed in Harvard's museums.

But while the museums were free, Harvard was not.

"Many times I used to walk over to Harvard and go over to the [Peabody] Museum to look at the glass flowers, and I would say to myself, 'Gee, I wonder what it would be like to go to college here,"' he says.

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill, opened Harvard's doors to Rosa.

The bill provided millions of World War II veterans with money for tuition, books and living expenses, sparking an unprecedented rise in admissions and diversity in the nation's universities.

During this time enrollment at Harvard, after sinking to a wartime low, skyrocketed to almost double the prewar norm in the late 1940s. Veterans flooded the campus, making up over half of the Class of 1949.

For those students who had served in the war, the GI Bill offered a unique opportunity to continue their education at America's oldest university.

"I didn't think I could afford to go. The GI Bill gave me that chance," Rosa says.

"I loved every minute of it," he adds. "I don't want to call it a dream because I never dreamed I'd go to Harvard."

Cramming at Harvard

During the spring of 1944, with World War II raging in Europe, a mere 671 students enrolled in Harvard College. Only three years later, wall-to-wall cots lined the Indoor Athletic Building (now the Malkin Athletic Center) with 5,353 men registered, the most in Harvard's history.

The massive influx of students, brought on by the promise of the GI Bill, led to a crisis of overcrowding.

"Every room that had had two people had at least three, every four person room had five or six people," says Timothy G. Foote '49.

To compensate for the overcrowding, Harvard erected temporary housing throughout the campus, converted the Jarvis tennis courts into housing for married couples and even leased the Hotel Brunswick in Boston to serve as a temporary dorm.

Dean of the College Paul Buck described the drastic rise in student population as "the greatest pressure ever put on American colleges," in The Crimson on April 23, 1946.

An increase in class size accompanied the housing crunch. Francis J. Heppner '49 remembers that "some of the lecture classes were just huge," with more than 1,000 students.

The increase in enrollment due to the GI Billin the late 1940s marked a permanent shift inHarvard admissions. The pre-war norm of 3,500 wasforever discarded and enrollment consistentlyremained above 5,000.

Not Your Father's Harvard

The Class of 1949 was not only larger thanpre-war classes, but it represented a broaderspectrum of society. For the first time, studentswho were not independently wealthy could attendthe nation's top universities in large numbers.

"The GI Bill turned higher education from afairly genteel and elite fare relevant for a smallminority into mass education," says ThomasProfessor of Government and of Sociology ThedaSkocpol.

The bill provided money for tuition and booksup to $500, a more than adequate sum, and a smallmonthly stipend. For newly-released veterans, manyof whom already had families, these measures madehigher education possible.

When Calvin J. Goodman '49 entered Harvard inthe summer of 1946 at age 24, he had a wife, twosmall children and no money.

"We were fed by the school," he says.

The free tuition, books, and stipend providedby the government and the lowcost housing offeredby the University enabled Goodman to attendHarvard.

"We had a lot of help from the University and alot of help from the GI Bill," he says. "If notfor the GI Bill I wouldn't have even been able tothink about Harvard."

Despite the bill's benefits, Goodman held afull-time job while going to school. While Goodmanworked, his wife attended class and took notes inhis absence, and his two young children went tothe University-run nursery school.

Goodman still managed to graduate with honorsafter only two and a half years, and reported forhis new job two days after completing his lastfinal.

Fifty years later, Goodman is still gratefulfor the opportunities the GI Bill made possible."It was one of the greatest things this governmentever did," he says.

Unlike Goodman, Herbert R. Waite '49 hadalready enrolled in Harvard before serving in themilitary, but he also credits the GI Bill forallowing him to complete his final three years ofschool.

"I was very definitely intending to go tocollege; it was more a question of finances,"Waite says. "I owe so much of what I'veaccomplished in my life to my education. I thankGod for my opportunity to attend Harvard College."

Fight Hard, Study Hard

Having spent years in the military, theveterans in the Class of 1949 were often severalyears older than their classmates, and somestudents felt this difference acutely.

"There is a vast difference between being 18and 19 or being 21, 22 or 23, extraordinarily soif you've led a platoon or something like that,"says Foote who entered the college at age 21.

The experiences of World War II, and in somecases the responsibility of caring for a family,meant that veterans entered the University withmature attitudes.

Indeed, Wilbur J. Bender '27, the Counselor forVeterans and later Dean of the College, praisedthe returning servicemen in the Harvard AlumniBulletin in 1947.

"Our veterans are easily the most experienced,most mature, most serious and hardworking group ofstudents Harvard has ever seen," he wrote.

Many veterans viewed the war as a soberingexperience and emerged with a strong sense ofduty.

"We were fresh out of the war," says Charles M.Zettek '49. "You go through that kind ofstuff...when you come back, you're ready to work.You say, 'I want to do something.'"

While the war instilled the veterans withdiscipline and experience, the GI Bill gave themthe chance to apply that dedication to theirstudies, and the veterans sought to take fulladvantage of it.

"I took as much as I could take and worked ashard as I could work," says Goodman. "I had notime to fritter away."

Even the students straight out of high schoolnoticed the work ethic and drive of the veterans.Joel Raphaelson '49, like a large minority of hisclassmates, was too young to serve in the war. Hegraduated high school in 1945 at age 16 andimmediately matriculated to the College.

"The main thing that I felt was that [theveterans] were really motivated," says Raphaelson."They didn't kind of drift into college as mostpeople do-they really wanted to go to college."

However, the separation between veterans andnon-veterans was not felt universally.

"I didn't feel any distinction really," saysHerbert R. Waite '49, while Zettek says he felt"absolutely no" barrier.

Whatever the strength of the division, therewas a general recognition that the veterans were aserious crowd.

Foote notes that at one point, the deans had toadmonish the veterans to have more fun.

"The idea was to get things back to normal asquickly as possible," Foote says.

Opening the Doors

The GI Bill permanently changed the nature ofhigher education, at Harvard and throughout thenation. Over 7.8 million veterans took advantageof the GI Bill, 2.2 million in order to pursuehigher education.

The Class of 1949, with its mixture of veteransand high school students, and its diverse range ofsocio-economic and geographic backgrounds,represented clearly the shift that was takingplace in American higher education.

Although the classes of the 1950s containedfewer and fewer beneficiaries of the GI Bill, theeffects of the legislation on enrollment andadmissions were long-lasting.

"The colleges expanded to meet the demand andthey never looked back," Skocpol said.Harvard YearbookTOO MANY MEN OF HARVARD:Thousands ofreturning veterans flooded postwar classes,crowding dormitories and classrooms. Top, ahousing shortage forced the University to lodgestudents in the Indoor Athletic Building, now theMalkin Athletic Center. Above, veteranregistration in Memorial Hall was administrativechaos.

The increase in enrollment due to the GI Billin the late 1940s marked a permanent shift inHarvard admissions. The pre-war norm of 3,500 wasforever discarded and enrollment consistentlyremained above 5,000.

Not Your Father's Harvard

The Class of 1949 was not only larger thanpre-war classes, but it represented a broaderspectrum of society. For the first time, studentswho were not independently wealthy could attendthe nation's top universities in large numbers.

"The GI Bill turned higher education from afairly genteel and elite fare relevant for a smallminority into mass education," says ThomasProfessor of Government and of Sociology ThedaSkocpol.

The bill provided money for tuition and booksup to $500, a more than adequate sum, and a smallmonthly stipend. For newly-released veterans, manyof whom already had families, these measures madehigher education possible.

When Calvin J. Goodman '49 entered Harvard inthe summer of 1946 at age 24, he had a wife, twosmall children and no money.

"We were fed by the school," he says.

The free tuition, books, and stipend providedby the government and the lowcost housing offeredby the University enabled Goodman to attendHarvard.

"We had a lot of help from the University and alot of help from the GI Bill," he says. "If notfor the GI Bill I wouldn't have even been able tothink about Harvard."

Despite the bill's benefits, Goodman held afull-time job while going to school. While Goodmanworked, his wife attended class and took notes inhis absence, and his two young children went tothe University-run nursery school.

Goodman still managed to graduate with honorsafter only two and a half years, and reported forhis new job two days after completing his lastfinal.

Fifty years later, Goodman is still gratefulfor the opportunities the GI Bill made possible."It was one of the greatest things this governmentever did," he says.

Unlike Goodman, Herbert R. Waite '49 hadalready enrolled in Harvard before serving in themilitary, but he also credits the GI Bill forallowing him to complete his final three years ofschool.

"I was very definitely intending to go tocollege; it was more a question of finances,"Waite says. "I owe so much of what I'veaccomplished in my life to my education. I thankGod for my opportunity to attend Harvard College."

Fight Hard, Study Hard

Having spent years in the military, theveterans in the Class of 1949 were often severalyears older than their classmates, and somestudents felt this difference acutely.

"There is a vast difference between being 18and 19 or being 21, 22 or 23, extraordinarily soif you've led a platoon or something like that,"says Foote who entered the college at age 21.

The experiences of World War II, and in somecases the responsibility of caring for a family,meant that veterans entered the University withmature attitudes.

Indeed, Wilbur J. Bender '27, the Counselor forVeterans and later Dean of the College, praisedthe returning servicemen in the Harvard AlumniBulletin in 1947.

"Our veterans are easily the most experienced,most mature, most serious and hardworking group ofstudents Harvard has ever seen," he wrote.

Many veterans viewed the war as a soberingexperience and emerged with a strong sense ofduty.

"We were fresh out of the war," says Charles M.Zettek '49. "You go through that kind ofstuff...when you come back, you're ready to work.You say, 'I want to do something.'"

While the war instilled the veterans withdiscipline and experience, the GI Bill gave themthe chance to apply that dedication to theirstudies, and the veterans sought to take fulladvantage of it.

"I took as much as I could take and worked ashard as I could work," says Goodman. "I had notime to fritter away."

Even the students straight out of high schoolnoticed the work ethic and drive of the veterans.Joel Raphaelson '49, like a large minority of hisclassmates, was too young to serve in the war. Hegraduated high school in 1945 at age 16 andimmediately matriculated to the College.

"The main thing that I felt was that [theveterans] were really motivated," says Raphaelson."They didn't kind of drift into college as mostpeople do-they really wanted to go to college."

However, the separation between veterans andnon-veterans was not felt universally.

"I didn't feel any distinction really," saysHerbert R. Waite '49, while Zettek says he felt"absolutely no" barrier.

Whatever the strength of the division, therewas a general recognition that the veterans were aserious crowd.

Foote notes that at one point, the deans had toadmonish the veterans to have more fun.

"The idea was to get things back to normal asquickly as possible," Foote says.

Opening the Doors

The GI Bill permanently changed the nature ofhigher education, at Harvard and throughout thenation. Over 7.8 million veterans took advantageof the GI Bill, 2.2 million in order to pursuehigher education.

The Class of 1949, with its mixture of veteransand high school students, and its diverse range ofsocio-economic and geographic backgrounds,represented clearly the shift that was takingplace in American higher education.

Although the classes of the 1950s containedfewer and fewer beneficiaries of the GI Bill, theeffects of the legislation on enrollment andadmissions were long-lasting.

"The colleges expanded to meet the demand andthey never looked back," Skocpol said.Harvard YearbookTOO MANY MEN OF HARVARD:Thousands ofreturning veterans flooded postwar classes,crowding dormitories and classrooms. Top, ahousing shortage forced the University to lodgestudents in the Indoor Athletic Building, now theMalkin Athletic Center. Above, veteranregistration in Memorial Hall was administrativechaos.

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