The first days on campus for the freshmen of Morgan State College’s Class of 1970 — this year’s 50th Anniversary Class of Morgan State University — reflected a world much different from today’s. For example, registration for classes then meant gathering in long lines outside of Hurt Gymnasium before daybreak, as the staff inside sought to fulfill the students’ requests on paper, with varying levels of success, before the invention of personal computers. The students were ambitious, as they are today, but their aspirations, as much as their Afro hairdos, were shaped by the era: new opportunities in many industries were opening to African Americans for the first time, as a result of the civil rights movement in which many members of the class would soon participate. A good percentage of the classmates aspired to make a difference in the world by becoming educators, social workers, doctors, lawyers or business leaders. Some just wanted to graduate and get “a good government job.” Others were fortunate to meet the love of their life at Morgan and dreamed of getting married and raising a family. Several of the classmates were ROTC cadets and wanted to serve their country in the armed forces.
Morgan’s academic standards, and the students’ attrition rate, were both high, as President Martin D. Jenkins had promised during freshman orientation, but the sizeable number who went on to receive their bachelor’s or master’s degree have a treasure chest of memories, among them campus concerts by Nina Simone, Jerry Butler and Lonnie Liston Smith (Morgan Class of 1961), and the Morgan vs. Grambling football game in Yankee Stadium. Coretta Scott King addressed the candidates at Commencement in the spring of 1970 and challenged them to take on the world.
As a group, the Class of 1970 met that challenge, following the directive of their class motto, “From Vision to Victory,” and reaching heights beyond their wildest dreams. The graduating members of the class, success stories all, had among their number Wallace Green, who became an under secretary with the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Carter Administration; Shirley Marcus Buckner, appointed by Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and reappointed by Gov. Glendening and Gov. Ehrlich to serve on the Morgan State University Board of Regents; Bert Hash, former president and CEO of the Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore; Reginald Thomas, former chairman of the Baltimore City Housing Authority Board of Commissioners during the tenure of Mayor Kurt Schmoke; and former National Football League players Mark Washington, Raymond Chester and John (“Frenchy”) Fuqua.
Members of the Class of 1970 note with pride the many changes at Morgan over the past 50 years, changes such as the North and West Campuses and the many modern buildings that didn’t exist five decades ago; the size, educational training and diversity of the faculty; the large number of academic programs now offered by the University (126); the growth of the international student population; the quality of the MSU Choir; and Morgan’s top ranking among Historically Black Colleges and Universities in number of students and faculty who have received Fulbright-related grants.
One thing that has not changed, however, is the commitment of the Class of 1970 to support the mission of Morgan and give back to their alma mater. More than 55 percent of the class members have contributed to the Class of 1970 Endowment Fund, which was created to provide scholarships to Morgan students in need. The class is moving toward its goal of a 100 percent participation-in-giving rate for the fund.
Plans for the Class of 1970’s 50th Anniversary Reunion have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted events worldwide. But the reunion organizers say the setback has made the class even more inspired to hold its celebration at a later date. The Reunion Planning Committee — established by Reginald Thomas, class agent, and led by co-chairs Joyce Hill Turnipseed and Shirley Marcus Buckner — continues the work it began in 2018, building on the foundation laid by former Class Agents Paul Evans and Edgar Johnson.
As the class looks forward to its opportunity to don gold-colored caps and gowns and walk with this year’s graduating class in the Commencement procession, they encourage the Class of 2020 to view COVID-19 as “an opportunity to help create a better future than any of us can imagine today.” They encourage the University’s next graduates to “go forth into the world fearlessly and with a strong commitment to remain connected to our community and to Fair Morgan.”