The 1960s were a unique time in Tennessee Tech’s history. The university experienced growth unlike anything it had experienced before. At the beginning of the decade, 2,800 students were enrolled at Tech, and by 1969, enrollment had nearly doubled. In those 10 years, 22 buildings were constructed and most of them, unsurprisingly, were dormitories. When the class of 1969 graduated, Tech was the strongest it had ever been.
More than 50 members of the class of 1969 recently returned to campus to participate in homecoming activities, celebrate their 50th reunion, and be inducted into the Golden Grad Society.
“For me, this reunion is important because I never knew a day when I wasn’t coming to Tech,” said Larry Flatt, ’69 chemical engineering graduate and member of the reunion planning committee. “I have a loyalty here. I try to be true to Tech. Most of us have done really well in life, and it started with our education.”
Members of the class of 1969 participated in three days of reunion activities. They shared class memories over lunch in Memorial Gym (a significant building for the class because it’s where they attended the required public programs class, concerts, dances, sporting events, and graduation), went on a campus tour, attended a homecoming parade viewing party, were welcomed as special guests in the president’s tailgate tent, and had reserved seating at the homecoming football game.
It has been a long-standing tradition for the university president to present a Golden Grad medallion to all alumni celebrating their 50th reunion, and President Phil Oldham presented the class of 1969 with their medallions at a ceremony in the Roaden University Center. This tradition is the official induction into the Golden Grad Society which consists of all Tech alumni who have celebrated their golden anniversary.
“It’s truly an honor to be a part of this reunion every year,” said Brandon Boyd, Director of the Crawford Alumni Center. “It’s because our golden grads have made such significant contributions to Tech’s history and reputation, both as undergrads during the 60s and later as alumni, that I’m thankful we have this opportunity to recognize them for their contributions. It’s just very special.”
Members of the class of 1969 also received a memory book containing photos from then and now, updates on classmates, and a memorial page commemorating class members who have passed away.
Joe Tucker, ’69, secondary education, met his wife, Linda Bebbington Tucker, ’70 human ecology, in 1966, on Linda’s first day at Tech. Linda arrived on campus at the beginning of the summer quarter to begin her work study program to help pay for fall classes.
“My parents dropped me off at 5:30 a.m.,” recalled Linda. “We lived in Florida, and I’d never been on campus. I had just graduated from high school the week before.”
Linda’s roommate dated Joe’s roommate, and the four went to dinner the evening Linda arrived.
“It’s been all Linda ever since,” said Joe.
The Tuckers also celebrated their golden wedding anniversary this year.
Jackie McDonald Ramsey, ’69 home economics education, served Tech as the secretary of the class of 1969 and distinctly remembers the outfit she wore for the 1969 homecoming parade.
“I was able to wear a beautiful coat with the Tech officers in a convertible,” said Ramsey. “My sweet, hard-working mother purchased this coat at Cain-Sloan on layaway, paying ten dollars a month so that I could be appropriately attired for the parade. I still wear and cherish this coat.”
Each year, golden grads come together to support Tech through a class gift and, coincidentally, the 1969 class gift totaled $69,000. While any gift to any area on campus was included in the class gift total, the reunion committee agreed to focus this year’s class gift efforts on Tech’s new Eagle Assistance Grant, a hardship grant that provides students with emergency need-based funds that can be applied toward any financial hardship. Many of the golden grads remember the financial challenges they faced while pursuing their college degree and wanted to assist future students who experience similar challenges.
Members of Tech’s class of 1969 now live in 37 states. They’ve made an impact on their community, and they continue to credit their Tech education as a key factor in their success.
Jim Clay, ’69 accounting, summarized his experience at Tech in 1969 and in 2019: “I had a great four years and a great three days.”