Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox surrounded by journalists on Oct. 19, 1973
Photo: Associated Press
Special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox is surrounded by journalists on Oct. 19, 1973, one day before his firing.

Living History

recall the
campus buzz
As part of Bucknell’s celebration of its 175th year, we asked our readers to describe how they — or the campus community — reacted to events that rocked the world during their student days. Several alumni, representing an array of eras and experiences, bring us back to a time and place when they were young and sensed that historic events were unfurling around them.
1956 to 1958

Being and Nothingness

by Doug Neckers ’60
Doug Neckers illustration
Illustration: Jane Brooks
I attended Bucknell for two years, Sept. 15, 1956, to late May 1958. Basically nothing happened during those years, or we didn’t notice it if it did. That nothingness was important. After WWII and the Korean War, Americans wanted peace. President Dwight David Eisenhower, as a general of the winning army in WWII, had nothing to prove. He kept the government out of the people’s face. If there were TVs on the campus I don’t remember them. I must have had a radio in my room — or maybe I didn’t. In any case, I didn’t listen to it. And I see from history books there was a presidential election in 1956, but I don’t remember it. Why should I? Only those 21 years old and older could vote; that only happened for me in 1960.

I knew about Sputnik because Professor W. Norwood Lowry had a physicist’s spasm over someone sending a rocket out of the earth’s atmosphere. “I never thought in my lifetime that something so spectacular could occur,” he said enthusiastically. All students taking sophomore physics attended weekly lectures that we dubbed “magic shows.” I didn’t see Sputnik, but my late wife, Suzanne, who was a student then at the University of Rochester, did. Optics, optical engineering and physics were part of the culture at Rochester, so she and her dormmates went to the dorm roof to watch Sputnik pass over in October 1957. Sputnik 2 followed with a Soviet space dog, Laika, aboard in November 1957; the U.S. launched Explorer two months later.

“Naively maybe, we respected government and believed the U.S. flag was a nonpartisan patriotic symbol of American unity.”
The Interstate highway system was aborning. But that was of no help in getting me from Lewisburg to my hometown, Clymer, N.Y., so I didn’t notice.

Naively, maybe, we respected government and believed the U.S. flag was a nonpartisan patriotic symbol of American unity. We were oblivious and probably liked that a lot better than today’s era of hyperpartisanship.

Doug Neckers ’60 founded the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University and retired from there in 2009 as the McMaster Research Professor. He is past chair of the board of the Robert H. Jackson Center and writes at Neckers lives in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Soviet space dog Laika
Photo: Shan-shan/Shutterstock
Soviet space dog Laika, enshrined on this Romanian stamp, in 1957 became the first living creature in space.
1969 to 1974

A Response to War

by Michael Holoszyc ’74
Michael Holoszyc illustration
Illustration: Jane Brooks
When I arrived at Bucknell in 1969, it was a much less diverse school than it is today, with the student population mostly coming from the small towns and suburbs of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. One could have even argued that the social and political changes of the 1960s, which transformed campuses across the country, largely bypassed Bucknell.

However, in May 1970, this changed. Following President Richard Nixon’s decision to expand the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia, colleges nationwide erupted in protest, with the most memorable being the demonstrations at Ohio’s Kent State University, which resulted in four students being shot dead by National Guard soldiers. At Bucknell, there was a mass gathering in the quad that was attended by several hundred students — a significant turnout considering the entire enrollment at the time was fewer than 3,000.

At that gathering, a consensus emerged that we would go to classes the following day but insist that regular instruction be put aside in favor of a discussion of the Vietnam War and why protest was now so essential. At that time, engineering and management students were thought to be the most conservative and politically apathetic students on campus. When I arrived at my first engineering class the following morning, it seemed clear that I was probably the only student there who had attended the previous day’s rally. But still, as the class started, I raised my hand and proceeded to give a five-minute soliloquy on how horrible the Vietnam War was and why we all had an obligation to speak out against it. This shocked Professor Roger Claus so much that he said he couldn’t continue teaching the class after such a rude interruption and abruptly dismissed us.

“I raised my hand and proceeded to give a five-minute soliloquy on how horrible the Vietnam War was and why we all had an obligation to speak out against it.”
As I recall, most professors canceled their remaining classes and final exams that spring, and Bucknell started on the path to becoming a more cosmopolitan and politically aware campus. And while it took a few more years, the public decisively turned against the Vietnam War, the draft ended, and the United States withdrew its troops from Vietnam.

Michael Holoszyc ’74, a civil engineering and sociology major, earned a master’s in civil engineering from Princeton University, then was a transportation engineer in California for seven years. He then returned to New York after his father died to manage the family’s office equipment business for almost 20 years. Since 2004, he has been a manager for the New York City Parks Department and lives in Bronx, N.Y. He may be reached at

Bucknell students protesting
Photo: Special Collections/University Archives
In May 1970, Bucknell students protested the expansion of the Vietnam War and the four dead in Ohio at the hands of the National Guard.
1972 to 1976

Recalling Nixon’s Collapse

by Matthew Stevenson ’76
Matthew Stevenson illustration
Illustration: Jane Brooks
Although I came to Lewisburg in 1972 and departed in 1976 — both years when the Susquehanna River flooded — the historic moment that remains most vivid in my mind is the collapse of the Richard Nixon presidency, notably his Saturday Night Massacre, which happened over an October weekend in 1973.

The Nixon presidency foundered on the shoals of the Watergate break-in, which happened in June 1972, just as I was graduating from high school and receiving in the mail a Bucknell course catalog.

At the time, Nixon haters — and I was one — smelled more than a few presidential rats pointing to his involvement in the break-in, but there was little direct proof until the summer and fall of 1973, when the Senate Watergate hearings dominated the evening news (which we all watched, in rapt attention, in a lounge on the second floor of the UC, or University Center [today the Elaine Langone Center]).

By October 1973, some of the rats were leaving the good ship Nixon and offering to testify to the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who nominally reported to the attorney general, Elliot Richardson (yes, a Nixon loyalist, but from New England, so somewhat crusty and independently minded).

On Oct. 20, 1973, a Saturday, when things were coming to a boil, Nixon instructed Richardson to fire the inquiring Cox. The attorney general refused and resigned from his office.

“On campus that night, the so-called Saturday Night Massacre felt like a declaration of martial law — Nixon having slipped the bonds of republican government.”
Next man up was the deputy attorney general, William Ruckelshaus, who also refused to fire the special Watergate prosecutor, and who also resigned. Finally, the solicitor general, Robert Bork (later “borked” when nominated to serve on the Supreme Court), went along with the firing of Cox. Nixon got his man, and for a little while a reprieve from the posse on his trail.

On campus that night, the so-called Saturday Night Massacre felt like a declaration of martial law — Nixon having slipped the bonds of republican government. Some groups of us met in the Bison, shaking our heads in disbelief, whispering in conversation.

For the only time in my life, I sent a telegram to one of the few people I knew working in the federal government in Washington. But that weekend in Lewisburg felt like the beginning of some republican end — feelings of dread I recalled when more than 40 years later, on Jan. 6, legions stormed the Capitol.

Matthew Stevenson ’76 majored in political science and is the author of many books, including Reading the Rails, Appalachia Spring and The Revolution as a Dinner Party, about China throughout its turbulent 20th century. His most recent book, about traveling in France and the Franco-Prussian wars, is titled Biking with Bismarck. He lives in Laconnex, Switzerland.

1997 to 2001

Postelection Confusion

by Hillary Billmyer Marotta ’01
Hillary Billmyer Marotta
Illustration: Jane Brooks
Nov. 8, the day after the 2000 presidential election, the entire LC [Elaine Langone Center] was buzzing, but not like everyone had expected. Each of us had been sure we would be discussing the country’s new leader, but as the morning sunlight filtered through the Moore Avenue corner of the building, tight conversational clusters of students gathered, puzzled, positing all kinds of theories. The factions that had just the day before been cheerfully urging students to vote for their candidates were now confused, debating whether a conspiracy was at work and what, everyone wanted to know, was a “chad”?

That day on campus was like no other during my four years there. The lack of election results due to a necessary recount in Florida became the most important topic of the day. As students left Bostwick and the Bison to fill the classrooms, almost every professor in every subject engaged in at least some discussion about whether Bush or Gore would come out the winner and how future elections would be influenced by what happened. Even my 10 a.m. Children’s Literature professor allowed us to banter about it for a few minutes. There was no quiet escape on campus to avoid the topic, including the library.

“The factions … were now confused, debating whether a conspiracy was at work and what, everyone wanted to know, was a ‘chad’?”
The buzz didn’t wane that day or the next, but it is interesting to note how quickly relevant news becomes less relevant on a college campus. Though this countrywide event united us all passionately, once it was discovered that a winner would not be declared quickly, students began turning their attention in other directions. Everyone was invested in who would win, but left with nothing to do but wait, conversations turned to more timely topics such as group projects, weekend parties and Thanksgiving break. Still, I can’t imagine a more engaging place to be than Bucknell during such a historic event.

Hillary Billmyer Marotta ’01, a management major, is an author, speaker and musician. As a nonprofit expert, she speaks to and trains organizations based on her book Head and Heart: How to Run a Smart and Compassionate Nonprofit. Her most recent book, Playing My Heart Out: One Woman’s Passion for Handbells, was published in March. Marotta resides in Hummelstown, Pa.

Protestors gathering outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the disputed 2000 election
Photo: Alex Wong, Hulton Archive
Protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the disputed 2000 election.
1999 to 2003

Unity on 9/11

by Jen Foster Feaster ’03
Jen Foster Feaster illustration
Illustration: Jane Brooks
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was near the library going to a class called War, somewhat ironically, with the esteemed Professor Tansa Massoud, from whom I took great inspiration in my postgrad studies. As the 9:30–11 a.m. class was starting, there were rumors in the hall that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We didn’t know much; it was the days before smartphones and social media. We half-joked that it was someone in a private plane who lost control.

I attended class, and when I got out, everything was silent. There were barely any people on the quad. I went to the library, where many were huddled around the TV near the entrance, and saw what was unfolding. I quickly went back to my apartment on Market Street to watch the day unfold. I knew classmates and former dormmates who lost family members and others who wanted to figure out a way to drive to NYC to help, whether it be donating blood near the scene or anything else.

It was a horrific time, but one of the first things I saw in the Bucknell community was people trying to figure out how they could help, even if it wasn’t feasible. That’s what I try to remember about that day. Not the initial events and aftermath, but the people who just banded together to try to do something positive.

“It was a horrific time, but one of the first things I saw in the Bucknell community was people were trying to figure out how they could help.”
Jen Foster Feaster ’03 majored in political science and earned a master’s in international politics from Queen’s University of Belfast, Ireland. She is a contractor for the Department of Defense and a member of the Voyagers Council for the board of Semester at Sea. She resides in Pickerington, Ohio, with her husband and daughter.
Firefighters battle the World Trade Center blaze after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001
Photo: Anthony Correia/Shutterstock
Firefighters battle the World Trade Center blaze after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.