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Editor’s Note: Carl Oplinger found it tough to contain to a single page his fond memories of his 40-plus years at Muhlenberg, and so did we. That’s why we have allowed Carl’s Last Word to contain a few extra syllables.

       Reflections on
geraniums, gender
  & generations
at the ’Berg


Pots of geraniums in the urinals of Brown (West) Hall – that’s one of the first memories that flashed into my mind when asked to contribute this essay to “The Last Word.” Actually about 900 words to cover the “whole nine yards” of 40-plus years of my reflections at Muhlenberg and speculations about my alma mater’s future was the charge given to me. I’ll alert readers that I am relying on memory and have not checked all the names, facts and figures in this account. I am fairly certain that those geraniums were featured in one of the photos of the best April Fool’s issue of The Muhlenberg Weekly ever produced. That issue celebrated the arrival of co-education at ’Berg in September of 1957.

I wasn’t aware of the precarious state of affairs facing Muhlenberg when I applied for admission in the spring of 1954. I surely do remember being interviewed by Haps Benfer. However, I was unaware that I had been recruited by one of my favorite high school teachers, Earl Bender, who was scouting for his alma mater. Alumni recruiting activities became much more evident to me when I returned as a professor.

My senior year, with events highlighted in Life magazine, was surely most memorable.

Here are a few of the many memories of my student days. Most centered on the great basketball teams we had and the close games with La Salle and Temple and their All-Americans. My classmate Clint Jeffries was a key member of those teams. However, I remember more about Clint’s trip to the farm of another classmate, Carl Madtes, where cows and chickens were more of a challenge to Clint than was any court opponent. I recall numerous scholar-athletes such as Denny Roth, who worked as hard as my lab partner as he did on rebounding. The “rigged” tug-of-war of freshman against sophomores at Cedar Creek (directed enthusiastically by Haps), the pajama parade, the visit to the sideshows at the Great Allentown Fair, and the special hazing activities during that memorable first year of co-education are a few more vivid undergraduate events.

Did I mention that we were required to go to class and chapel? I did both and I was challenged and supported (’Berg has been a caring college for a long time) by professors such as Chatfield, French, Kinter, Staack, the venerable “old guard” of Shankweiler, Swain, and Brandes, several dynamic duos – Johnson and Reed, Boyer and Raub, Koehler and Deck, and most importantly, for my future vocation, John Trainer and Bob Shaeffer.



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