This is Part 1 of a four-part series of articles pertaining to the George Mason University Class of 1968. The text is borrowed from SCRC’s exhibition “First Class: Mason ’68 and Beyond” currently on display through August 2018 in the SCRC Gallery.
In August 1964, George Mason College of The University of Virginia had reached a watermark in its seven-year existence. Having just moved from its temporary location in Bailey’s Crossroads, Mason was preparing to begin operation in a brand-new campus just a half mile south of the Town of Fairfax. Then a two-year branch of the University at Charlottesville, it would become a four-year-degree-granting institution in 1966 and an independent university by 1972. Oliver Atkins, a Fairfax resident and a photographer for The Saturday Evening Post met with college officials and offered to take some publicity photographs for the new campus that summer. Several students from Mason volunteered to pose for the photographs at various locations in Fairfax City during the summer of 1964, while the actual campus was still under construction.
For most members of the Class of ’68 their first day of college classes began at the Fairfax campus. The four small buildings arranged in a diamond shape were named North, South, East, and West. A parking lot stood on the northwest side of campus. There were no other structures. Mason’s 1964-65 academic year officially began on Monday, September 14, 1964. Although the weather on that day was a pleasant seventy-five degrees, Mason’s new director, Dr. Robert Reid, could not resist boasting to the Fairfax Times that Mason was the only college in the Washington area that was fully air-conditioned. Perhaps the most sorely missed amenities were food service and a lounge for the students and faculty. During the first week, vending machines from the Canteen Corporation of Hyattsville, Maryland were hastily set up in a study hall in the South Building. 356 registered freshmen and sophomores, a faculty of seven full and eighteen part-time instructors, and a staff of about 15 others made up the entire George Mason College community at that time.
The Fairfax Campus grew slowly during the 1960s. The only additional buildings to be built during the time of the Class of ’68 were the Library (1967) and the Lecture Hall (1968). The Library initially occupied the upper floor in the East building, while the lower level served as a student and lecture center. When the new Library was completed in late 1967, students volunteered to move the contents of the Library from the East Building to the newly-completed building. They were compensated with sandwiches and sodas.
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