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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 30 · Number 4 · Summer 2013

Alumni: Class of 1963 looks back

group photo

Alumni at the Class of 1963 Golden Society Reunion, from left: Barbara Welsh, Cal Aggie Alumni Association President Chuck Nichols ’83, ’84, Mike Torten, Judy Torten, Mary Horton, Bob Testa, Karen Green, Jon Green, Dianne Hollingshead, Bill Clarke and Karen Lafferty.

Returning to campus for Golden Society reunion, classmates marvel at half-century of change.

Barbara Sass Welsh loves returning to her alma mater for Picnic Day. But this year was particularly special — it marked the 50th anniversary of her graduation from UC Davis in 1963.

That milestone earned her membership in the university’s Golden Society. The Cal Aggie Alumni Association honored her and other Golden Society members with a slate of activities throughout Picnic Day weekend, culminating with a reunion luncheon on Saturday, April 20.

“It was the Picnic Days that made me want to attend UC Davis,” recalled Welsh, a retired teacher who grew up in Sacramento and frequently attended the campus’s annual open house with her family. She transferred to UC Davis from Sacramento City College, earning a bachelor’s degree in history, with a minor in math, and continuing for a teaching credential in 1964.

UC Davis in 1962–63

  • Total enrollment: 4,058 (3,107 undergraduate and 951 graduate students).
  • Costs to attend: Tuition was free, and expenses for California residents for a year were about $1,330.
  • New on campus: Olson, Sproul and Hutchison halls were constructed. The College of Engineering was 1 year old, and the campus announced plans to open the law and medical schools.
  • Happenings: Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Limeliters played at Freeborn Hall, in the venue’s second full year of operation. General admission tickets ranged from $2 to $3.75.
  • Cost of living: Students could get a haircut at the ASUCD barbershop for $2. At local businesses, a hamburger and a milk shake cost 49 cents, Keds sneakers went for less than $5 and a 1955 Oldsmobile was advertised for $395.

Golden Weekend

About 55,000 people turned out for the 99th Picnic Day. The “Golden Weekend” included a Vintage Aggies Wine Tasting showcasing Aggie winemakers, reserved seating at CAAA’s 30th annual Picnic Day Pancake Breakfast, grandstand seating at the parade, the Golden Society Reunion Luncheon and an ice cream social with Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

smiling young women on bikes

Barbara Sass Welsh, far right, joins other Aggies in showing off the campus’s new bike paths in 1962.

The luncheon drew alumni from the classes of 1952 to 1964 and their spouses to the Founders Board Room of the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. Sharon Dianne Fritter Hollingshead ’63 spoke to the group about the frontier of the computer age. A slideshow featured campus images from the early 1960s. One of those photos, taken to promote UC Davis’ then-new bike paths, showed a group of female bicyclists — including Welsh.

“The thing that keeps you coming back is the stories,” said Rich Engel ’90, ’91, executive director of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and assistant vice chancellor for Alumni Relations. He encouraged attendees to maintain their connections with one other and the university.

yearbook portraits of graduating seniors in caps and gowns

Top row, from left: Jon Green,Mary (Bigelow) Horton, Mike Torten and Barbara Sass Welsh. Second row: Karen (Yates) Lafferty, Joe Spinelli, Bill Clarke and Bob Testa.

Close ties, life lessons

Golden Society alums recalled the small class sizes and close relationships they built with classmates and faculty. With undergraduate enrollment totaling about 3,100 students, an English or math class commonly had a dozen students and a history class, 20 or 30. “We all found our way together,” Welsh said.

She said her education in math, and her love for the subject, taught her that she could be successful in a field with very few women. “I learned things that made me a far better person.”

Welsh taught fourth-graders in Sacramento for many years, retiring in 2001. She lives in Sacramento with her husband, Bill. Their children are all UC Davis graduates: Heather ’94, Ginger ’95 and Jim ’97. Ginger works at UC Davis as CAAA’s international programs officer.

Barbara Welsh credited the positive influences of UC Davis professors for leading her to a career in teaching. She said she hopes all students have the chance to “find that professor” and “get that feeling” that guides their path.

exterior views of Memorial Union

The Memorial Union patio in 1963, and 50 years later.

Where's the Quad?

Finding their way around UC Davis today can be more challenging for Golden Society alums: “I know the Quad is around here somewhere,” said Eric Muller ’58, describing his search for familiar landmarks on a walk across campus earlier that day.

Joe Spinelli ’61, D.V.M, ’63, said the changes go far beyond the campus’s many new buildings — with the biggest difference being the cost of a university education. When he attended, tuition was free.

Some alums, like Mary (Bigelow) Horton, have witnessed the transformation of the campus firsthand. After earning her degree in animal husbandry, she worked nearly 40 years in various veterinary programs until her retirement in 2002. She enjoys staying connected and attends many CAAA events.

Other ’63 graduates who attended the reunion included Bill Clarke, Jon and Karen (Hirst) Green, Karen (Yates) Lafferty, Bob Testa, and Mike ’61, D.V.M. ’63, and Judy (Keller) Torten, M.S. (not pictured).


Wendy Weitzel is the former communications officer for the Cal Aggie Alumni Association.