Graduates of the classes of 1959 and 1969 converged on campus for their sixtieth and fiftieth reunions this week. The alumni spent their time touring campus, reuniting with old friends, and reminiscing about a simpler time when McIntyre was called New Dorm and women couldn’t wear pants on campus.
Gifts from the Gipper
When she worked as a student guide, Sandi Thompson ’69 led many people around campus. There’s one that she’ll never forget.
One morning during her four years at Hillsdale, Thompson was assigned to give a tour to a speaker on campus. After attending the speech, she took the speaker and a woman who she thought was his daughter around campus and had lunch with them. When she went back to the dorm, Thompson’s friends asked who she guided around campus.
“I said it was the Governor of California and his daughter,” she said. “They said, ‘Sandy that’s not his daughter. That was his wife.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding? She doesn’t even come up to my armpit. She looks so much younger than him.’ I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that that was his wife.”
The Governor of California and his young-looking wife turned out to be Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Not long after his visit to campus, Reagan penned a letter to the college.
“He said that if I was the example of a Hillsdale student, he had every hope for the future of America,” Thompson said. “Here I was considering myself Canadian. I lived in Canada all my life.”
Years later, Thompson was in Toronto supervising media relations for the G7 Summit. While working, she ran into Ronald Reagan. After their meeting, Thompson received an official White House envelope with a signed picture of Reagan made out to her. The envelope also contained different photos taken of the president and a presidential pin that was engraved with his signature on the back.
“What a small world,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to tell any student guide. You never know who you’re going to meet.”
Aliens in the arboretum
“The government covered it up,” Scotty English ’69 said. “That wasn’t swamp gas.”
“And we weren’t drunk either,” Sally Gober ’69 added.
On March 21, 1966, Hillsdale College students claimed to see a UFO floating behind McIntyre dorm in the arboretum.
The UFO was shaped like a rounded triangle and hovered in the field just behind the residence. It didn’t make any noise and didn’t have any flashing lights, according to Don McQuigge ’69.
“It was there long enough for the Michigan State Troopers to arrive,” McQuigge said. “The local police arrived, the Dean of Men arrived, the Detroit Free Press made it from Detroit. The FBI turned up for it. Everyone was saying it’s a bunch of drunk college kids and it’s swamp gas. It’s not swamp gas in the arboretum. You don’t have that many witnesses that can keep a story consistent.”
McQuigge said tons of people took pictures of the UFO, but not one turned out.
“If you took two steps toward it, it moved back two steps,” he said. “When it left, it went straight up so fast that you couldn’t snap your head back that fast to follow it.”
Ask any student who attended Hillsdale during the UFO sighting, and they’ll tell you it’s real.
“There was an eerie feeling, something in the air,” Gober said. “It wasn’t a weather balloon or anything like that.”
In the late 1960s, America was in the throes of the Vietnam War. The draft lottery targeted American men born between 1944 and 1950. According to Thompson, the Americans were scared stiff of being drafted into the Vietnam War.
“The Canadian guys were all going around and saying, ‘Ha, ha, ha, we can’t get drafted. You’re gonna go up the river and end up in Nam. They can’t touch us’ and on and on and on,” Thompson said. “As a fellow Canuck, I thought, ‘That’s pretty arrogant. We gotta bring these guys down a peg.’”
Thompson concocted a plan with her roomate to send the Canadian guys fake draft notices. The letters said to report for a pre-induction medical. Thompson said she wanted to make sure the language sounded legitimate and official. The letter even put reporting times in military time.
“It was before M*A*S*H*, so we couldn’t copy the lingo,” she said.
Thompson and her roomate targeted Canadians who held jobs on campus. If a foreign national held employment in the United States, there was a chance they could be drafted.
“They were just working part-time and it probably didn’t make any difference,” Thompson said. “But we knew we could scare the bejesus out of them.”
Thompson and her roomate followed up the letters with a call. They made the background noise sound like an office with chatter and slamming drawers. Thompson went up to the student union to see how her friends were doing.
“The guys were petrified,” she said. “The blood was just draining from their faces.”
A few days later, however, Thompson heard the FBI was on campus investigating fake draft notices.
“That door swung both ways, and we were petrified,” Thompson said. “We decided we wouldn’t say a word to anybody. Nothing. Zip. We didn’t tell a soul it was us.”
Doug Musgrave ’69, who traveled around Europe with Thompson after they graduated, received a fake draft notice. Thompson is the godmother to his son and great-godmother to his grandkids. He found out that Thompson had sent his draft notice for the first time ever at the reunions last week. He said he was shocked and panicked when he received the fake notice.
“We all planned that we’d just head straight to the border and be out of here in five minutes,” Musgrave said.
Advice for the ages
When asked what advice she had for students, Gober said to stick to your dreams.
“Be open to opportunities,” Gober said. “Maybe that dream that you dream is not the dream. Maybe something else will come along and you’ll recognize it, so follow that.”
Thompson said that students should always pay attention to the people you meet on campus and the opportunities they can give you,
“Keep your ears open and value all of them,” Thompson said. “Because life takes so many unexpected twists and turns over the years, and you never know who you’re going to be seeing on TV, who’s going to be famous, and who can help you with your jobs or anything. Be very nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you meet the same people on the way back down.”