Alumni Life

The Year That Was 1951

Photographs courtesy University Archives

The University of Buffalo was a private institution with a single campus on Main Street at this mid-century milepost. But it was dynamic and thriving, just like its student body.

At a glance

  • Total enrollment: 9,700 (4,000-plus undergrad)
  • Graduating class: 1,075, then the second largest in UB history
  • Tuition: $450 to $500 a year for most schools (comparable to $4,400 to $4,800 in today’s dollars)

Signs of the time

  • Expansion of labs to accommodate research in nuclear physics is announced.
  • A UB course in servomechanism fundamentals (the technology used in controlling guided missiles) is offered at the Bell Aircraft Corporation, one of several new partnerships planned to aid the nation’s defense effort.
  • In December, leaders and experts gather at Kleinhans Music Hall for a two-day “Niagara Frontier Convocation” to address the outlook for humankind during the second half of the 20th century. Billed as one of the most significant events ever sponsored by the university, the symposium ends on a mostly optimistic note.

Fun for all

  • Norton Union is the hub for student activities.
  • Among the numerous events that year are competitive tournaments in Ping-Pong, pinochle and tiddlywinks.
  • A full calendar of festivities includes Sadie Hawkins Day in fall, the Silver Ball Christmas dance in winter and the Home Concert, sponsored by the Glee Club, in spring. This year’s bash features Louis Prima; tickets cost $3.60 ($35) a couple.
Louis Prima.

Cultural case history

  • The terms “rock ’n’ roll” and “fast food” are coined.
  • Color television is introduced.
  • Tupperware parties debut.
  • Science fiction surges.
Science fiction book cover and trading card.

Tennis, anyone?

The men’s tennis team continues a years-long unbeaten streak by winning its 26th straight match in October 1951.

Gone but not forgotten

  • Chalkboards in classrooms.
  • Phone booths on campus.
  • Nursing students in white dresses and caps.

Swell joke from The Spectrum:

Student: Hey, rabbit, what are you doing in my icebox?
Rabbit: Isn’t this a Westinghouse?
Student: Yes.
Rabbit: Well, I’m westing.

That’s tops! (or not)

In The Spectrum, new students weigh in on the requisite beanie cap, or dink, worn by freshmen.

  • “I love my dink. I sleep with it on so I won’t forget it in the morning.”
  • “I got two dinks because my girl wants one to hang up.”
  • “I don’t like the idea of wearing beanies. They don’t go with my color schemes.”
UB beanie cap worn by freshmen woman in 1951.

Before podcasts …

There is “UB Round Table,” a weekly discussion program simulcast on WBEN, WBEN-FM and WBEN-TV. In 1951, it celebrates its 10th year with such heady topics as “The Individual in Our Society,” “Labor and National Emergency” and “Is Europe Recovering?”

vintage radio.