44 years at Occidental: Shive tells all
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Over the course of about 45 years at Occidental College, Richard Shive ’61 witnessed many people, programs and interests come and go. He heard parents refer to Occidental as a communist institution, was present when the college installed its first printer in the library and saw the inauguration of the first non-Presbyterian president of the school.
Shive graduated in ’61 with a degree in Spanish and has been the evening supervisor in Circulation & Reserves Services since September 1973. He has earned the title of Occidental College’s current longest-working staff member after working here for 40 years.
Fifty-two years after his graduation, Shive does not believe much change has affected the college. But, soon after making this statement, Shive begins to contemplate what he just said. Shive goes silent as he reminisces over the past decades.
He chuckles to himself when he starts to remember events he has not recalled in years. Shive glances over and says, “You don’t have to write this down,” before going into his experiences and observations at the college. He is humble about his knowledge of Occidental. He answers almost all questions as simply as possible and then returns to the question at a later point in time when he has developed more thoughts or decides he is ready to give the true scoop on Occidental College.
“One interesting thing is the way enthusiasms change,” Shive said. “They come and go with the students. For a few years, organic gardening will be popular on campus, then those students leave and the interest is in demonstrations against apartheid.”
In contrast to the ever-changing interests of the students on campus, Shive said the majors offered have stayed relatively the same. That is, with the exception of a few changes such as the addition of the major Critical Theory & Social Justice, the new emphasis of business to the economics major and the removal of the entire speech department.
One aspect that he acknowledges that has gone through immense changes is the student’s social life at Occidental.
“When I was a student, there was an office called the Dean of Men, who was a man named Culley at the time, who the building behind the gym is currently named after,” Shive said. “There was also a Dean of Women. They each had their own secretary and that was it. Now, the Office of Student Life is gigantic. There’s a lot more concern and effort going into the social side of campus.”
Along with the change and growth of the administration personnel, the dormitory life also had positions that are now long gone.
“Each dorm had a thing called a House Mother,” Shive said. “They were all widows who had raised children previously. That was their main qualification.”
Although there was a shortage of students and social involvement during Shive’s time as a student at Occidental, he remembers events such as dances and building bonfires before the Pomona football game taking place, back when it was just Pomona College since Pitzer College was not established until after Shive’s graduation.
Shive mentions another aspect of social life that has disappeared — the former fraternity ATO. He talks about their history at Occidental when they were suspended because they pledged a black male. Shive states that they began to call themselves the “Local Order of Mystical Apes” during their suspension until the national committee caught up with their morals.
“The day pledges were announced they would get notifications in their mail boxes,” Shive said. “The actives would wait outside the door of the mail room, and the new pledges would come running out and make a mosh pit. But the ATOs would do something different. They would run and jump off the railing and try and flip into the actives waiting below. There was also always somebody in an ape suit.”
There was also high expectations for the male population at Occidental, according to Shive, who spoke of the former Air Force ROTC building on campus. The college required all freshmen and sophomore males to be in the program until the building burnt down in a fire.
Occidental also had a strange requirement for graduating seniors along with the required ROTC programs.
“One of the requirements to graduate was that you had to pass a swim test,” Shive said. “You know, because to be an intelligent person you have to know how to swim if you ever fall off a bridge.”
Occidental is one of the many schools that has phased out the required plunge into the pool, although a few colleges still keep it around. While some of these outlandish requirements are better kept in the past, there are some aspects Shive wishes was still here today. Even though Shive continuously said he does not look to the past and wished he was there, he was willingly to break this life philosophy for one specific program.
“We had a Summer Drama Festival that took place in the outdoor Greek theater,” Shive said. “We would perform in repertoire. Shakespeare, Shaw, Gilbert. A lot of people would come to enjoy it. I was in the company for six seasons, and it’s too bad that it’s gone.”
Shive has experienced student life at Occidental in the late ’50s and has seen the transitions the school has gone through in his 40-year service to this school, from President Barack Obama to Fred Hameetman to Arthur G. Coons. Shive gives us a glimpse into the not too distant past and the traditions of Occidental not long forgotten.