A small group of octogenarians gathered to reminisce about their college days.
The Lincoln University graduates shared the fondest memories of their alma mater at their 60th class reunion last year. Today, they came back together to watch those video-taped interviews, which were put together in documentary form to preserve the school's history.
"I came to Lincoln to get off the streets of New York," said Simeon Lewis, 83. "It was a quiet campus, a nice farm and beautiful. I learned how to get along with people and how to be independent."
The men, all in their 80s, shared rich stories of 1950s life in suburban Philadelphia and coming of age. The project, titled The Dr. Walter D. Chambers Oral History Project, was named after the alumnus who spearheaded the venture.
As he headed to college in 1948, Chambers remembered the trip to The Lincoln University all by himself. His mother and grandmother put him in a cab in Newark, New Jersey, to get to the bus station. When he arrived to the campus, he reacted-- "Oh my God. This is not what I saw in the movies," referring to the quaint, farm town of Oxford, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
If he'd had enough money, Chambers said he said would have turned around and gone home.
He stayed, and he's glad he did. Chambers recalled a small faculty that was integrated, which inspired him.
"A good Lincoln man can stand on his feet and speak on any subject at any time even if he doesn't know what he's talking about," joked Chambers, 81.
Lincoln help shaped who the men became, but their experiences included the struggles of the times. Battling segregation was an issue they all recalled.
The men recounted not being allowed to sit in the orchestra section to watch a movie in the town's theater. Blacks, then referred to as Negroes, had to sit in the balcony section. But, they protested and were arrested for sitting in the orchestra section, recalled Kalonji Olusegun on video.
Olusegun took photos of the arrest and mailed them to the NAACP.
"We had sit-ins before 'the' sit-ins of the 1950s," said Lewis who recalled Thurgood Marshall coming to Lincoln to learn more about the movement there. "It was like Georgia. It was bad."
Chambers said there were 125 incoming freshman in the class of 1952. Four years later, only 60 graduated. Presently, the class of 1952 has a mailing list for 38 alumni. Chambers doesn't know how many are still alive, but is happy that 10 from the class were able to gather again and stay in touch.
One of the men who agreed to take part in the video project, Kalonji Olusegun, passed away since the taping last year.
Harry Joyner, 86, a Biology major, said The Lincoln University prepared him for a life and how to raise a family.
He sat next to Simeon Lewis at the history project screening to reminisce.
"I had more jobs than Carter had liver pills," said Joyner, of Washington, D.C. as he looked back on his life since Lincoln.
The Lincoln University re-branded itself just a few months ago.
"The" was added to the university's title. President Robert R. Jennings advocated for the name change because Lincoln was "the first" Historically Black College and University to offer a degree. In addition, the university felt it was necessary to differentiate itself from other Lincoln Universities across the United States.
Every August, the university has a men's meeting of all male employees and students. The oral history video will now be shown to teach life lessons and help explore what it means to be a "Lincoln man," someone who is respectable and knows how to carry oneself. Jennings also plans to use the video during orientation week and show it to all incoming students.
"Lincoln served me well in every way, and prepared us for life," said Chambers, who called his classmates lifelong friends.
He plans to spread the joy of producing the oral history project. The university has agreed that every class celebrating its 50th anniversary will now put together a similar video compilation highlighting the experiences of its graduates.