A black and white photo of a crowd of people gathered on the Amherst College quad

A black and white photo of a 1970s young man in sunglasses and a paisley suit Fifty years ago, in June 1970, the 149th senior class graduated from Amherst College. Because the class of 1970 could not gather on campus for their 50th reunion this spring, we’ve selected a few photos to hearken back to their commencement weekend.

President Calvin Plimpton’s reception for students and families took place outdoors, as did Senior Class Exercises, which featured a speech by civil rights lawyer and ACLU director William M. Kunstler. But the commencement ceremony itself was held in Coolidge Cage. New York Times coverage noted the morning’s “persistent rain” and “leaden skies [that] seemed almost to reflect the solemn mood of the class of 1970, many of whom wore blue armbands of protest.”

The main topic of protest was U.S. military activity in Southeast Asia, particularly the invasion of Cambodia, which had spurred a nationwide student strike and the cancelation of classes at Amherst earlier that spring. Commencement weekend included, in Porter Lounge and Chapin Hall, discussion sessions about the strike.

The Times quoted the commencement speaker, journalist I.F. Stone, who said he drew hope from student activists: “I think we are very fortunate to have a generation like the present one, ready to give up academic careers and advancement” for the cause of “revolting against other people’s oppression.”


Katherine Duke ’05

Two photos: one of a man receiving a diploma on a stage and another of a man in graduation cap and gown

See thousands of photos from 1970 and other past commence-ments in Archives and Special Collections at acdc.amherst.edu.

Two photos: one of a family taking a picture with a graduate, the other of people in line waiting to go on stage to get their diploma
A group of people from the 1970s sitting in a room