Every so often a graduate from the early 1970s writes the Alumni Association about the telegram, usually not fondly.
At the height of antiwar protests in May 1970, the Association sent a telegram to the parents of every undergraduate urging them to call their children and reason with them. As we report on Page 36, the telegram had spectacularly bad timing, and the student blowback didn’t fail to impress either.
I learned about the controversy several years ago, when Tom Faulders (Col ’71), then our CEO, got a letter about the telegram and asked me to hunt down a copy. It has taken me this long to find one, discovered for our story in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at UVA.
I sent Tom a copy. It seemed only fitting, considering he had to deal with the telegram controversy coming and going—not just when he used to open his Alumni Hall mail but going all the way back to the beginning.
“Thomas, what’s going on down there?” is how he remembers the telegram call he got from his father, a captain in the U.S. Navy.
Faulders was a third-year in Navy ROTC. Still, he had the clenched-fist student “STRIKE!” logo screen-painted on one of his Navy-issued chambray shirts, and he joined the notorious march on Carr’s Hill. “I was ambivalent I guess is the best way to put it,” he says about the war, “but I didn’t get into high hover like many of my classmates did.”
And hover things did, for decades. From time to time during Faulders’ 2006 to 2017 tenure, the most innocuous Association solicitation to join, give or attend a Reunion drew a ballistic “no” from someone citing the telegram as the reason. Such was the depth of resentment over the Association’s trespass on student self-governance.
Faulders compares telegram hate mail to the continuing complaints he used to get about the demise of the Pep Band. That tale took the cover of our last issue and, as you will discover nearby, it drew an outpouring of comment, all of it positive, and we can’t thank you enough.
Richard Gard (Col ’81)
Vice President, Communications, UVA Alumni Association