As many as 40,000 young men are being drafted each month, adding fuel to the anti-war movement. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy are igniting riots across the country. Fitted dresses with matching accessories are giving way to flirty blouses and maxi skirts.
It’s 1968, and an undeniable wind of change is felt in every corner of the nation, including on Regis’ campus.
During that fall, Regis opened its doors to welcome a troupe of 50 bell-bottoms loving, cardigan collecting, shift-dress wearing female students to live on campus – for the first time.
“The atmosphere when the first women arrived at Regis was tentative,” said Katie Nichols, a student from Regis’ first coed class. “The teachers, administration and upperclassmen didn’t know how to react to ‘the girls.’”
The presence of women on campus created plenty of logistical questions. From visiting hours and room visits in the once all-male Carroll Hall to public displays of affection, the business of free association was on all coeds’ minds.
While some boys had miniskirts and Twiggy pixie cuts on their minds, many of the girls expressed other concerns about campus life, and shared their views with the student newspaper the Brown & Gold.
“The medicine cabinet designed to hold a razor, toothbrush and a bottle of after-shave now must be made to hold toothpaste, face cream, shampoo, hair rinse, hair spray, eye makeup, lipstick, forty-seven bobby pins, an assortment of perfume bottles …”
Coeducation was an integral moment in the University’s history, said Connie Kavanaugh, Regis’ dean of women during the initial years of coeducation. It not only shook things up, but it started to put men and women on the same plane.
“It was an opportunity for the boys to see girls in everyday-type situations rather than only when they’re dolled up ready for a big date,” she said. For the first time, the girls could let down their hair (literally) in a revolutionary assertion of individualism.
While it wasn’t easy, Regis’ first female class was encouraged by faculty to grip all the femininity and charm they could find and develop a keen sense of humor to persevere through the changes and challenges that coeducation presented on campus that initial year.
Not only did they persist, but they thrived and paved the way for future classes of exceptional Regis women – while balancing in sky-high platform shoes nonetheless. The concept of a males-only Regis quickly became an antiquated one.
“Regis has always had a strong Jesuit tradition of educating and preparing students to make a positive impact after graduating,” Nichols said. “That was as true 50 years ago as it is today.”