With Love, From the First Coed Class

Fifty years ago this September, we met in the registration line for freshman year. There were nine guys for every girl that year, as Colgate began the transition to coeducation. She had a red bandana in her blond hair and wore blue farmer bib overalls. I remember her blue eyes and smile. 

We got to know each other better working for Servomation, the food service company on campus. She passed out the buns, and I did the orange juice. We became “Bunny” and “O.J.” I returned home to Massachusetts following our Jan Plan on campus, and on Jan. 27, 1971, after hitchhiking for more than five hours in a snowstorm back to Hamilton, I took her to a Colgate hockey game for our first date. 

 Sophomore year almost did not happen for me because my parents divorced, money became inaccessible, and the financial aid department could not help. For some unspoken reason, Judy, the scholarship student who was the daughter of a widowed farmer’s wife, emptied the money in her savings account so I could remain in school. 

Following graduation, after a trial separation, we married despite my misgivings about marriage due to my parents’ divorce. 

Judy’s future was decided — she had received a full scholarship to earn an MAT in English at Smith College.

I worked in retail and banking before building a satisfying career as an independent financial planner. I enjoyed the intellectual diversity of the work as well as the feeling that I was helping people. My career allowed me to utilize my studies in psychology and economics, and I was pleasantly surprised when “behavioral economics” became a mainstream topic in the industry.  

Although my work was financially rewarding, I always knew it would never be as meaningful or valuable as the work Judy was doing as a high school English teacher and poet. She was beloved and revered by her students; when we traveled, it was not unusual to hear a former student cry out “Dr. Heitzman! Dr. Heitzman!” Despite going to grad school, teaching, and being a mom, she always found time to write poetry. Her powerful poem “The School Room on the Second Floor of the Knitting Mill,” first published in the New Yorker and later in the Bedford Anthology of Literature, will hopefully have a positive effect on many lives in the future. 

Although I believe our individual I beams were in place for both of us before we arrived on campus, I also believe that our growth has been enhanced by our shared Colgate experience. We have now been married for 43 years. In a few more years, we will celebrate our 50th Reunion. I am looking forward to holding her hand as we march down the Hill during the Torchlight ceremony.