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Reflections on My Towson Roots

By Joanne Bracken

When I look out over this campus, I can’t help but reminisce about my former lives here at Towson.  I started at Towson State College in the fall of 1971, having graduated from Maryvale Trinity College Preparatory School in Brooklandville, MD.  Coming from an all-girls private Catholic prep school did not exactly prepare me for life on a large college campus.  I was suddenly amidst a diverse student population, engaged in many new and different conversations. The freedom I experienced was overwhelming and exciting, compounded by the lack of nuns circling around the classrooms threatening dire consequences for speaking out of turn.

At TSU in 1971, the Vietnam War was the hottest topic and it inspired a new generation of college students that came together in protest.  We watched as Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden and mourned the death of Jim Morrison.  The hit TV comedy, All in the Family, debuted, bringing formally forbidden topics out into the open.  Apollo 14 completed the third successful lunar landing mission.

I was in awe as a Towson State freshman, it felt like I was living in another world altogether. The conversations, expectations, activities, sites, and smells were so different from what I was used to.  When I walked through the old University Union, which at the time was housed in Newell, I was struck by the super-casual atmosphere of the loud talking amongst the students, and there were so many food options…here was a little slice of heaven!

In 1971, James Taylor was at the top of the charts.  Towson guys sat on the floor in the student union with their long, unkempt hair and dirty jeans, playing their guitars, and singing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Music has the power to transport us, and every time I hear that song, my mind goes to the early ‘70s in Newell.  To add to the “ambiance” of this moment in time, a certain fragrance that I wasn’t familiar with wafted gently through Newell.  I wondered if that strange yet enticing smell might possibly be marijuana.  Having never been formally introduced to it, I could only imagine that it must be pot.  I felt a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole.

Back then, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and pressing family issues kept me from focusing on my schoolwork.  So after one semester I dropped out of school and went to work. While all my friends were pursuing their educations, I was more interested in discovering who I was rather than what I was going to do.  How could I answer the second question if I couldn’t answer the first?

Over the next few years, I worked full-time at Loyola College, the Peabody Conservatory, and Johns Hopkins University, but found myself growing bored; I wanted more. I felt the pull of academics again and wanted to return to college as a student.  Having a few years of the “real-world experience” matured me enough that being back at school was a real pleasure, and I finally felt that I had some direction. I came back to Towson in 1977 as an English major.

While a student at Towson State for the next three years, I worked as a student employee, and shortly after graduation, I took a program coordinator position in the Towson Alumni Office. I worked there for over four years before moving to Colorado to pursue other passions.  I returned to Baltimore in 1998 and felt the old Towson “pull” and landed a job in the Career Center, and worked there for close to five years.

I currently work in the Office of Technology Services, in Cook Library, as Executive Administrative Assistant.  I have to say that this is a fun place for me to be and I am surrounded by great people. If you wonder how an English major ended up in Technology Services, don’t! I have to say that it is a perfect match. I get to learn more about technology and the department appreciates my communication and editing skills.

Each time I have come back to Towson, it was because the pull here was so strong.  Forty-one years ago, I attended my first freshman event – a welcome picnic in the Glen.  I listened to President Jim Fisher speak in Stephens Hall, telling us newbies about the greatness of Towson and what we could expect from it.  Now, in the fall of 2012, I hear the echoes of those old times as I take my lunchtime stroll around campus. Here I am again, still learning and discovering what Towson is up to, only now I feel like a own a little piece of it.  I have grown up with Towson, and it will always feel like home.

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