50 Years Ago The Seminal Sixties

By Dr. Tom Vaughan ’55 | Dean Emeritus

The presidential election of 1968 saw the incumbent Lyndon Johnson challenged by a little known Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and the Republican candidate R ichard Nixon. When Johnson unexpectedly backed out, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy. George Wallace ran as an Independent. Then, when Kennedy was assassinated just after winning the California primary, Hubert Humphrey entered as a late candidate for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Convention in Chicago, arranged by Mayor R ichard Daley, was marred by riots and police brutality. Nixon surprised everyone by choosing Spiro Agnew from Baltimore as his running mate, presumably to placate Southerners. Promising to end the decade-long Vietnam War, Nixon was elected 37th President of the U.S. by the narrowest margin since 1912 when Taft lost to Wilson.

Martin Luther King, winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, was assassinated in a Memphis motel. Shortly after, James Earl Ray was arrested by Scotland Yard in London, and extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. In other events, 58-year-old dentist Philip Blaiberg of Cape Town, South Africa, became the third recipient of a transplanted heart performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard. The U.S. space craft Surveyor 7 landed successfully on the moon, followed one year later by the two U.S. astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in Apollo 11.

The U.S. exploded an experimental hydrogen bomb underground 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Helen Keller died at age 88. Aretha Franklin was at the height of her popularity. James D. Watson of Watson and Crick described the double helix, and Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis (Bernard Grun). High school and college graduation rates were at an all-time high – 75.6% of 17-year-olds and 22% of 23-year-olds. Two-year junior colleges proliferated—some 600-odd “J.C.s” by the late sixties. The same peak occurred in the immigration rate in North America (Garraty & McCaughey). Strikes and protests fueled the civil rights movement and racial desegregation nationwide—Los Angeles and Detroit being good examples outside the South. The Vietnam War intensified by 1968 when Johnson drastically increased American troop strength to 500,000 (Randolph G. Russell). These events were joined by the “genderization” of society in general, but feminization was particularly conspicuous on college campuses, leading to the sexual revolution. The use of illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and L.S.D. increased. In 1967, 10 percent of all babies were born out of wedlock in contrast to over 40 percent today, marking as some say the beginning of the nation’s moral decline (Star Parker).

In 1967, there were six specialty boards or colleges, recognized by the AVMA, including the disciplines, in order of approval, of pathology, veterinary public health (preventive medicine and epidemiology), laboratory animal medicine, radiology and radiation oncology, surgery, and toxicology. By 2015, 47 years later, there were 22, which mushroomed to 41 when the subspecialties were counted. Additionally, there were 31 associations based on discipline and species, and 57 more based on activities, ethnicity, gender, social orientation, etc. Finally, there were 402 associations based on state and regional location as of the printed AVMA Directory of 2007. In the face of such bewildering statistics, the grand old profession of the first half of the twentieth century is barely recognizable. Moreover, preparation of the student of the present day must assume a seemingly endless list of graduate study, internship and residency training, and apprenticeships that go off the scale. Willingness to diversify and pursue new opportunities are the requisites for success and, indeed, even survival (see Appendix).

Most of you were born during World War II. In the brief space of one generation (25 years), America went through the First World War and the Great Depression. The South, additionally, underwent the Farmer’s Depression, exacerbated by the invasion of the cotton boll weevil, on top of an embargo of the entire cattle industry by the Texas Tick Fever that affected 15 southern states from the Carolinas to California, as well as hog cholera, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and pullorum disease that paralyzed the poultry industry. By the 1950s, the nation was understandably exhausted.

The seminal sixties were preceded by what have been described as the complacent fifties, sometimes referred to as the silent generation, but what else could have been expected? By the passage of another decade, the nation was prepared for new horizons. The war in Vietnam had become increasingly unpopular. Martin Luther King had galvanized the nation on race relations that culminated in the Civil R ights Act of 1964. Feminism became a significant priority that found favor in the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Environmental concerns were endorsed by the new Nixon administration. The Space Race continued to accelerate, as did negotiations between the U.S., China, and Russia. All of this occurred during the years that attended the launch of your professional careers. Not lost in this kaleidoscopic cascade of events was a profession undergoing a metamorphosis that could have not been imagined a generation before, nor recognizable today, as you celebrate your 50th Anniversary. Paraphrasing an ancient Chinese curse, we live in interesting times.

Adapted from an address given to the Class of 1968 on their 50th Reunion


An example is found in our daughter, Faythe Vaughan, who finished her formal DVM education with a B.S. in animal science and a second major in German. She earned a diploma from the Goethe Institute in Boppard, Germany, which she financed from summer work as a waitress and a lab assistant. She also had worked two summers in a large urban small animal clinic, one summer in a health research lab, and as a work-study employee as a lab animal attendant. Upon graduation, she served a year’s internship in small animal medicine at a state university. Although licensed in Alabama and Texas, she became licensed in Washington State. Initial employment in the Puget Sound area was a mixed practice including ambulatory service. This was followed by two small animal practices in Seattle, in turn succeeded by a feline exclusive practice. For the past three years, she has operated two referral practices—Seattle and Tacoma—that specialize in feline thyroid problems with emphasis on nuclear medicine. All of this has been in the course of 34 years of practice interrupted only briefly by one maternity leave. She is now a single parent, educating a 19-year-old son enrolled at Boston University.


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