Elizabeth Bassano Snyder

June 12, 2008

20080612-Elizabeth Bassano Snyder.wav

Interviewed by Ann Kelsey

Filmed by Michael O’Hagan

For the County College of Morris, Learning Resource Center

Randolph, New Jersey

County College of Morris 40th Anniversary

Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, Tucson, Arizona


My name is Ann Kelsey, and I’m interviewing Elizabeth Bassano Snyder for the CCM 40th Anniversary Oral History Project.  The interview is taking place in the Media Center, County College of Morris, on Thursday, June 12, 2008, and it is being videotaped by Michael O’Hagan, Producer, Learning Resource Center, County College of Morris. [Ms. Snyder is an alumna of County College of Morris and a member of the first class at the College.]


Kelsey:   Elizabeth, where were you born and raised?

Bassano Snyder:  I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but we moved to New Jersey when I was about seven, so I consider New Jersey to be home.

Kelsey:   And where in New Jersey did you move?

Bassano Snyder Netcong, and I’ve been there the rest of my life, I’m still there.

Kelsey:   Where did you go to high school?

Bassano Snyder:  Went to Netcong High School, which no longer exists.  It was absorbed into Lenape Valley [High School].

Kelsey:   And when did you graduate?

Bassano Snyder:  In 1968.

Kelsey:   From high school.

Bassano Snyder:  From high school.

Kelsey:   How did you find out about County College of Morris?

Bassano Snyder:  Well, as a high school senior I was looking around for colleges, and my guidance counselor at the time explained that County College was a possibility, and gave me some information.  At the time, the superintendent of my high school was my next door neighbor.  He kind of recommended that I give it a look.  And that’s what I did.  I applied there and Moravian College and MontclairState, and a variety of other schools, and then finally made my decision that it would be County College.

Kelsey:   And why did you decide to go to County College as opposed to Montclair or….

Bassano Snyder:  There were a bunch of factors.  Primarily it was financial.  I knew that my mom and dad basically could not afford to send me to a Moravian or a Montclair at that moment.  This is the latter part of the sixties, having a fairly old-fashioned father who didn’t like the idea of maybe my going away to school at that point.  It just seemed to be a fit for us.  It was close to home, financially I could afford it, and so we made the decision.  And at the time it sounded a little bit exciting to be the first class at the college.

Kelsey:   How old were you when you started?

Bassano Snyder:  I was eighteen, I’d just turned eighteen.

Kelsey:   And what did you major in?

Bassano Snyder:  It was a humanities-social sciences major, because I knew from the moment that I thought about college that I wanted to be a teacher.  So there was no doubt in my mind that I would be transferring and following an education kind of path.

Kelsey:   What was the physical campus like at that time when you started?

Bassano Snyder:  Well, it was a lot of mud.There was one building that I remember, which is today Henderson Hall.  We had our physical education classes in the Dalrymple House.  And for the first year, that was pretty much it.  There was a little library set up in Henderson Hall.  The cafeteria was kind of an automated kind of cafeteria, where you put your money into machines.  Then by the second year, it expanded.  The gym was open by that time, the physical education building, and another building with classrooms was opened.  So it had grown a little bit by the second year, but the first year was very intimate, very tiny, and a lot of mud everywhere, and construction equipment.

Kelsey:   Where did people park?

Bassano Snyder:  The parking lot that’s by Henderson Hall was there already, and the parking lots that are closer to down the hill, which are underneath the set of buildings on the right side of Henderson Hall, there was a huge parking lot down there, which is still there.  And we hiked up that hill to come up to Henderson Hall.  So parking, there was plenty of parking, it just was a hike.  In the winter it was pretty cold.

Kelsey:   What were the rules regarding smoking on campus and in the classrooms?

Bassano Snyder:  (sigh)  If I remember correctly, there was no smoking in the classrooms, but I know there was smoking on the campus.  And there was definitely smoking in the cafeteria.  Smoking was not allowed in the little library, but definitely there was smoking all around on the campus.  There were no restrictions as far as smoking was concerned.

Kelsey:   What was the library like?

Bassano Snyder:  It was tiny!  It was not more than a couple classrooms, maybe two good-sized classrooms—very tiny.  But by the second year, the library had opened up, so my second year here, this facility was already here, and it was fully stocked.  In fact, I’ve used it many, many times since.

Kelsey:   What was the political and social atmosphere like during that first year on campus?

Bassano Snyder:  Well, it wasn’t like Kent State, I can tell you that.  There were those students on campus that would have liked to have started a chapter of SDS [Students for a Democratic Society].  There was definitely an awareness of what was going on in the world, but again, because it was a community college and you came to class and you went home, it didn’t foster that kind of a, I don’t know, maybe a radical student environment.  It was a little bit different, much more of an extension of maybe high school at that point, a little bit more than a true college campus.

Kelsey:   At that time, did you know anybody who had been in the military, who was going to school with you?

Bassano Snyder:  Not when I was here, no.  Not when I was at County College.  When I transferred, yes, but not here, no.

Kelsey:   So there was really no veteran presence at all?

Bassano Snyder:  No, not that I can recollect.  I don’t remember any veteran presence at all.

Kelsey:   What was the world like for you in 1968?

Bassano Snyder:  The whole Vietnam thing was at its full extreme, and we were very aware of what was going on on other college campuses around the country.  It was an intense….  I think those young men here, who knew that they were draft eligible, were very concerned about keeping their grades up, and making sure that they stayed in school for as long as they could, because the alternative was that they would get drafted if they dropped out of college.  So I think everybody was very aware of the political climate at the time.

Kelsey:   And not too long before that first semester started, Robert Kennedy was assassinated …

Bassano Snyder:  Yes.

Kelsey:   … Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Bassano Snyder:  Yes, that was the end of my senior year in high school both of them were assassinated, yes.

Kelsey:   Were there any obvious reverberations from those two events?  Did people talk about it still?

Bassano Snyder:  People were definitely aware of that, definitely talking about it, especially when I got into my sociology class and a little bit into philosophy.  And certainly when in my second year I took an American history class.  That was definitely topics of conversation.  But again, I think this area of New Jersey still was a little bit secluded.  I don’t know, maybe we were a little more naïve in this area, and it wasn’t quite so prevalent.  There wasn’t that very vocal campus kind of outrage to those kinds of things.

Kelsey:   Was the student body and faculty/staff diverse?  Were there as many women as men going to school, for example?  What about different races and ethnic groups?

Bassano Snyder:  I would have to say that I thought that the faculty was diverse.  I thought there were as many women going to college here as I thought there were young men.  I don’t think it was as ethnically diverse as it is today.  Definitely it was more white, but male and female.

Kelsey:   How did you dress, what did people wear?

Bassano Snyder:  Not quite as casual as the student body today.  It was definitely more young men had trousers on, jeans.  Girls wore skirts and pants and jeans.  I mean, the jeans seems to be a constant through our culture, but I think that overall generally you would have to say that the student body dressed a whole lot better than it dresses today.  There was not that very, very relaxed, casual kind of clothing that I see on campus today.

Kelsey:   Did the men wear ties?

Bassano Snyder:  Occasionally, but not….  No, I would have to say no—unless there was some kind of function going on.  But I definitely would say no.

Kelsey:   So casual in that respect.

Bassano Snyder:  Very casual in that respect, yes.  Very casual for that time.  I mean, we came out of high schools where there was a very, very strict dress code.  And so it had not relaxed yet.  So I think that just carried over into the way that we dressed.  And as we began to realize that we’re in college now, and it’s not high school, it started to relax a little bit more.  But I would say not quite as casual as today.

Kelsey:   How many of the women students wore pants?

Bassano Snyder:  I would say a lot.  I think it was an opportunity, because when we were in high school, we weren’t allowed to wear pants to school.  So definitely I think we all took advantage of the fact that you could wear trousers.  And this campus, being on top of this mountain, in the wintertime it’s always windy, always cold, you’ve got to hike to your car, so I think we all definitely took advantage of that aspect of attire.

Kelsey:   How did you get to school?

Bassano Snyder:  I drove.  My mom and dad bought me a car.

Kelsey:   What kind of car?

Bassano Snyder:  It was a Buick Special.  And actually, it had been the family car, and they just turned it over to me so that I could commute back and forth.

Kelsey:   Do you remember how much the car cost?

Bassano Snyder:  When they bought it brand new, I think it was $6,000 when it was brand new.  Yeah.  And that car not only was my vehicle, then they passed it on to my sister, who’s five years younger than I am, so she drove it for a while as well.  It lasted for quite a long time.

Kelsey:   What year was it?

Bassano Snyder:  I think they bought it in like 1964, sometime around then.

Kelsey:   Did you work while you were going to CCM?

Bassano Snyder:  No, I didn’t.  I had a scholarship from high school that allowed me to pay for my first two semesters here, and I worked in the summertime.  I was able to save enough money in the summer so that I had spending money all year long.  And of course the tuition was so inexpensive that I was able to make ends meet without having to work during school.

Kelsey:   Do you remember how much the tuition was?

Bassano Snyder:  Yeah.  For the entire year, I think it was like $368, and I had won two $300 scholarships from high school, so it pretty much paid for almost the two years.  So when I transferred to Montclair State, I had no financial debt at all.  What I incurred was after I transferred.

Kelsey:   When you worked during the summer, what did you do?

Bassano Snyder:  There was a Boy Scout office right here on Route 10, where I think there’s a Lexus dealership there [now].  And it was a very large center for the Morris-Sussex Boy Scouts.  And that’s where all the executives were, and there was a store inside there that sold all of the Boy Scout paraphernalia—badges and awards.  And I did secretarial work for them, for their campaign for funding.  I also worked in the store.  I did that for all four years of college, and even after I started teaching they asked me back one summer.  So I did that one summer after that.  That helped me to earn enough money to be able not to have to work [during the school year].

Kelsey:   Describe what Route 10 looked like, and the intersection of 10 and Center Grove Road.

Bassano Snyder:  Well, it was very tricky getting on and off campus, because there were no traffic lights.  There was no traffic light down by Center Grove when we first started.  There was no traffic light at Center Grove, and there was no traffic light at the Dover-Chester intersection, and it was tough getting on and off campus.  In the morning, for eight o’clock classes, the traffic used to be quite backed up.  And then eventually the two traffic lights were put in, and that definitely made it a whole lot easier getting on and off campus.

Kelsey:   Were there stop signs?

Bassano Snyder:  Yes, there were stop signs, but not a traffic light.

Kelsey:   And were the stop signs for the Route 10traffic, or just for the traffic coming in from Center Grove and Dover-Chester?

Bassano Snyder:  They were both ways, but there was no turnoff.  You know how they created that turnoff lane?  That didn’t exist, so that kind of backed up traffic in the left-turn lane.

Kelsey:   And there was no Left Turn Only lane.

Bassano Snyder:  Right, exactly.

Kelsey:   What was a typical day for you at CCM?

Bassano Snyder:  I took like no more than two classes a day, and it was pretty similar to the schedule that exists today.  It was an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week.  That hasn’t really changed.  I think physical education was once a week.  So I would take like two classes a day, spend time in the library in between.  I very rarely went home.  I usually stayed on campus, or tried to work my schedule out so that I would be able to go to my two classes and stay on campus if I had some down time in between.

Kelsey:   What was social life like on campus?

Bassano Snyder:  It was beginning.  There were dances occasionally in the cafeteria.  There was one room off of the cafeteria that they put in some pool tables and ping pong and things like that.  So a lot of the young men hung out in there.  Basically, the cafeteria was the whole center of the student life on campus.  But they did try to schedule some dances.  I remember there was one big concert on campus, and it was….  Oh my gosh, I forgot the name.  It was Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge.  They came to campus, and they were set up around where the library is, and everybody came and just sat out on the grass.  It was an open-air kind of concert.  I remember that very vividly.

There was also a place off campus that was called The College Manor, and that was a dance place where we would go on Friday/Saturday night and they would have bands, and we would get together, and it was pretty much the college crowd.  It eventually expanded to other people when they realized, but it was very close here in Randolph, and so that was something that was done.

Kelsey:   Where was that?

Bassano Snyder:  I can’t even remember where it was.  I have no idea where it was.  It was forty years ago.  I have no idea where we went.  But it was a place basically to go on Friday and Saturday.

Kelsey:   So that was the local hot spot?

Bassano Snyder:  Yes, it definitely was the local hot spot.

Kelsey:   What do you remember the most about that first year?

Bassano Snyder:  Working very hard.  You know, it wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with working diligently.  School was something that I thought was quite a privilege for me, and I worked very hard at things.  But the attitude [of] many of the professors and the instructors here was that this was the beginning of something.  And if they wanted accreditation, and if they wanted this college to last, then they had to establish a reputation for this college as being academically challenging, not just an extension of high school.  And I think because of that, the rigors of our education here I thought were—I know, I think—were harder even than they are today.  I went to school in an age where there was not the opportunities to get help if you were a little academically challenged—you know, if you had some learning disabilities.  That didn’t exist when I went to college.  You either cut it, or you didn’t.  I know I found it very academically challenging, and spent a lot of time studying, and a lot of time in this library, writing—you know, research, and writing papers.  So I remember it being a little stressful, because everybody was trying to make a name for this place.

Kelsey:   And the ways that you did research, of course, were a lot different then.

Bassano Snyder:  Oh!  Note cards, microfiche, going through piles and piles of books to find what you needed, lugging those books home, lugging them back here in bags.  The way we wrote papers and researched a topic, spending hours going through microfilm.  Totally different.  It took so much more time to gather the information to write a paper, than it does today.  Very different.

Kelsey:   But they did have microfilm and microfiche?

Bassano Snyder:  Yes.  A very nice collection, yes.  Very much so.

Kelsey:   What is your best memory of CCM?

Bassano Snyder:  I would have to say being part of that first experience here.  My class named the newspaper, chose the Titans as the mascot, picked the colors burgundy and gray.  Everything about the way this college started was put to a vote by the student body in those aspects.  And that was really exciting.  And then when we finally realized that the college was here to stay and we were part of it, I think that’s my greatest memory of this college.  And I knew that somehow this place would be part of my life for the rest of my life.  If I stayed in New Jersey, I knew that I would be part of the County College.  So that part of it, being the first class, I think is my fondest memory.  I didn’t regret not going to a four-year school from the very beginning at all.  I had great friends here.  It was just a lot of fun.  It was a lot of fun being on campus.

Kelsey:   How did they go about setting up the way that they picked things like the mascot and the colors?

Bassano Snyder:  The president of the student body, Luis Maura….  There very often would be like meetings in the cafeteria.  It would be scheduled for a certain time and everybody would be asked to come and they would ask for suggestions and then they would basically put out a ballot and we would vote on things.  There would be times to make a decision as to what you would like.  So it wasn’t all prearranged and predecided before we got here.  They gave us an opportunity to have some input.

Kelsey:   How did the student government structure actually get instituted?

Bassano Snyder:  There was an election.  There were people who were nominated.  They expressed a desire to serve in the student body, and then we had an election and chose them.  There was campaigning, there were posters.  And it was a regular election.

Kelsey:   What is your worst memory of CCM?

Bassano Snyder:  My worst memory?  (sigh)  Eight o’clock in the morning, Bio 1, Dr. Patschke.  He decided to bring a sow’s uterus into an 8:00 a.m. lecture class.  This wasn’t a lab day, this was just a lecture day.  And [he] proceeded to put newspaper on the desk and brought out the sow’s uterus and dissected it.  I would have to say that was the most … disgusting experience, at eight o’clock in the morning, the mix of the smell of formaldehyde and coffee cups and….  Yeah, that’s a very fond strong memory that I have.  (laughs)  Yeah, Dr. Patschke’s Bio 1 class was definitely a challenge.

Kelsey:   What did you do after you graduated from CCM?

Bassano Snyder:  I transferred to Montclair State and I majored in history, and graduated from Montclair in 1972, and then immediately started my master’s work, and got a master’s from Montclair in history as well, and was lucky enough to land a job in 1972 at Roxbury Township at Eisenhower Middle School, where I taught eighth-grade social studies for thirty-four years.  I just recently retired.  And then about eight years ago, there was an advertisement in the newspaper that County College was looking for adjunct professors in American history, so I put in an application, and I was hired.  So I have been an adjunct here for the last seven years, teaching a U.S. 1 class.

Kelsey:   And you’re still teaching here?

Bassano Snyder:  And I’m still teaching.  I’m supposed to teach 2 in the fall semester.  So I began my education here at County, and I’m still here.  And some days when I walk on campus, especially in September, with that chaos of new [students] coming into class and dropping class, I feel a sense of real déjà vu, like I don’t know where forty years have gone—it feels like yesterday.  The campus, the parking, that is all still at issue—you know, the parking.  But I’m very happy here.  I’ve always been very happy here.

Kelsey:   How have the years that you attended CCM affected your life?

Bassano Snyder:  Well, it made….  I would have to say that I don’t think I would have been able to go to college, had it not been for County College, because I really don’t feel my parents could have at all helped me.  And so I don’t know if I would have been able to start when I did.  I might have had to go to work first, and try to earn some money.  I don’t know.  I don’t think financially I would have started when I did.  I know that this college gave me the opportunity to get a college education.  And I know that it was a perfect fit for me.  At that point, being just eighteen, I was still close to home.  And I was ready when I graduated from County College, to go on to Montclair State.  And therefore, I really only had the financial responsibility of two years of college, and managed to borrow enough money from student loans and be able to afford those last two years on my own.

Kelsey:   Describe your graduation.

Bassano Snyder:  It was special.  There were 200 and some odd of us.  I don’t remember exactly the number.  I think we started out with well over 300.  Some dropped out, some didn’t make it, and so that graduation was in the gym, because the physical education building was open already.  And it just felt like it was perfect.  For me it was just a perfect conclusion to these first two years here.  And there was nothing lacking as far as the pomp and circumstance.  It was a true graduation in every sense of the word.  And of course being the first one to receive a diploma from the college was quite special to me.  It’s always been quite special to me.  It was a great day.  It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day.  It was just a very nice experience.

Kelsey:   Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

Bassano Snyder:  Nothing in particular about my own personal experience, but that if anybody watches these videos, I tell my college students all the time that I applaud them for starting at County College, and don’t feel that it’s somehow a step back, that they didn’t go away to school for four years.  It’s a great place to begin.  It still is a great place.  It’s growing.  And I would recommend it to any parent and any student looking to begin their college education.

Kelsey:   Good.  Thank you very much.

Bassano Snyder:  Thank you.




Accreditation, 11

Cafeteria, 3, 9, 10, 12

Campus, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14

Center Grove Road, 8

College Manor, 10

Construction, 3

Dalrymple House, 3

Diversity, 5

Dress, 6

Early life, 1

Eisenhower Middle School, 13

Employment, 7, 8, 13

Faculty, 5

Family, 2

Graduation, 14

Gym, 3, 14

Henderson Hall, 2, 3

Kennedy, Robert, 5

King, Martin Luther, Jr., 5

Library, 3, 9, 10, 11

Mascot, 11

Maura, Luis, 12

Military draft, 5

Montclair State College, 2, 8, 13, 14

Mud, 2

Netcong, New Jersey, 1

Parking, 3, 14

Patschke, Tim, 13

Physical education building, 3, 14

Political atmosphere, 4

Randolph, New Jersey, 10

Route 10, 8, 9

Roxbury Township, 13

School colors, 11

Smoking, 3

Social atmosphere, 4, 9, 10

Student body, 5

Student government, 12

Technology, 11

Traffic, 8

Transportation, 7

Tuition, 8

Typical day, 9

Veterans, 4

Vietnam War, 4


County College of Morris opened its doors in September of 1968. Join us in celebrating 40 years of connecting learning and life. Read about THE EVENTS that shaped the times, remember THE CULTURE, and join the founding CCM students, staff, and faculty as they share with us THE MEMORIES of those early days.