Oct 21, 2008

Blast from the Past

by Jennifer Schmidt

Imagine Liberty without the Vines center. Now erase Williams stadium, DeMoss, East Campus and even the Circle dorms. Most likely all that remains are the Hill dorms, and the single story classroom buildings surrounding the courtyard. Such a picture comes realistically close to Liberty’s humble beginnings in the 1970s. For current students a slight glance backwards can prove to be not only interesting, but also enlightening. Here’s a look at some past homecoming seasons in Liberty’s 37-year history.

Not much still resembles the seventh year of Liberty’s existence, a time when it even had a different name – Liberty Baptist College. Students lived in the midst of constant construction with classes and sports activities split between Liberty Mountain and Treasure Island on the James River near downtown Lynchburg. The football team, led by Coach Tom Dowling, practiced and played at Lynchburg Municipal Stadium. The 3,500 person student body attended outdoor chapel services under a large tent – rain or shine (red mud, anyone?). The start of this semester saw a record 1,000 freshman students enrolled, most women sporting winged curls framing their faces, and men wearing plaid leisure suits.

With only four previous commencements, homecoming was hardly applicable as a term, but Flames football enjoyed a successful season nonetheless, finishing with a respectable 4-1-5 record. Coach Dowling was named Small College Coach of the Year and LBC found its first All-American in Rupert Wright.

Interesting fact: 24 senior girls participated in the Miss Liberty Pageant where Dr. Ed Hindson brought the keynote address.
From the yearbook: “What did life at LBC mean to us? It was learning to how to cope with, and then fall in love with the Island and the Hotel. It was 'roughing-it' at Timberlake on those cold mornings when we used kerosene heaters to keep warm. And LBC to us means remembering those prayer meetings on the Mountain, claiming the Mountain for God.”

 

Ten years brought more exponential growth in buildings and feet occupying Liberty Mountain. By this point, LBC had officially become Liberty University and was named the largest private university in Virginia with 5,300 residential students – females bouncing in with perms and puffed sleeves, accompanied by males wearing rayon in a host of pastel colors. The circle quads were built as priority housing for seniors, joining the one-story Arthur S. DeMoss building as recent additions to the campus. The Spirit of the Mountain marching band entertained a 70,000-person crowd during a New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys football game in New Jersey. The athletics program was officially welcomed into Division I sports with its 16 programs, and desktop publishing arrived at Liberty.
With over 16,000 alumni, homecoming was now a staple of student life and the game boasted a record crowd of 11,400 spectators. Coach Morgan Hout led the Flames to an 8-3 record in what would be the team’s last season without its own stadium.

Interesting fact: a measles epidemic prompted officials to close school in September, and 2,000 vaccinations were given to non-quarantined students.

From the yearbook: “The challenge has begun. Four late girls, four blow dryers, two sets of hot rollers, three curling irons, two outlets, a mirror and a sink. . . then comes the hair spray . . . the spraying lasts for several minutes, creating a cloud of sticky, lung-clogging glue.”

 

Now 27 years old, Liberty had a good amount of experience and time under its belt. Enrollment was burgeoning, driving the ever expansion of dorms and classroom facilities. The decade had brought a revamped David’s Place, Williams Stadium, Junior-Senior Banquet and the Vines Center to the student body, an ever-diverse group of students sporting denim in every possible form – pants, shirts, hats, vests.

Football coach Sam Rutigliano led the Flames to a 5-6 record in his tenth year at the helm, a season that saw him earn his 63rd career win at Liberty. Homecoming was marked with a come-from-behind, overtime victory over Charleston Southern. For some unexplained reason, fans often sported construction hats and Liberty’s mascot was simply termed “the Eagle.” The lady Flames basketball team enjoyed a three-peat title, winning the Big South Conference.

Interesting fact: DeMoss 1113-1114 were known as 160-161. Coffee House put the unfortunate term “Java Jam” to rest and was held three times a year.

From the yearbook: “One thing I’ve learned is time is relevant. Is the coming of the new millennium the end of the world or the start of a whole new generation of advanced society and technology? I prefer to dwell on the latter. Being a student in 1999, I have a whole new expanse of knowledge and gifts to discover and offer to my generation and ones to come.”


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