sitemap Observations on JMC: Dave Brigode ('73)

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Group Memory




David Brigode, JMC '73


I attended JMC at MSU from the fall of 69 to spring of 73. I lived in Snyder- Phillips the first two years. I graduated from JMC with an Area of Concentration in Social Psychology. 30 years later I attended the first JMC reunion back in East Lansing. A Web site of remembrances and comments was proposed. This is my contribution to the collective memory bank.



JMC at MSU was a culmination of post-WWII, 60's idealism. In this era of cutbacks in public education, job-oriented curricula, and emphasis on the bottom line, the concept that a middle class, publicly funded Big 10 State University would consciously attempt to replicate a small, liberal arts college such as is seen in the Ivy League or in a small private elite institution seems alien.

As a freshmen I consistently found myself in small classes of 8-12 people, taught by full professors. Topics included encounter groups, social stratification, symbolic logic, cross-cultural anthropology, a great deal of independent study, and a general approach much deeper than the average university courses. The fact that most classes were in the basement of Snyder meant that course discussions continued into the lobby, the cafeteria, and dorm rooms late into the night.

We had ample opportunity to pursue our interests through studies both within JMC and in the University at large. I took a university advanced chemistry class just to exercise my brain. I also took courses in Chinese calligraphy; independent study in Astrophysics; and enrolled in a class in agricultural mechanics in which I learned how to arc-weld.

It was very common for people to take advantage of the JMC experience for their first two years. The bulk of the program was front-loaded in that manner; one could then transfer into a specific university program for the last two years. I believe that the number of people who benefited from the JMC experience far outnumber those who technically graduated with JMC on their sheepskin. Some people expressed concern about the JMC Pass/NoPass grading system; However, I have never in my life been asked for my college GPA.

The Cultural Setting of the Times

My personal theory of the 60's is multi-layered. First, it was a clash between traditional societal structures going back thousands of years with new ways of living derived from new technology, personal freedom, and economic affluence. The civil rights movement came of age in this era, leading to respect and rights not only for Blacks but also Hispanics and Asians. This non-violent social change model spawned the Women's movement; the Gay rights movement; the Environmental movement; the New Age philosophy; urban community organizing like tenants rights; the anti-nuclear movement (which won); and general empowerment of the previously disenfranchised.

I don't think that what I observed around me was necessarily that crazy, or that students now a days are more personally conservative. It was a time of polarization and change, like a storm front resulting from the meeting of hot and cold climates. If you remember that for many high schools in the 60's the biggest issue was guys growing Beatle haircuts, then you realize in hindsight what an innocent time that was.

My Fellow MSU / JMC Students

Most of the kids I went to school with seemed to come from predominantly middle class backgrounds. Suburban Detroit; small town mid-Michiganders; Central US out- of-state students; the obligatory NY/New Jersey transplants. Their grandparents raised families through the Depression; their parents came back from WWII and built subdivisions, freeways, school systems, and our modern infrastructure. MSU went from 4000 students as a Cow College in 45 to over 45,000 25 years later as an international mega-versity. In-state tuition was $13/credit; 4 years of college was affordable.

The Draft

Students fully enrolled and maintaining an adequate GPA held a 2-S draft deferment. If you dropped out or flunked out you could get sent to Vietnam. They held a lottery to choose draft numbers based on your birthdate in 1951. My number was 28; my friend with a birthday a day later was 364. I was fortunate to maintain the minimum numbers of credit hours for the maximum amount of time. I graduated 6/10/73; the draft expired 6/30.

Was service in the military, and injury and death in combat, disproportionately a burden for people who couldn't go to college? Absolutely, and don't let anybody tell you differently.

JMC Student Teaching

In spring of 73, the college offered selected senior student-taught classes for credit. The student instructors got paid the gigantic sum of $200 each. I still have some of the course descriptions, which are a window on the times:

Barb Haimes

China was an absolute mystery to everybody. America had live TV from the surface of the moon before we had it from the Peoples Republic. All the Chinese professors in the US were pro-Taiwan. The last I heard from Barbara she was a gourmet Chef in San Francisco.
Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin

Comic books and the heroic fantasy genre. I believe they published comics for years afterwards in New York.
Jim Tisdel and John Rickerby

"The illiterate of the future will be the people who can not take photographs."


Many people in JMC went thru this process. I personally found that the T- Groups/Encounter Group I took in the Winter of 70 to have been very influential. Being basically an overeducated, intellectualized, Jesuit high school nerd, the concept of blowing out your feelings in front of other people and then putting your emotions back together again was very scary and liberating. I can also see how you could have a very bad experience under different circumstances.

Miscellaneous Recollections

Things I Might Wish Had Gone Differently

My Life and Career after JMC

After graduation in 1973, I remained around Lansing for a number of months, and then headed to San Francisco. I arrived there around Xmas of 1973 with $35 in my pocket, and stayed for 23 years.

Supporting myself as a housepainter of the Victorian houses around town, I worked for ten years as a community organizer on housing issues. I founded the San Francisco Tenants Union; organized rent control campaigns, and generally helped achieve real progress while working with minimal resources.

By 1984, I had earned a Master's in Public Administration from San Francisco State and was managing non-profit affordable housing. Ten years ago I became a non- profit housing developer of apartments for homeless and mentally ill people.

In 1990 I finally got married, and have 4 children. In 1997, I moved north 48 miles to the small town of Sonoma in the Wine Country.

I am currently the Housing Director for Sonoma County People for Economic Opportunity, overseeing emergency and transitional shelters for homeless families; case management for homeless families; emergency rental assistance programs; Fair Housing enforcement; and affordable housing development.

Where are They Now?

I have observed that many of my friends have become university professors and researchers. To my knowledge, I can drop the names of Notre Dame, Wayne State, Vermont, Dartmouth, and Colorado. There seem to be a variety of attorneys as well, scattered around the country. Some people remained in Lansing, but not many. An uncertain number, like myself, went into public service, working for non-profits or local governments. I would like to hear more about this.

I do not know how history will judge this era, or the roles we played. However, I perform my duty in leaving these recollections for others to sort through.

David Brigode
Sonoma. CA
October 1999