By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
Hugh Vanitvelt began an apprenticeship at Buick Motor Division straight out of high school, but soon concluded that he did not want to work in a shop for the rest of his life. Instead, he decided to begin taking college classes, but had to put these plans on hold when he was drafted into the Army at the end of the Korean War. When he returned to Flint afterward with the GI Bill, he decided to remain at home and attend the Flint Junior College. Once his studies there were complete, the Flint Senior College—conveniently located in the same building as the Junior College for the first year of its existence—was the natural choice for the latter two years of his undergraduate work. He never even considered going to college anywhere else, though he did receive offers from other schools to play basketball.
Vanitvelt enjoyed the camaraderie that came with the small school. It seemed to him that there was little separation between the various majors—all of the students had similar general education requirements, so everyone intermingled and got to know everyone else in all subjects of study. Vanitvelt himself majored in business, and would meet classmates in the library to study together and come up with mnemonic devices to help them memorize material for upcoming tests. He also found time to study while working in the Business Office of the Senior College on evenings when it was not very busy.
Vanitvelt was highly involved in the workings of the College from the very beginning. When the Mott Memorial Building was first completed in 1957, he was one of three students who helped to move the Senior College’s library books to the new building from the library they had previously shared with the Junior College. He also worked in the Business Office from 5:00-10:00 every evening, a position in which he was able to perform various tasks for the school. He took all of the photos for the student ID cards, and he was periodically required to drive to Ann Arbor and pick up supplies for the chemistry instructors in Flint. In addition, if there were any functions taking place at the school in the evenings, he was entrusted with the keys to let them in and to close things down at 10:00 pm.
Vanitvelt was well acquainted with many of his fellow students because of the time they had spent together at the Junior College, and also from his position in the Business Office. Even though most students were quite dedicated and serious about their studies (in part because they tended to be older than the average college age), they still had a lot of fun together. They played intramural sports, such as basketball and racquetball. He also recalls an occasion when he used his Business Office key to get into an unused room to play cards with some friends, not realizing that they could be heard in classrooms below through the ventilation system. Instances like these help to comprise a college experience that he remembers fondly, so that he never regretted his choice of a small, new college for his higher education.
I didn’t have any reservations about a new school. Regrets on choosing Flint over a larger school? None whatsoever.