By: Anastasia Dula, Class of '58 researcher and UM-Flint student
When Laura Eastman graduated from Flint Northern High School in 1953, she had no future plans beyond working in a hotel for the summer. She asked her friends what they intended to do in the fall, and decided to join them in enrolling in Flint Junior College. She worked in the Buick office for a time after she finished her two years of junior college, but always wished to complete the education she had begun, and so she then spent a year attending Eastern Michigan University. It was at the end of this year that she learned of the Senior College to be established in Flint, and she was happy to be able to move back home and finish her elementary education degree there.
The experience of “going away” to a big college like Eastern Michigan University had proven far less glamorous than Eastman had expected; in fact, she preferred the smaller campus of the Flint Senior College. In particular, she felt that the small size of the first graduating class led to an almost familial closeness among the students, many of whom had known one another since the beginning of junior college. It also seemed to her that a kind of camaraderie developed among the students because many of them felt like pioneers together in this new college.
Eastman would always try to schedule her classes for the mornings so that she could work in the afternoon. She would carry her textbooks around with her and study during her 15 minute breaks, and often saw many other students who worked at Buick and AC Spark Plug doing the same. To her surprise, she received some of the best grades of her life during these very busy periods because she was working so hard and managing her time so well. There was, however, time for fun social activities on the weekends such as hayrides and (beer-free) parties.
Though her parents would help her occasionally (when they could afford to), Eastman was primarily able to work her way through college at the AC Spark Plug factory. On the whole, her parents were supportive of her desire to go to college, as they were both extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that Flint provided to its residents. However, her father did believe that a college education would be a waste on a woman because she would probably just get married afterward, and several of her friends thought that women only went to college in search of a husband. Eastman vehemently disagreed. She was very grateful for the opportunity to pursue her higher education in the city where she had been born and raised. She was also (and still remains) particularly grateful to Charles Stewart Mott for his philanthropic contributions not only to Flint’s colleges but also to the city as a whole.
Overall, Eastman was very impressed by the quality of the brand new Senior College. She thought the professors were talented instructors and that everything was well-organized despite its newness. It seemed to her that all of the faculty were extremely motivated to make this college succeed, and to push the students to succeed as well.
The staff was motivated, the students were motivated, and Ann Arbor was supportive. Everyone wanted this school to work, and wanted everyone to succeed. It was like one big family.