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The Founders Series

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The Class of 1950 was like none other—none other before and none since. In the fall of 1946, class members came from the cornfields of the Midwest; from the battlefields of France, Italy, and Germany; and from the jungles of the Pacific islands.They came in great numbers to university campuses throughout the United States.

Some of them were grown men—twenty- and thirty-year-olds going to college on the GI Bill that guaranteed money to educate World War II veterans.

Some of them were boys—eighteen-year-olds straight out of high school, competing in the classroom and on the playing fields with war-hardened men who were in a hurry to get on with life. These eighteen-year-olds were unaware that within weeks of their graduation, a war in Korea would beckon them.

Young women came to campus, although in much smaller numbers than the men. Most majored in home economics. Some were looking for their “Mrs.” degree. Many worked after graduation, but only until their children were born. By the 1960s, they would return to the workplace, beginning a social movement that is still evolving today.

Only a handful of African Americans came to campuses of major universities. In 1946, they found segregation and racial stereotyping, even after they had fought a war for the freedom of others. In the following years while the world was changing rapidly, civil rights moved slowly.

This mixture of students blended on the U.S. campuses in the late 1940s and exploded into the world in 1950.

These graduates transformed technologies developed during World War II into peacetime uses. They ushered into society everything from computers to home air-conditioning to interstate highways to the space age. They created the postwar economic boom, suburbia, and the Baby Boom. They became a force for change.

A Force for Change: The Class of 1950 looks at the group of students who made up this sweeping national movement: the Purdue University Class of 1950.

Members of the class tell their stories in their own words. They tell of childhood years during the Great Depression, young adult years during war, idyllic years spent at college, and years of wide-open opportunities for a generation of people who believed nothing could stop them.


9781557539496 (ePDF)

Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2019


Purdue Research Foundation


West Lafayette


Purdue, 1950, college, education


Adult and Continuing Education | Higher Education


This book was brought back into circulation thanks to the generous support of Purdue University ’s Sesquicentennial Committee.

Force for Change: The Class of 1950