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Before professional football pushed it off the airwaves, viewers across the country watched student teams face off in the GE College Bowl, a television game show that aired Sunday afternoons. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Lafayette's undefeated run in the competition, when it bested teams representing the University of Cincinnati, University of Rochester, Hope College, American University, and University of California at Berkeley.

“Our participation in the College Bowl was a very big deal in 1962 – certainly the biggest deal on campus that year,” recalls Robert E. Jones '63, who competed alongside teammates Steve Friedman '64, Robin Wolf '64, and Barry Wellman '63. “We used to get fan letters from girls, alumni – all sorts of people. When we finally won for the fifth time, which was the limit, we were greeted with a huge parade welcoming us back to campus. We were carried on people's shoulders, the marching played – the whole business. We also were invited to speak at several alumni functions.”

Three of the four team members were history majors. English professor William Watt, an authority on Victorian literature, advised the group. “He was a great lecturer,” notes Jones. “He had a very gruff, witty, and entertaining manner. His course on Shakespeare was something that many people tried to take.”

The entire experience was extremely exciting, says Jones. The TV network provided the team with accommodations at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. “We got tickets to Broadway shows like A Man for All Seasons and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I saw the closing performance of My Fair Lady.”

The competition was held at a New York theater just off Broadway, with the teams sitting at either end of the stage. Memorable moments included a blowout victory in which the team scored about 20 times as many points as its opponent and a comeback win against the University of California at Berkeley. Although team members did not receive any prizes, their success did earn “something like $15,000 to $20,000 in scholarship money for the College,” according to Jones, who keeps a phonograph record with the audio recording of one of Lafayette's College Bowl wins.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles