Couples of 1969
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Couples of 1969

By Danni McDonald '19

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day today, three couples from the Class of 1969 share their Hiram stories as they reflect on how they met and their class’ upcoming Hiram College 50th reunion this summer.

Roger and Janet (Burt) Baker, Leslie and Jessica (Webb) Bennett, and Larry and Joyce (Lewis) DeYoung began their journeys at Hiram College during the fall of 1965 when students had formal family-style dinners every night, women signed into their dorms before the 11 p.m. curfew, and all campus looked forward to the spontaneous leaf and snow days each year.

Leslie Bennett (Les), a religion and liberal studies major, remembers the first time he saw Jessica (Jess) Webb, an elementary education major, on their way to the post office. “It was a beautiful sunny day, I remember it still,” Les said.

After seeing Jess from afar, classmate Larry DeYoung officially introduced the two on a Friday evening, Oct. 1, 1965, in the Booth-Centennial Lounge. Larry was not only Les’ Hiram roommate but had attended high school with Jess.  In turn, Jess introduced her Hiram friend, Joyce Lewis, the future Mrs. DeYoung, to Larry as well. The two couples went to a hootenanny (folk music party) together at the field house to listen to students play music and sing along.

“I was pretty much smitten with Jess, we hung out that evening until she had to go back to the dorm, and then we started dating,” Les said.

“It was the beginning of the beginning,” Jess added.

Almost three years later, Les and Jess were married before their senior year on Sept. 1, 1968.

Les and Jess come from a long line of Hiram-couple legacies. Les’ parents met at Hiram College and so did his paternal grandparents. Jess’ parents met at Hiram while her mother worked in the biology labs. Jess’ grandmother attended Hiram during the depression and her grandfather wrote in his journals about picking her up in his horse and buggy for their dates and taking her to literary meetings.

As students, Les and Jess were active members of the campus community and part of social clubs on campus, the Ball and Chain fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority. They also fondly remember singing in the choir and traveling on spring break to perform in different cities, hosted by Hiram alumni.

After Hiram, Les and Jess Bennett went on to graduate school, too, and received their Master of Science degrees from the University of Indiana in Bloomington in 1972. Les’ degree was in college student personal administration and Jess’ degree was in elementary education. Following graduation, Jess worked as a home-hospital teacher and then at her Methodist church until retirement. Les retired from the Maryland Higher Education Commission as an Associate Director for Private Career Schools.

Larry and Joyce would go on to become engaged late in their junior year. As they were planning their wedding, Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon and Larry remembers watching the broadcast with Joyce from the living room of her parents’ home. They were married later that summer.

The two went on to graduate school at Purdue University and then moved to Columbus, Ohio where Joyce received her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University while Larry worked for the State General Assembly in the Legislative Budget Office. After graduate school, Joyce began a career in the pharmaceutical industry and Larry went to work in the railroad industry, a dream career which built upon his life-long love of trains. The DeYoungs eventually settled in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania where they have resided for the past 40 years. Officially retired for the past six years, the couple enjoys traveling throughout Europe, especially the Dolomites of northern Italy, and the United States having visited over 40 states. Both remain active in volunteer work and engaged with Hiram College. Joyce recently served as the Chairperson for the Board of Visitors and Larry currently serves on the Board of Trustees. 

Janet Burk met Roger Baker at Hiram during their freshman year at a social club dance on Feb. 8, 1965. Roger, a chemistry major and Theta pledge, had to go on a “coke date” with a Sigma pledge. To fulfill this pledge requirement, Roger bought a coke for Janet, an English major, and they began to talk.

“And we have been talking ever since,” Roger said.

After Hiram, Roger was accepted into medical school at The Ohio State University. His father then convinced Janet to apply to a graduate program at Ohio State as well so Roger would not have to spend so much time commuting from Columbus to Cleveland to see Janet. She was accepted, too, and before moving to Columbus with Roger, they were married in September 1969. Following a week-long honeymoon, the newlyweds moved into an apartment and began graduate school three days later.

Janet received her Master of Arts in English in 1971 and Roger received his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree in 1973. Roger then went on to receive his M.B.A. from Ashland University in 2000. Janet taught at various schools including Malone University for 24 years until her retirement. Roger worked a four-year residency of obstetrics and gynecology in Akron, Ohio then moved to Canton, Ohio to work in practice for more than 41 years before retiring last December.

For the Bakers, Bennetts, and DeYoungs, Hiram is a part of their history and where their lives together began. It is remembered as a time of growth, expanded horizons and culture. Staying in contact with their alma mater, all three couples are part of the Class of 1969’s reunion committee. They are eagerly preparing for this year’s upcoming 50th reunion at Hiram College on June 14-16 and are looking forward to returning to the place where their stories began.

Pictured from left to right: Larry and Joyce DeYoung, Janet and Roger Baker, Les and Jess Bennett

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