A Step Toward Coeducation

A few of the Catholic girls’ schools in 1969 started sending students to SI to take physics from Fr. Spohn during the first period of the school day. The first class consisted of 32 girls and eight boys who gathered at the school’s new campus. Mame Campbell Salin (Mercy ’72) was among 19 girls to take a class at the new SI in her senior year. (Mame’s SI connections include brothers Ron ’71 and Steve ’76 and sons Zach ’05 and Jared ’06.) Mame recalls walking down the halls as freshmen shot rubber bands at her legs. “Before coming to SI, I had this notion that the 20 of us would be treated like princesses by the thousand boys. I thought doors would open for us everywhere we went.” The freshmen, she added, “just wanted some attention. They weren’t angry that we were there; they were just a little uncomfortable around us. I never felt any resentment from the juniors or seniors about our being there.”

She was impressed both with the stadium seating that resembled a college classroom and with Fr. Spohn’s precise lessons. Her brother, Ron, had had Fr. Spohn the year before and had kept all his notes and tests. Mame was amazed that Fr. Spohn’s schedule her year was never more than a day away from the lessons her brother had. “I knew about the rocket experiment and told my friends what would happen,” she noted. “As a result, we didn’t ooh and ahh as much as Fr. Spohn expected us to.”

Like most Catholic high school students then, Mame never questioned the logic of single-sex high schools. But taking physics at SI surprised her because it was “a normal class, like any other. For the first time, I wondered why all my classes weren’t coed.”