2 time capsules reveal Northeastern’s past

By Claudia Geib/Special to the Gazette

The first thing removed was a coin. It glinted bright silver, as a Northeastern University alumnus held it up to the light— despite the fact that it was minted in 1898 and had spent most of the past 50 years sealed in a time capsule beneath Northeastern’s Curry Student Center.

More treasures followed: A dollar bill from 1964, the year the capsule was sealed; a program for “Carneval,” the play Northeastern students were preparing at the time; blueprints for the student center that was just rising on campus; a Christian Science Monitor that announced talks between the U.S. and Vietnam; a Boston Globe edition that promised a march on Boston led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While most of Boston focused on a time capsule discovered atop the city’s Old State House, on the evening of Oct. 7, Northeastern faculty, alumni and students quietly celebrated the student center’s 50th anniversary with the unveiling of artifacts from not one, but two time capsules: One sealed in 1964, when the student center was completed, and another in 1994, when it was renovated. The capsules were concealed behind two cornerstones.

“Students here today only see a snapshot of their life each day, while these artifacts capture the history of the years here,” said Gail Olyha, co-chair of the Curry 50th Anniversary Celebration and associate dean of Off-Campus Student Services. Olyha served as director of the student center for 17 years, as well as chair of the committee that renovated the building in 1994. “I loved seeing the students’ reactions to each different object, and knowing that they are considering what has been before,” she said.

Lola Galiczynski, a junior biology major who has worked as a building manager in Curry since her freshman year, said the time capsule opening was “fascinating.”

“I think the most interesting items removed from the capsules were the newspapers from the time, particularly the headline about Martin Luther King’s march on Washington. In my head, that was so long ago–another time—and yet the students who made these time capsules lived through that. It was such a major event in history, and it made me think about what headlines will define our time while at Northeastern.”

The 1994 capsule was markedly different from its predecessor, spilling out a teddy bear, T-shirts, stickers and a wooden tablet peppered with the letters of the school’s fraternities and sororities.

A bill for the fall quarter of 1994 revealed just how much the price of a Northeastern education has changed over the past 20 years. It recorded a payment of $6,180 for the fall semester of a business degree, with an additional $1,145 tacked on for a 19-meal dining plan. A semester of that same degree today costs $21,267; 19 meals ring up $3,395.

“These time capsules gave us the chance to see pieces of history from our school,” said Jason Campbell-Foster, director of the Center for Student Involvement and the anniversary celebration’s co-chair.

Curry has served as a hub of student life at Northeastern over its 50-year history, hosting meeting rooms, study areas, offices for extracurricular clubs, an art gallery, a game room, a dance studio, the school’s main food court and the campus radio station. For many who work and study in the center, it has served as a second home.

“Events like this celebration connect students to our history and their school, and I hope to see more events like it in the future,” said Bob Grier, recently retired director of student center operations, who worked at Curry since 1975. “The student is our currency. They are the center of what we do here. However, the student lifespan here is relatively short, so we have to work to maintain their connection with the school.”

The event also marked the opening of the Curry 50th Anniversary Gallery, where the time capsule items will be displayed, alongside a timeline of the building’s history and of the world events that unfolded around it. The gallery will remain open until Nov. 15, when the Northeastern community will prepare for the student center’s next milestone by sealing a new time capsule behind the center’s cornerstones. The school is currently holding an essay contest to allow students to suggest what should be sealed away for the next generation of Northeastern students to discover.

“Having worked here since freshman year, I thought I knew everything there is to know about Curry,” said Galiczynski. “Seeing the time capsules opened and walking through the anniversary gallery, I realize that I only know what Curry is today.”

Editor’s Note: This story was produced under a partnership with Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

One of the time capsules is removed for opening on Oct. 7. (Photo by Claudia Geib)

One of the time capsules is removed for opening on Oct. 7. (Photo by Claudia Geib)

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