My attempt at a Bogus Trend Story

McCormick Hall at Marquette University

I lived in that dorm on the left — we called it “The Beer Can” — during my freshman year at Marquette University. I was in room 1101. Sports journalist and “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” panelist Charlie Pierce lived in 1128 and Bobby Rivers — former VH1 veejay and Food Network show host — was a few doors down from him. It was quite the floor. I recall Pierce being the very loud sports commentator in the TV room, and Rivers hosting a big Academy Awards bash in the floor lounge. [UPDATE: Pierce and Rivers have emailed me their McCormick Hall memories. They’re at the end of this piece.]

I frequently drive by McCormick Hall when I return to Milwaukee. The last time I was there I briefly considered parking the car and seeing what room 1101 looks like these days. I wondered if other Boomers have had that same desire to return to their dorm rooms and get of a photo of themselves at their old desk or on the bed.

Maybe there’s a trend story there.

Or maybe it’s a Bogus Trend Story. (New York Times columnist and Marquette alum Gail Collins wrote in 1998 that “an old newsroom joke is that three examples make a trend.”)

Could I find three Facebook friends who’ve returned to their dorm rooms?

I asked, and the stories rolled in. This might be a legit trend story. (Want it? It’s all yours!)

Here are just a few of the responses I got:

BETH REYNOLDS, Base Camp Photo owner and 1988 University of North Carolina grad:

I have returned to my dorm room with friends who lived on my hall, saw where I inscribed my name on the inside closet door – left unchanged. The beer I left was gone. … When we had our own mini-reunion in 1999 we all ran to see the dorm, our floor – that we had painted and left our mark on. We sat on the floor in the hallway just as we did in the 80s and laughed our asses off at the really stupid things we did, remembered old boyfriends, and how we figured how to cook anything in a hot pot!

DANIEL RUBIN, Philadelphia Inquirer Metro columnist.

I graduated from Northwestern in 78, and lived one year in a dump of a frat house – the fraternity was later kicked off campus for abuse of a whale at a formal in Chicago. I went back to Evanston about 10 years ago and was curious to see this pit I had lived in. When I introduced myself inside the door, one of the members was amused that I had the same name as one of his frat brothers. I knew this guy’s byline from Google News – also Daniel Rubin – so I decided to pay him a visit. It was about 11 a.m. I pounded on his door, apparently waking him up with the salutation: “I’m Daniel Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I’m here to tell you to stop using ny name.” After a couple seconds of silence, I laughed and told him I had lived there, and was just checking out the place. I trust he’s gotten over it.

David Hanners, St. Paul Pioneer Press.

I thought about doing it last time I was on campus at Indiana State but started worrying somebody would think I was a perv and call the cops.

Sharon Silke Carty, Huffington Post senior editor.

I did [return to the dorm], a few years after I left. A family friend moved into the dorm, so I brought her out to dinner a couple of times and stopped in to look around. What a dump. I can’t believe I loved that place so much.

Mark Thompson-Kolar.

I’ve done the whole 9 yards … I returned to my twice alma mater 20 years after getting a journalism master’s to get a master’s in human computer interaction — in the process, I’ve visited and revisited ALL my old stomping grounds multiple times and analyzed the heck out of what’s different, what hasn’t changed, how being a student is different at middle age vs. undergraduation and young-person grad school.

Paul Sparrow, Newseum.ยท

I went to Stony Brook University in the mid ’70s and lived in the Eugene O’Neil dorm. Back then it was a lousy school and a construction site. I was there for a conference on News Literacy a couple of months ago and visited my old dorm room. It was on the ground floor, so when I couldn’t get into the building without an ID card I looked in the window. (It was the middle of the day so I was hoping I wouldn’t get picked up by the campus police.) It was very strange. The room was really clean and neat, several laptops on desks, BEDS MADE!, didn’t look like any dorm room I had ever seen. But Stony Brook is a completely different place then when I went there.

I called Marquette’s Office of Residence Life on Tuesday and asked if many alums requested permission to get into their old dorm rooms. I was told that wasn’t allowed because it would “inconvenience” current residents. I could take a “general tour” of the campus, though, she said.

I’ll keep that in mind.


I asked Pierce about his McCormick years. He emailed:

Best memories? 1) Learning about jazz from the late Maurice Lucas, 2) The day they posted the list of damage on every floor, and 11th was listed as having none and, within five minutes of the posting of the list, somebodu came up in the elevator and threw a coffee cup through the big glass wall of the lounge, 3) how they would shut down two of the three elevators on Say. nite and then the one working one would always fail and nobody could fix it until Monday. On Saturday night, as you came up the stairs, by the seventh floor, the stairwell looked like Shiloh after the battle, bodies scattered everywhere and 4) being quarantined there for a week during my sophomore year by the county health department because I caught my girlfriend’s roommate’s chicken pox.

Bobby Rivers sent me this:

I’ve never gone back to McCormick in all these many years since I graduated. One major thing I do recall about that time was how life in that really opened to eyes to race within our age group. I’d gone to MU from having grown up in South Central L.A. Our family lived in the curfew area during the Watts Riots. So attending a predominantly white college after years of attending parochial schools in L.A. with predominantly black and Mexican students was a major cultural change. I think I fascinated Charlie Pierce a bit because he hadn’t really lived with/interacted daily at length with black guys — and certainly none who, by that time, had already been on a syndicated Hollywood TV show. (I was a game show winner in high school.) Charlie found me different. He didn’t follow me around as puppy doggedly as he did Maurice Lucas and other basketball players, but he was fascinated with me so much that he called his mother in Boston, told her he had a cool black friend and put me on the phone with her. He was the first person ever to say to me something along the lines of “…at times, I don’t even think of you as black.” Charlie Pierce. What a character.

Have you returned to your dorm room? Tell us about it in comments.



  1. My dorm room was in the cluster called Towers on the University of Rochester’s River Campus and it was 1977 when I was there last. It was an awesome space with a loft, which I was lucky to get as a sophomore. The girl across the hall was nutty as a fruitcake. They won’t let me in to see it now and I’m not sure my knees would make the stair trek worth it.

  2. Chase said:

    I used to visit my old barracks room at The Citadel during homecoming when they hold an “open barracks” hour … cadets have to clean up and be ready for guests, just as I did. Then they tore down my barracks and rebuilt them. Bah, air conditioning and locks on the doors? Wimps.

  3. Dave Diamond said:

    Jim, God bless you, buddy! My first two years were spent in Schroeder Hall at Marquette, and then Brian O’Connell shared a wonderful fourth floor corner apartment with wrap-around windows and wood floors. We were on skid row about two blocks off campus. Brian used to get really depressed because the only furniture we had ever was a folding card table, two folding chairs, a travel trunk, my mattress on the floor and Brian’s bed in the other room. I loved it, but it was strictly Spartan. I haven’t been back. Spent my junior year at Richmond College in London. We were loaded most of the year, I think. I’ve been back there twice, but the house had been torn down. Mick Jagger lives down the street now.

  4. Jim said:

    Dave: My brother — two years behind me at Marquette — lived in Schroeder Hall. I, too, eventually moved to “skid row” off-campus housing.