The Spirit of Hollybush: Looking Back to 1967
By Sherada C. Rempe ’72, ’89
Posted with permission from Rowan Magazine
D-Day. JFK’s assassination. Man walks on the moon. We all remember where we were at significant moments in our lives. Two days in June held significance for anyone who lived or worked in Glassboro in 1967 when all the world watched Cold War history made on our quiet campus. Thirty years later the Cold War is over, but in that spring the world feared a direct confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union because of a Middle East crisis. The crisis was averted in part through discussions held in the 19th century stone mansion on Whitney Avenue called Hollybush.
In June 1967, with the spring semester and commencement ceremonies over, few faculty and less than 100 students remained on campus. The town of Glassboro and its state college settled into the quiet routine of a South Jersey summer. In contrast, tensions had increased in the Middle East between the U.S.-backed Israelis and the Soviet-supported Arab states. Both U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Premier Alexei Kosygin of the USSR pledged not to intervene. But the Middle Eastern political temperature continued to rise in spite of the superpowers’ restraint, and the Six-Day War began on June 5th. The Soviets were still unwilling to engage their troops directly by backing the Arab states, but on June 19th, Kosygin came to New York to condemn Israel and the U.S. in a special session of the U.N. General Assembly.
‘The townspeople were in an uproar of activity getting ready for the event.’
Kosygin’s presence in this country provided an opportunity for the two world leaders to meet, but neither wanted to come to the other. Kosygin was under strict orders not to go to Washington, and Johnson felt it was not customary for a president to receive visitors in New York. A compromise, negotiated by then-New Jersey Governor Richard J. Hughes, was to meet halfway between in Glassboro.
Suddenly, with only 16 hours' notice, the official residence of Glassboro State President Thomas Robinson and his wife Margaret had to be converted from a quiet campus home into a secure and sophisticated location for an international press corps, secret service agents, and the world’s two most powerful leaders. Prayers and hopes from around the globe were focused on Hollybush during those meetings on June 23rd and 25th.
Several retired Glassboro professors, staff members, and residents, along with current Rowan University faculty, remember the event vividly. Dr. Flora Young was participating in a Head Start Workshop and was prepared to give a lecture on the family. “I went down the first day [June 23] to give my lecture and found out that it was canceled because of the Summit. The campus was fairly alive with people,” Young said. But she was barred entry and the workshop never happened.
Lucille Pfleeger, the wife of Music Department Chair Clark Pfleeger, remembers how they cut their vacation short that summer. “When we went on vacation we heard about the Summit while we were on the boardwalk. We came home immediately hoping to see Johnson and Kosygin across from Hollybush. The townspeople were in an uproar of activity getting ready for the event. We came home right from the boardwalk [at Wildwood Crest] and didn’t have a key to get into the house,” she recalls. “We had to bang on the doors to get our son’s attention inside because he was busy watching the event on television!”