What was it like for a public-school kid from nowhere to go to an Ivy League school during the heyday? Sure, you got to wear cool clothes (once you figured out what they were), but even that was fraught with anxiety. At least it was for Timothy Thompson, whose first semester at Yale was full of loneliness, awkwardness, and rigorous academics requiring 18-hour days just to keep from flunking out.
Tim has appeared in a post entitled “Blue Man Group.” Now here’s his story: a lengthy LIFE magazine feature on what happens when a “rough country boy” from Oregon gets into Yale, only to endure a “painful struggle trying to fit in.” In addition to brain-twisting homework and the challenge of making friends, Tim also had to learn strange new words like “avant-garde,” buy new clothes in order to “keep up with his classmates,” sit through French courses conducted in French, and uphold his clean-living Baptist values in the wake of the Sexual Revolution.
But Tim had pluck: “I want to be myself,” he told the magazine. “I don’t want to be classified as a sophisticate, a playboy, a screwball, or anything.”
But didn’t LIFE do him a disservice by profiling him in a high-circulating periodical? Talk about piling on the pressure: Now it wasn’t just his parents and campus advisor waiting to see his math grade, but the entire United States of America. — CC