By Elaine Stomber ’89

World War I produced a tremendous disruption in College activities. The campus converted to a military training camp for men to prepare for service in various mechanical trades.  Over 400 men arrived to participate in this vocational unit, selected from the draft. Once a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) program was developed, nearly 600 additional men arrived on campus for a combination of academic work and military drilling. The gymnasium was filled with cots, and there was little time or inclination for traditional academics.

Soon after SATC training began in fall 1918, Spanish influenza swept across the crowded campus. Phi Gamma Delta and Delta Upsilon fraternity houses became camp hospitals for nearly 140 enlisted men, women from Easton volunteered to nurse the sick, and the epidemic was responsible for seven deaths on campus. Soon after, the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, and Camp Lafayette demobilized. By January 1919, our former students returned to campus, regular courses were reestablished, and student activities resumed.

So the current COVID-19 crisis is not the first pandemic Lafayette College has survived. In 1919, the College managed to resume normal operations after suffering both a pandemic and a world war.

Elaine Stomber is College archivist.

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