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Skidmore College

'Yearbox' inspires film focused on Class of '69

June 2, 2014

Forty-five years ago, the Skidmore College Class of ’69 decided to not produce a conventional yearbook. They had just come through four of the most tumultuous years in American history, and they wanted to make a statement. And so they took a different approach. Retaining a creative young photographer who had just earned his M.F.A. from Yale, they gave every senior the freedom to create her own photograph, choosing whatever location and costume she wished. Rather than binding all of these photos in a book, they would  stack all of their photos — about 370 of them -- looseleaf in a rectangular cardboard container and call it their “Yearbox.”
"I thought it was the perfect metaphor for our experience,” says Liz Roman Gallese, a member of the class. “We were placing our unbound photos into a box just as we were becoming unbound by the social movements of the 1960s.”
Ten years ago, Gallese started thinking about how she might tell the story of her classmates by referencing the "Yearbox" as a central element. Three years ago she started working on the project in earnest.
“These women came of age as college students in a time of mind-boggling, unprecedented social change,” says Gallese, a reporter for many years with The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. “The civil rights movement, the fight for women’s rights, the sexual revolution — these all took place before our very eyes in our four years here, and I think we were a little undone by it. We achieved all of these freedoms in the 1960s. The question I wanted to explore was: What did we make of these new opportunities?”
To make the film, Gallese first enlisted two collaborators: film and television producer Jane Startz ’69 and documentary filmmaker Peter Barton. Over the next two years they would interview more than 30 members of the Class of ’69 in Saratoga, the Berkshires, New York, Boston and the West Coast. Many were in the audience Saturday when Gallese, Startz and Barton — having just put the final touches on their film — showed Women of ’69, Unboxed to members of the Class of ’69 and others in Davis Auditorium.

Liz Gallese and colleagues 
Liz Roman Gallese '69, left, collaborated with Jane Startz '69
and Peter Barton in developing Women of '69, Unboxed.

Frequent laughter and murmurs of revelation were clear signs that the film connected with its audience. Those attending included Anne Palamountain, wife of Joseph Palamountain, Skidmore’s president from 1965 to 1987; the Rev. Tom Davis, who joined Skidmore in 1966 as college chaplain and would go on to serve the College for 30 years; Sedat Pakay, the photographer who in producing the "Yearbox" took 13,000 photos (a 35-shot roll for every student), and Kristine Ford Herrick '69, who as yearbook editor came up with the idea of the “box.”
Calling the film “one generation’s gift to the next,” Gallese and her colleagues hope to share it with current Skidmore students this fall.

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