Beauty queen, associate dean

The 1960s were crazy, man—you know, beauty contests, women's hours, white gloves.

By Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

JeanTreese.jpgJean Treese, AB’66, associate dean of students in the College, has served as an academic adviser to an estimated 3,000 students since 1981.

And probably not a single one of them knows that she was the runner-up in the 1963 Miss University of Chicago contest.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow were you nominated?
QandA_ADrop.jpgAny group on campus—RSO, house, intramural team—could nominate a candidate for Miss University of Chicago. The director of the orchestra mentioned it one Wednesday night at rehearsal. Of course everyone giggled and guffawed, and then somebody said, “Let’s nominate Jean!”
In high school I would have been the last person nominated for Miss Anything. My mom thought it was a stitch.
The girl who actually won, Pam (Smith) Lovinger, AB’64, AM’67, was from the Russian choir. I was told by somebody counting the votes, who should not have told me, that I came in second.
QandA_QDrop.jpgDid you have fun at Wash Prom?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYes, but it wasn’t as fun as Twist Party Night. Every Wednesday night in Ida Noyes, in the Cloister Club, there was a twist party from nine until midnight, with the Paul Butterfield Band.
You didn’t have to go with a date; you didn’t have to dance with a boy. It was just wild. And not what we should have been doing on a Wednesday night. So the twist party went to 12, but you had to leave a little bit before 12 if you wanted to save hours for the weekend.
QandA_ADrop.jpgThere were women’s hours in those days. We were only allowed out two hours after midnight per week. I lived in Woodward, which hadn’t even been named yet; it was called New Dorms. It was the only co-ed housing on campus at the time.
The east wing was for men. Women lived in the north and west. And the doors between the north and east were cemented closed. You couldn’t get through unless you had a blowtorch.
The doors to the women’s quarters were locked at midnight. You had to enter the building through the basement. There was a matronly woman sitting there with a box of index cards, with all the women residents’ names. Everyone had one. And if you were a minute after 12 o’clock getting back, that was one of your hours for the week.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWas there any feminist consciousness on campus?
QandA_ADrop.jpgNot in 1963. But certainly by the time I left, in 1966, there were the beginnings of that.
I was called “Miss Sitterly” in class, all the way through. I always wore skirts, unless it was freezing out. There was no rule, but I almost always wore them. You wore white gloves to church. You wore white gloves to fly.
I got married at the end of my senior year, in May. There was the general feeling—although not so strongly on this campus—that if you didn’t have an MRS by the time you graduated, or one in the works, that you had failed college somehow.
A couple of years after I was in the Miss U of C contest, a refrigerator won. As I recall, it was a write-in candidate. Of course the organizers didn’t let the refrigerator win. But it began the demise of Wash Prom and the Miss U of C contest—things had hit such a low point that there just didn’t seem a reason to continue this farce.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhen did you become a college adviser?
QandA_ADrop.jpgThe college advising system came into being the 1970s, after the sit-in and all the campus turmoil.
I had been a teacher in Chicago Public Schools for 13 years. Then in December of 1980, just before Christmas, we didn’t get paid because there was no money to pay us.
I started as a college adviser in the fall of 1981, and I’ve been here ever since.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHave you ever told any of your students about the Miss U of C contest?
QandA_ADrop.jpgOh no. I share a lot with them, but this doesn’t seem to be appropriate. I talk with my students very openly about failures—academic struggles, challenges—because I think it helps them to understand they can get through it.
I did tell my sons. They just laughed.

August 15, 2011