Community Service at Hopkins

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The 1950s were fraught with Cold War political tensions and budding civil rights advocates. With these issues setting the stage, community service at Hopkins was born in the offices of Levering Hall. Levering Hall was owned and operated by the Young Man’s Christian Association (YMCA) until 1969. But in addition to hosting prayer services, the building also housed a dining hall and a number of student organizations (including the Student Activities Committee and the Student Council) and was very much the hub for student life at Hopkins during this time period. The building’s second floor was The Office of the Chaplain where Chester “Chet” Wickwire served as the University’s Chaplain in 1953 and the Executive Secretary of the YMCA. Reverend Wickwire is described as an advocate for civil rights and these philosophies guided the first community service efforts at Hopkins. During his tenure, The Tutorial Project, Johns Hopkins University’s oldest student-run community service organization, as well as the Committee on Drug Education (CODE) were formed.  Many students also participated in The Baltimore Free University, which offered courses on a variety of subjects for just $5 a semester. These courses were open to the public and anyone could volunteer to participate or teach. Each of these efforts helped to bridge the gap between the University and the surrounding community and marked the beginning of student service initiatives. Ultimately, Dr. Wickwire believed that the true value of these initiatives “was to get students to do something where they were involved in helping other people, going into the city and understanding the city.”

Other student-run fundraisers and philanthropic events were primarily organized by the university’s sororities and fraternities. Most notably, the Hopkins chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a community-service oriented fraternity, was chartered in 1952. This fraternity hosted events including Easter Seal drives, blood typing, and helping out at on campus concerts and athletic events alongside social events such as camping and parties. The initiation fee in 1960 was nineteen dollars. Even today, Alpha Phi Omega is actively involved in promoting community service on the Hopkins campus.

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