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UConn Advance

April 4, 1997

A witness to change at the Student Union
By Bonnie Graber

Would you want to go to a university that didn't allow women to wear pants (except on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.)? Where girlfriends and boyfriends were not allowed in each other's rooms?

Well, that defined UConn in the 1950s, according to Joan Rogers '61, senior associate director of the Department of Student Activities and Union Programs.

Rogers, who began her UConn career in 1965 at the Student Union Help Desk, has witnessed first-hand the changes sweeping UConn for 40 years. She will retire June 1.

"Everything is very different (now) from when I was a student. They call us the 'obedient generation'," Rogers says. "When we were in school, we were told what the rules were, and we obeyed them. Then, when I came to work here, it was during the late 1960s and early '70s when kids questioned everything."

She finds a big difference between students today, who are career-oriented, and than their '60s counterparts, who were more politically minded.

Rogers had a front-row seat as students in the '60s organized their protests against authority.

"The whole era of student strikes stands out in my mind," she says. "The planning for those things, which were basically non-violent protests, happened right here in the Student Union lobby. They were questioning authority."

She also has noticed a change in student behavior. During the '60s, Jonathan's, then a dining hall, turned into a bar at night, and there was a pub on the union's second floor. This led to drinking and vandalism.

"That was a very hard time," she says. "Because alcohol was readily available throughout campus, we had a lot of damage in the union, such as kicked-in walls and punched-out ceilings." Once the drinking age in Connecticut was raised from 18 to 21, the bars in the Student Union closed, and the trouble died down.

Witness to growth
Rogers considers the physical changes to the campus just as amazing. Although the campus hasn't grown in acreage, many buildings were added and, in some cases, torn down.

"From one end to another, we don't walk any farther than I did as a student. But the two buildings that I spent the most time in, South Campus dorms and the nursing cottage, have been taken down, and many other buildings put up," says Rogers, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in nursing.

It's being a part of these changes, especially the physical ones, that Rogers loves the most about her job.

"I like being able to make big changes to the buildings, things that people will still see 10 years from now," she says.

One project at the top of her list of accomplishments is the three-story breezeway addition, which connects the north and south sides of the Student Union. For many years the two buildings were connected only on the ground floor. Rogers was part of the team that oversaw construction of the connector.

"I'll miss working with all the people and knowing everything that's going on. It's really the nicest place to work," Rogers says.

She hopes retirement will give her the opportunity to do more quilting and other crafts, and to travel more.

"It is time for me to move on and for other things to happen," Rogers says. "There are new adventures out there for me to try."

Paralegal's hobby more than just snapshots
By Bonnie Graber

It's often said a dream career is doing something you love to do and then finding a way to get paid for it. Pat Wasson Leavens, office manager and paralegal in the Office of the Attorney General at the University, is one of the lucky ones able to get both.

Photography has played a dual role in Leaven's life, both as a profession and a hobby. Her interest started as admiration watching her father pursue photography as his hobby.

"When my father left his Rolleiflex camera, my mother, thinking the camera was old and worthless, threw it out," Leavens says. "But I eventually saved up my money to buy a regular 35-millimeter camera."

Leavens arrived at UConn in 1982 to work in the music department and, in 1985, became a paralegal. When she was a single mother, photography became a way to supplement her income to support herself and her daughter. Leavens took photography courses at different colleges and was tutored to work as a wedding photographer for a local business. She then began her own business, Proof Positive.

"Part of my knowledge of photography was honed out of the need to make extra money, but mainly because it enabled me to work with so many special people," Leavens says.

Leavens's main creative focus has centered around portraits of women, mainly in Connecticut, and their roles in society.

As a project for her bachelor at UConn, which she earned in 1991, Leavens created an exhibit displayed at the William Benton Museum of Art during the 1992 celebration of 100 Years of Women at UConn. Her work appears in a consistent style of black and white environmental portraits.

Leavens is continuing her portraits of Connecticut women who are "the first at something or involved in pursuits not typically done by women."

She also is working on collaborative portraits with female friends to be displayed with an embedded collage. "This is a personal project not for publication. It will be given as a gift to them," Leavens says. "And it's a way for me to get to know my friends better."

Loves portraits
Over the years Leavens has used a variety of subjects as portraits.

"I love making portraits of everyone, really. Although I have created portraits of many men, I prefer women and children as subjects, as it seemse easier to cut through their insecurity and reveal who they really are. Generally I find women open up more, perhaps because I am a woman."

She also enjoys making portraits of pets. Recently, Leavens photographed her friend's ailing Doberman pinscher.

Her mother's fight with Alzheimer's gave Leavens less time to pursue her hobby. But since her mother was placed in Mansfield Rehabilitation Center, she has had more spare time, and that has led to a new focus.

If permitted, "I would like to do a study of residents at the Mansfield Rehab Center who suffer from Alzheimer's. Not just women but everyone," Leavens says. She also plans to do studies of mothers with their children as another project. In yet another endeavor, Leavens is working on a calendar featuring old general stores throughout Connecticut another way to make money from her art.

Leavens's dream shot would be to photograph Katherine Hepburn. Her favorite photograph to date is one she made of poet and English professor Marilyn Nelson Waniek. Leavens also loves to shoot practicing musicians and children at play.

"Watching people do something they love to do is a great joy to photograph," she says.

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