1940s Central graduates share memories of campus

Photo Courtesy of Mary-Jean and Bill Blazo Mary-Jean and Bill Blazo, couple farthest to the right, link arms during a dance in Kiehler Union, where the couple first met, in 1941. Mary-Jean Coon entered her freshman year at CMU in 1941, where she studied pre-journalism where she met Bill Blazo from Royal Oak, who studied business, as well as trained to become a military pilot.

How long after one graduates from Central Michigan University do they remain a Chippewa?

For Bill and Mary-Jean Blazo of Birmingham, class of 1949 and 1945 respectively, it’s been 67 years and counting.

Mary-Jean, 89, and Bill, 91, still remain loyal to the school that changed their lives.

Mary-Jean entered her freshman year at CMU in 1941. The Ionia native said Central was the ideal place for her to study pre-journalism.

“It was called Central State Teachers College when I was accepted,” she said.

Mary-Jean immediately got involved her freshman year at CMU, making friends in Sloan Hall, rushing the sorority Alpha Sigma Alpha and joining the Central Michigan Life staff.  She later became the Editor of Central Michigan Life and loved producing the paper.

“I got to meet with the school’s President, Charles Anspach, every Monday to go over the paper. We became really good friends,” she said.

Mary-Jean said she most enjoyed all the activities at CMU, such as sock hops and dances — where she met Bill.

Bill came to CMU from Royal Oak. A brother of Sigma Tau Gamma, Bill studied business and trained to become a Military pilot.

The couple met at a dance in Kiehler Union in 1941, where Bill claims to have “stolen her away."

“She was a prize,” he said. “I was very lucky to get her.”

The couple, now married 67 years, enjoyed having a very active social life at CMU.

“The drinking age was 18, so we loved going to The Cabin. It was our favorite hangout, and it’s where I first kissed Mary-Jean," Bill said.

However, their lives and the university changed at the beginning of World War II.

Bill, along with the rest of CMU’s male students, were drafted to go to war in 1941 and 1942.

“Campus became very empty,” Mary-Jean said.

The university became mostly all female with the absence of male students. Female students had to move rooms to make accommodations for war veterans who stayed in various residence halls. The majority of male students were allowed to finish out their current school year before going to war.

Bill left Central to serve his country as a Navy pilot, while Mary-Jean stayed behind to finish her degree.

“A lot changed during the war; CM Life and the yearbook suffered because there was a shortage of paper; both publications had to be shorter,” she explained.

After their marriage in 1945, Bill came back to CMU in 1946 to finish his degree.

Bill continued to fly as a Navy pilot until 1960, when he was in a tragic plane crash that almost ended his life. Due to severe injury, Bill could no longer serve as a pilot in the Navy. He later went on to have a successful career with the FBI.

Mary-Jean traveled with Bill during his time in the Navy and went on to become a teacher at Lake Orion High School.

Bill’s advice for current students is to enjoy the time you spend at CMU.

“Continue until you reach your goals, take part in outside activities and get involved,” he said.

Mary-Jean expressed her gratitude for the time she spent at CMU.

“I’m very glad I went to college at Central," she said. "You have such a good time when you’re all together.”


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