“Two Males at Mercy College Surrounded by 948 Females“,”Two Boys Doing Well at Mercy-With 948 Coeds To Welcome Them” Those were some of the headlines when the press reported the first two men enrolled full-time at Mercy College of Detroit. Mercy College of Detroit re-chartered in the Spring of 1963 and included a provision to admit men to the formerly all-women campus as full-time students. Jerry Sup and Robert A. Woods were the first men to register. Both were attracted to Mercy by the Pre-College Summer Session which offered college level English and logic courses. Both passed the courses and elected to stay at Mercy rather than transfer.
Woods had little trouble adjusting, he had five sisters. Sup, the shy one, admitted “Man, the day we had to stand up and introduce ourselves, I sure was red. I don’t have any sisters.”
The distinction of being one of the first males at a previously all female college also gave Robert his fifteen minutes of fame. He appeared on CBS’ show “To Tell the Truth” in October 1963. For those who are not old enough to know about the program: “To Tell the Truth” featured a panel of celebrities (like the current American Idol show) attempting to identify which of three persons had an unusual occupation or experience. The celebrity panel would question the contestants; the imposters were allowed to lie, but the real person had to tell the truth. After a round of questions were done, the panelist were asked to vote on who they thought was the real person. Once the votes were cast, the real person was asked to stand up, often with a lot of false starts before the real person stood up. The more wrong votes, the more prize money awarded. I have not been able to find out how successful Robert fared with his appearance on the show.
The "First Men" Fraternity, Outer Echoes, December 17, 1965
By 1965, 33 young men had enrolled along with 950 women for the highest enrollment in the 25 year history of the college. “The First Men” established Mercy College’s first men’s fraternity. For a fund raising activity they held the first Male Slave Auction, They raised $100 with bids ranging from $2.50 to $8.50. The lowest bidder of $2.50 was the superintendent of buildings at Mercy, who needed a ditch digger. A six-girl syndicate bought the President of the First Men Club to serve as package toter, gift wrapper and Christmas tree decorator. There was only one person who found fault with the auction, a freshman who was bought by his wife for $5. His response: “She got stung…I would have had to do all that work around the house anyway.”
In 1969, Bethesda Hall was set up as the men’s dormitory. The building which had been the residence for nuns, would now house 21 males. The previous year, eight men who lived on campus were housed in rooms above the college’s garage. The men students residing in Bethesda would pay $540 a semester, slightly less than a double room in Manning Hall, the women’s residence. Whatever the cost, it had to be better than living over a garage!