By Bert Schafer’s account, he was being a perfect gentleman the day he cheated his childhood friend, Roselyn Argyle, out of becoming Saginaw Valley State University’s very first enrolled student.
“I may have stolen that title from her,” Schafer said, his tone hinting at a tongue placed firmly in cheek. “But she’s still No. 1 in my book.”
The comic tale of Schafer’s road to becoming an interesting anecdote in SVSU history began decades earlier, in 1940s-era Old Town Saginaw. There, he and Argyle lived across the street from each other as children.
The pair was part of a larger group of neighborhood buddies who played baseball in nearby parks and walked to school together. Eventually, they grew apart, as childhood friends sometimes do. Life happened.
About two decades later, SVSU happened. There, the then-20-somethings crossed paths again during a day that remains fresh in Schafer’s memory. The exact month and date is lost upon Schafer nowadays, but it likely would have been late summer or early fall in 1964. That’s when SVSU scheduled its first class sign-up session in the basement of Delta College, which housed SVSU’s operations in its initial years.
In 1964, Schafer planned to sign up for those first classes. At the time, he was dating one of the secretaries charged with organizing the registration. Deciding to swing by her office first that day, he discovered massive amounts of material she and the registration team still needed to carry to the event, which was scheduled on the other side of campus in a basement hallway.
With chivalry in mind, Schafer scooped up as much material — paperwork, folders, pencils, etc. — as he could fit in his arms, then helped the registration team carry the load to the event. He helped organize the sign-up table and extended his offer to help even further.
“I said, ‘I can help sign up some of these people,’” Schafer said, referring to the growing line of students waiting for the proceedings to begin.
Again, his offer was accepted. To enlist his services immediately, he was given the first registration sheet to fill out for himself.
“It wasn’t a very fancy form,” he said. “You just put your name here, your address here, sign this there, and that was it.”
And he signed it. An employee certified both the form and Schafer’s place in SVSU’s history, writing “Student 001” in the corner of the sheet for record’s sake. On the next sheet, labeled “Student 002,” the next person in line applied a signature. The name that was signed:
“I should have clocked Bert in the nose for cutting in line,” Argyle said, tongue definitely in cheek.
Argyle said, in truth, she does not remember the occasion all these decades later, but believes Schafer’s account of how he became “Student 001.” Schafer, for his part, expressed regret for essentially cutting in line and taking his place in SVSU history.
“She might have been waiting there for hours, so I felt bad about that,” Schafer said. “I had no clue about the significance of what I was doing, though. I didn’t think about it at the time. Back then, virtually everything you did was a first for SVSU.”
Indeed. Despite the friendly folly that bumped Argyle from recognition as the first enrolled student, she later claimed her own standing among SVSU’s “firsts.” During the commencement ceremony for the institution’s original 10 graduates in April 1966, Argyle’s name was read before her classmates, including Schafer. His last name at an alphabetical disadvantage, he was unable to deny Argyle that day’s distinction.
“She got me on that one,” said Schafer, whose name was read eighth.