by Arielle Willett, Class of 2015
Working in Special Collections, you see all kinds of mysterious material come across the desk. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a collection of letters addressed to Sheldon Zalkind during his time in the military during World War II. He graduated Lehigh Class of 1945, and was a member of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, participated in university productions, and served in the military at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Camp Lee, Virginia. He continued on to get his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1945, and his doctorate from NYU in 1951 before becoming a professor of Psychology at City College of New York. Among the 40 letters were ones from his mother, his friends from school, and his fraternity brothers, and a few postcards and newspaper clippings.
These kinds of collections are an especially important part of Special Collections because of the insight they provide into a different time period. The letters describe a time in history, and contribute to our understanding of the era, not to mention their contribution to Lehigh’s history- letters written by the Pi Lambda Phi brothers talk about their exams, their plays, their social life, the ‘must see’ movie of the year… all details that would have been lost had they not been preserved here.
As a student, reading the letters really made me think about my own time here. While handwritten letters are few and far between nowadays, every one of us sends thousands of texts, Facebook messages, and emails during our years at Lehigh. Like Zalkind’s friends, we write about campus events, social affairs, inside jokes. These letters were written almost seven decades ago, and yet here they are, mirroring our own lives.
The Zalkind Letters, along with other rare and historical documents, can be found in Special Collections at Linderman Library. To see or learn more about any of these documents, please contact Special Collections.