The professors (traditionally and affectionately known as tutors at St John's College): they were so much more colorful than I and my colleagues elsewhere. Maybe that's why I was turned down. We had one guy who was about 6'6", a hunchback, who'd survived persecution in some Eastern Bloc nation (Hungary or Romania, I forget), who (at his request) had his office in the belltower at the top of the oldest campus building. Another tutor did tai chi in the fog on the field at 7am. One lady tutor had translated a lot of captured Nazi documents after WWII. Another was a brilliant scholar, but her English was not colloquial, so any idioms or current pop culture references had to be explained to her, and she still wouldn't quite get them. All colorful.
The students: We weren't too far behind on colorfulness. We'd pull a prank on Mortimer Adler every year when he'd come to give an (interminably long) lecture. We'd stay up till dawn, talking Nietzsche and Socrates, Kant and Virgil. We'd build a 20' tall Trojan horse on the quad. We'd pull the freshmen out of class once/year and get them drunk. We put a big ball on top of the observatory and dressed the whole structure in a grey suit, so it'd look like one of the tutors (who was very short and round himself).
Were we smarter than my current batch of students - mostly commuters, most working full time while going to school? Maybe a few of us (certainly not me). Were we members of an intellectual elite, educated to do great things? Judging by how most all of us have gone on to crashingly ordinary lives of 9-5 jobs, paying mortgages, and raising kids - I don't see how.
But what I think we had, what I remember most about those days, and which I have kept since, and which I don't see very much in young people today: I had a sense of wonder instilled in me there - at ideas, and words, and images, and people. Maybe I had that when I was very young, but I think by the time I'd gotten to college, I'd lost a lot of it, but it all came back, and with a new awareness and a new ability to articulate and analyze that wonder. I don't know if my students have that. And if I were to pity them for anything, or feel superior to them in some way, it'd be that.
EDIT: Looks like my friend, fellow teacher, and fellow writer Matt Cardin, reflected on similar issues - using quotations from famous people, rather than anecdotes, but to the same point.