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When United States Congresswoman Agatha Reed is notified that she will be awarded an honorary degree by Good Hope College for Women, from which she was expelled twenty years earlier for staying out all night, she immediately puts aside her busy schedule and dictates a letter of acceptance to her secretary, Woody. Agatha has fond memories of her romance with college president Dr. James Merrill, when she was a student and he was her professor, and wants to see if there is still a spark between them. Later, as she is packing, Agatha is surprised by Life photographer Matt Cole, whom she has not seen since she stood him up five years earlier in Paris when they were both war correspondents. Matt wants to rekindle their romance, and when Agatha discourages him, he decides to assign himself to cover her visit to Good Hope. At the college, Agatha is greatly moved by the sight of her former dormitory room and by the greeting of her dizzy former roommate, Ellen, who is married to influential college trustee Claude Griswold. Merrill's daughter, graduating senior Virginia, is also among Agatha's admirers, and from her, Agatha learns that Merrill is a widower. When Ginny discovers that her father had been Agatha's history professor, she hesitantly asks what kind of teacher he was, and then speaks warmly of her physics professor, Dr. Pitt, who challenges the students to expand their interests outside the narrow confines of the college. After Agatha is formally greeted by a reception committee, Merrill, who had proposed to Agatha the night before she was expelled, asks her privately why she disappeared without telling him, and she explains her fears that the scandal of his marrying a student would have ruined his career. Later, Agatha admits to Woody that she would marry Merrill immediately if he proposed. To Agatha's displeasure, Matt arrives at the college and meets his rival for her affections. Later, Pitt tells Matt that he will soon be leaving the school because Griswold disapproves of his teaching techniques, but promises a parting display of "fireworks" on Saturday morning. Ginny then begs Agatha to intervene on Pitt's behalf, and she agrees to meet with him. Pitt explains that Griswold fears open discussion and disapproves of his efforts to inform students about the world's problems. When Agatha advises him to fight for his principles, he replies that Merrill would never support him. This does not fit Agatha's memories of Merrill, and that night when he proposes again, she readily accepts. Meanwhile, Matt tells Woody that he fell in love with Agatha when they were both covering the liberation of Paris. He had intended to propose one night, but she did not keep the date. He then waits outside for Agatha to return, only to learn that she has become engaged. Determined to show Agatha that she is in love with a dream, Matt does some investigating and learns that a film Agatha made about the dangers of restricting intellectual freedom will be shown on Saturday. Intending to show her how backward the college is, Matt tells the reactionary Griswold about the film, and he immediately forces Merrill to cancel the showing. A tearful Ginny tells Agatha that she is ashamed of the compromises her father has made since he has become president. Later, Agatha argues passionately for her film and is stunned when Merrill will not stand up to Griswold. Angrily, she asks him by what right a trustee is allowed to make academic decisions and then reveals Ginny's feelings about him. When Merrill still maintains his position, Agatha insists that he show the film and in exchange, promises that she will never reveal the circumstances of her expulsion. Thus coerced, Merrill agrees. Deeply disappointed, Agatha starts packing, and Merrill accuses her of running away just as she did twenty years earlier. While they are quarreling, Ginny bursts into the room to thank her father for showing the film. When Agatha does not tell Ginny the truth behind the decision, Merrill does, and to his surprise, his honesty is lovingly accepted by his daughter. Agatha then learns that Merrill, understanding the truth of her charges, has resigned his position. She begs him to withdraw the resignation, and he then restates his love for her. She responds that under different circumstances, she might have reconsidered, but she realizes that she loves another man. Matt then returns, Agatha admits that he was right about Merrill, and they embrace.