It’s been a long time since I visited my undergraduate college campus so when I received an invitation to attend a reunion = a coming together after a period of separation – I thought, why not? It would be fun to see the place, visit some favorite spots, see what has changed and celebrate with some others doing the same thing for the same reasons. I spent four years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, from 1955-1959. See what has changed! I could not recognize the place although I remembered a few buildings, High Street and some iconic, historic scenes like Slant Walk, Harrison and Upham Halls, and the Beta Bells, a set of four bells that chimed every quarter hour. If you knew the hour, you knew what time it was thanks to the Westminster chimes. Elliot and Stoddard Halls, two of the earliest buildings have been preserved, restored and stand as sentinels next to each other.
My freshman dormitory (Reid Hall) and my fraternity house (Sigma Chi) were both demolished to make room for new buildings and I can say honestly, the new buildings are better and serving a bigger purpose and population. Speaking of population, when I was a student there were only some 6,000 students. Now, there are approximately 19,000. And, the campus is a showplace of architecture and landscaping as well as some very strong academic programs. www.miamioh.edu
Another reason I wanted to visit was to spend time in the archives, doing research for a story I’m working on about a different kind of racism that ended tragically with a murder/suicide. That event was in May of my senior year and I remember it and some of the people involved very well. Suffice to say for now, that my time in the Walter Havighurst collection of the papers of the President at the time, Dr. John Millet, was rewarded with details that help fill in some of the blanks. My hope is to publish that story later this year. The story begins in 1818, just 9 years after the founding of the university. The library itself is impressive and has kept pace with the digital revolution.
Going back has its benefits as well as its burdens and I experienced both within a relatively short period of time. The benefits are shared memories and keeping stories alive and interesting. The burden for many is that time takes its toll on both people and institutions who do not stay healthy, vital and vibrant. In this case, the university is doing very well. Graduates beyond the age of 80, not so much. Next year is my 65th high school reunion and of the 165 graduates, only 100 are living and some of those are not in great shape. I am blessed to be as active as I am, able to go back and enormously grateful to continue going forward.
Going back is more active and visceral than merely looking back. When you take yourself physically to a place of memories, they stir the spirit for awhile and then it’s time to go on in the knowledge that those years of time, effort and energy were well spent. So, I return to the present, looking forward to the future. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity, and of the 24 years I spent in schools, the four years in Oxford were well worth every minute, at least most of them. garygruber.com/schooling-and-education
When you “go back” what do you learn?