Monday, October 08, 2007

Visiting Buildings

As the parent of a college-bound high school senior, I'm enjoying school hunting season. Today we stalk the campus of SIU Carbondale on a day the University has set aside just for this sort of thing. We joined a few hundred other prospective students and their parents in presentations and tours designed to convince us that all life begins in Carbondale. And it's true, so I had no problem with the concept.

I went with my daughter on the dull, off-putting official tour of campus, but then later took her on the real tour that will make any future academic swoon. It seemed to work, she really, REALLY likes the campus. But, hey, it's her decision. Last week she was all in love with Eastern Illinois University after visiting there. So who knows. (Confsing her more, we ate at Booby's on the way out of town, but then Charleston has a Chick-Fil-A.)

One of the things we did this morning was sit through a bunch of presentations by university folk like an admissions person, financial aid administrator, and so on. On of the speakers, the women's basketball coach, we sent up tot he podium to sell us on the school. She boasted about how great SIU was and how those others school probably weren't as good and blah, blah, blah. She also went into how SIU, it's students, the city of Carbondale and it's residents are all sort of melded into one community. And from my experience years ago, I have to agree with that. It helps that about everyone in Carbondale who isn't student, works for the university or some retail outlet that caters to students. So, yes, there is much love all around. One thing she forgot though is that the university/city also melded into the natural beauty of the area from the southern edge of the campus right into the Shawnee National Forest. At least that's the way I fhave always felt about it. But whatever, she got most of it right.

However, the coach said one thing that kind of, I don't know, bothered me I guess. Talking about that sense of community and acknowledging that many in the audience who had brought there kids were SIUC alum themselves, she said we like to return, not for the buildings but for the people. Uh, yeah, maybe. In the general sense; there are fine people there, I just don't know any of them anymore. If you've been away even half as long as I have, there isn't anyone left who you knew back when. My friends who were students have all long since left to live life and the many teachers and campus workers I knew have all either retired or died. So when she said we don't come back to see the buildings, well, some of us do.

Most of the SIU campus looks just as it did 25 years ago. There are a few new buildings (Life Science III) and a few others showing a bit more age (Faner Hall), but for the most part it's the same . Today when I gave my daughter the tour she could use, I had no problem navigating my way around. I still know the campus like the back of my hand, all the buidings, all the paths -even through Thompson Woods. And it felt good to be back. It always does. Even if all that is left from my era are the buildings. Nothing wrong with that, coach.