Penn State's Old Main
The very first blipfoto I posted showed the interior of this building: the Land Grant frescoes, and a Christmas tree decorated in blue and white.
This is Old Main, Penn State's chief administrative building. The original building was completed in 1863, with much help from a famous Kentucky mule named Old Coaly, whose bones were preserved and are on display in the HUB.
That original "main building," as it was then called, was torn down in 1929, and replaced with the current Old Main building in 1930. It was built at least in part with limestone quarried from directly in front of the building.
The bell (no longer a real bell, but a digital one) chimes out over campus on every quarter-hour. The bell from the original bell tower is displayed nearby. And that little statue that you see in front of the building between the two sets of steps is the armillary sphere: a series of concentric rings balanced on the back of a green and quite weathered turtle.
The Old Main lawn is a chief gathering place for major events on campus. When there are protests, or speeches, or candlelight vigils, they often happen here. When the media want to feature coverage of Penn State news events, this is the building they often show.
These first few paragraphs give you facts that you can find anywhere on the Web. Now let me share my own personal experience.
Tuesday was one of those picture-perfect, blue-sky (yes, the sky actually WAS that very shade of blue!) days, cold enough that there was almost zero humidity in the air. Not a single cloud in the sky. Perfect and crisp for picture-taking, in that way that you usually only get in winter. Heartbreakingly beautiful, but cold.
As it was winter, there weren't people hanging out on the Old Main lawn sunning or playing frisbee, as they tend to do in summer. In July, during Arts Festival, big, colorful tents are set up on the Old Main lawn, and local musical artists perform. The place is transformed into a carnival, with children playing, people eating all kinds of tasty snacks, and pretty girls in flowered dresses dancing with wild abandon to a reggae band, or a folk band, or a rock band, under a starlit sky. Love is in the air, and there are people stealing kisses behind the trees.
When I was a student at Penn State in the early 1980s, coming from a very rural area, I was at first overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the Penn State campus. I got lost a few times, but then I learned some of the landmarks to navigate by; and this is surely one of them.
I came to this campus a homesick, starstruck 17-year old. My family was poor, and I had never thought I would have the opportunity to go to college. However, during my junior year in high school, a guidance counselor convinced me to go to Penn State to take a scholarship test.
I was so nervous the night before it that I almost made myself sick; I was up most of the night, and was afraid I might be unable to show up to take the test. However, I did; and based on the results of that test and SAT scores, I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship that has made so much else in my life possible. Academically speaking, I was Cinderella, finally come to the ball.
Upon finishing my degree in 1986, I applied for and got a job at Penn State, and I have worked here ever since. In the 1990s, while working full-time, I acquired a graduate degree along the way.
Penn State is dear to me; it is an inextricable part of who I am. For me, my Penn State experience has been a doorway to the land of hopes and dreams.
And when I walk the campus on a perfect blue-sky day, I catch my breath and step outside of time: I am 17 once again, with all of my life and every possibility before me.