Honest Abe Shows Them How It's Done
I began my blip journey in mid-December of 2011, with a photo of this place. This is the interior of Penn State's Old Main. In that first picture, there was a Christmas tree in the lobby, bedecked with blue and white decorations; shining white lights cast their reflections on a sparkling-clean, freshly waxed floor.
In the background to that Christmas scene, you can see the main stairwell and just a wee bit of the Land Grant Frescoes above them. The Land Grant Frescoes are one of Penn State's treasures. Painted in the 1940s by Henry Varnum Poor, the frescoes are among the largest of their kind on any campus (learn more about the frescoes and see some more detailed shots here). But if you look closely at my first blip, you can see the heartbreaking state of disrepair that the frescoes had fallen into: huge white cracks run across the top and bottom of the central fresco image over the stairwell.
The University contracted with an external company to restore and preserve the frescoes last year, and in March 2012, they began their work (brief news story here). I've stopped by many times since then to watch the process, which has been fascinating (learn more about the restoration process here).
It had been pouring down rain on Friday morning - the start of our homecoming weekend - when I rode the bus to campus. It dropped me off behind the Libraries, and it is a short walk (maybe 10 minutes) from there to Old Main. I was curious to see how work was coming along on the frescoes, and so I headed right for them, walking down through campus under my purple umbrella.
And to my delight, I discovered that work had just been completed on restoring the frescoes in the prior week or so. Just in time for homecoming weekend! I walked up the main stairwell and took a good, long look at this central scene, in which Abraham Lincoln presents a rooted sapling to a young scholar.
If you are familiar with the history of the Land Grant institutions in the United States, you might remember that President Lincoln was the one who granted them life and breath in 1862, by signing the Morrill Land Grant Act. Penn State (a "farmers' high school" at the time) was one of several to receive this designation.
The Land Grant mission has always been special to me personally - something I take to heart - as one of the key roles it envisions for the University in the modern world is that of service to society.
I've spent enough time on history now, I think. So let me finish up by sharing where my own personal story intersects with this amazing and challenging mission (and those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning have heard this story before, so you can just cover your ears now and sing "neener-neener-neener" for a bit, but you'll want to come back and uncover those ears for the song at the end, at least, because it's a good one).
I am a first-generation Penn State college graduate from a rural central Pennsylvania family. In the early 1980s, I took a scholarship test and was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to Penn State that enabled me to become part of all of this. Without that scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to afford to attend college at all, anywhere.
I continued my own journey by joining the staff of Penn State upon my graduation, 27 years ago, and acquired an additional graduate degree along the way. As the twig is bent (or the young sapling is rooted, as the case may be), so grows the tree. And now I get to do my own part in making that mission come to pass. An amazing gift was given to me; I want to pass it on.
When I got on the bus that morning, I put on my iPod shuffle and I listened to several songs from the soundtrack of the movie Thelma & Louise. Something about this song seemed fitting to accompany this picture, and so I'll share it here. I've featured many Penn State images on this blog, perhaps most notably its lovely Arboretum, which is a favorite place.
This place is part of me and I am part of it. Intertwined, undeniably, forever. Penn State Proud. The song to accompany this photo is Glenn Frey, Part of Me, Part of You, from the Thelma & Louise soundtrack. (And this is another soundtrack where every single song is good.) Enjoy!