Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reunion Time

Soon, I will attend the 50th reunion of my college class of 1961 an event I'm looking forward to.
While not a native Virginian, many of my genealogical 'cousins' were, as were several of our nation's founding fathers; Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington among them.
Hmmm, ever wonder what they might think about how we've evolved?
But I digress; maybe that's another blog...

One thing that would likely be pleasing is the quality of education now available at places like the University of Virginia, where I was very fortunate to matriculate with the assistance of a Navy ROTC scholarship.
That school has also reflected the steady, but often difficult progress of history through changes in issues such as diversity, civil rights and sustainable funding.

A few reflections:
At the time I attended, UVA was essentially an all-white men's school of about 5000, with 200 or so women nursing and graduate students who were called 'Guests of Mr Jefferson's University'. Can you believe that?
Also, not many 'people of color' were in evidence.

Although classified as a 'State University', UVA only received about 30% of its funding from the State of Virginia, a situation that has consistently worsened until now, when the % has declined into single digits. [sound familiar?]
UVA was losing out on funding from competition with VA Tech and other schools, so it launched an aggressive -and thankfully successful- campaign to provide a large endowment fund from donors. Now, this endowment -in the billions- ranks very high among public universities; over $120,000 per student.

Hide-bound traditions are something else.
So-called 'Ivy League drop-outs' liked to continue 'traditions' for their own sake, sometimes at the expense of normalcy.
Such artificial standards had the effect of idolizing past myths and perceptions, rather than of establishing more rational and inclusive ideas as the 'raison d'entre' for a college.
While there is some appeal to such tradition, it's past time to 'get real'.
Fortunately, that has occurred.

After 50 years, what really counts for me are these:

• gaining an excellent education
• retaining an appreciation for what it takes for consistently delivering values deserving of higher education
• a sense of honor, truth-based knowledge and fair judgement
• a sense of belonging to alma mater, traditions of excellence and lasting friendships
• an amazing head-start in life, career and citizenship

This writing, penned in 1903 by James Hay, Jr, pretty much sums it up:

The University of Virginia writes her highest degree on the souls of her sons.
The parchment page of scholarship -the colored ribbon a society- the jeweled emblem of a fraternity- the orange symbol of athletic prowess- all these, a year hence, will be at the best the mementoes of happy hours- like the withered flower a woman presses between the pages of a book for sentiment's sake.

If you live a long, long time, and hold honesty of conscience above honesty of purse;
And, turn aside without ostentation to aid the weak;
And treasure ideals more than raw ambition;
And track no man to his underserved hurt;
And pursue no woman to her tears;
And love the beauty of noble music and mist-veiled mountains and blossoming valley and great monuments-
If you live a long time, and keeping the faith in all these things hour by hour, still see that the sun gilds your path with real gold and that the moon floats in dream silver;

Remembering the purple shadows of the lawn, the majesty of the colonnades, and the dream of your youth, you may say in your reverence and thankfulness:
"I have won the honors of Honor. I graduated from Virginia."

"The Good Old Song" was written in 1893. Sung to the familiar tune of "Auld Lang Syne," it has since served as UVa's unofficial alma mater. Although the words to the song are attributed to the late Edward H. Craighill, Jr., of Lynchburg, Va., Craighill wrote in the October 1922 issue of the University of Virginia Magazine that "no one man should be credited with the authorship" of the first stanza. He said it was a byproduct of a welcoming home of a victorious football team and was the joint production of several students. The cheer "Wah-hoo-wah" was in vogue with the student body and was incorporated into the song.

The song is most frequently heard during home football games as Cavalier fans stand and sway, arm-in-arm, singing "The Good Old Song" after each Virginia score and at the end of the game. The song is also sung at numerous other UVa athletic events and University- related functions.

That good old song of Wah-hoo-wah,
We 'll sing it o 'er and o 'er.
It cheers our hearts and warms our blood
To hear them shout and roar.
We come from Old Virginia,
Where all is bright and gay.
Let's all join hands and give a yell,
For the dear old UVa.
Uni-v, Virginia,
Ray! Ray! U-V-A!