A Place Apart, by Tom Griffin & Jon Marmor


Sylvan Theater and Columns. Click to enlarge.

Photo by Mary Levin. Click photo to enlarge.
It took me years to discover the columns on campus. I had heard they were "somewhere" near the Electrical Engineering Building, but I didn't have much interest in searching for them. So I often trudged by a wooded yard, not knowing of the delights waiting just a few feet away. When, on a summer's day, I finally stumbled upon the clearing that is the Sylvan Theater, I was astonished. How could this delightful spot be hidden away so easily? Soft, lush grass led to a natural platform with four Ionic columns, starkly white against the green background of fir trees. I couldn't help but stand for a moment on the platform and look down on the empty clearing. Then I touched a column and thought back to the founders of this university—working quickly in 1861 to put up a building and start classes before the next session of the territorial legislature. How, in their haste, had they found the time to hand-carve the fluting of these four columns out of Western cedar? I thought about alumni from 47 years later, trying to save the original building from the wrecker's ball and ending up with just these four columns. History Professor Edmond Meany and Dean Herbert T. Condon dubbed the pillars "Loyalty," "Industry," "Faith" and "Efficiency," the first letters spelling "LIFE." But to me they symbolize the dreams and aspirations of this university from 1861 to the present—that out of the wilderness would rise a great seat of learning, and that, like the original columns, it would be preserved for future generations.—Tom Griffin

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