by David Hoffman
- Last Monday, Co-Create UMBC featured a "Then & Now" post in which Craig Berger and I re-created a couple of old photos taken at the site of UMBC's original breezeway. In the foreground of a 1969 photo was a young couple. Their remarkable story had appeared on the Retriever Stories site, which is where I had first come across the photo. On Friday night, I was volunteering at the Student Events Board's outstanding Really Really Big Bingo Event:
My job was to stand near the food and tell people that the line could go on both sides of the buffet tables. There were dozens of round tables for the bingo players spread across the floor of the Retriever Activities Center, but only one was close to where I was standing. When the food line died down for a moment, I leaned over to greet a bearded man sitting at that table with his back to me. I guessed he was an alum from UMBC's early years, and was curious about his story. He said he graduated in 1970, and had met his wife (who was getting food at that moment) when they were both UMBC students. And ... I recognized him! He was the young man from that 1969 photo (see below). We had a great conversation about his time at UMBC and his life since.
Sharyn & Edward, 1969 (Source: UMBC's Skipjack yearbook, 1970, in the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery Digital Collections).
Edward & Sharyn, 2016
- On Saturday morning, I posted a Facebook status mentioning that I hoped I'd cross paths with Diane (Juknelis) Tichnell, class of 1970, who had written a remarkable reflection for UMBC's first Commencement program. And that's exactly what happened: We literally crossed paths on the UC Plaza, and I got to spend a few minutes learning the story of that text (which she'd had just 15 minutes to write, and never felt completely confident about) and UMBC's earliest years. Here's that reflection:
- At the end of the Roots of Greatness Luncheon in the UC Ballroom, we all stood to sing the UMBC Alma Mater. I've been hearing and singing the Alma Mater for 10 years (it was introduced at UMBC's 40th anniversary celebration), but in that Ballroom on Saturday, standing with faculty, staff and students from UMBC's earliest years, I was really moved by it for the first time. That second verse rang so very true, and felt so well earned: "Throughout the ages, our UMBC, songs and memories will echo with true clarity. Knowledge and wisdom and truth we found here, friendships we treasure that will last through the years ..."
- As Craig and I have been creating the Then & Now series, we've visited various spots on campus, trying to figure out exactly where some long-ago photographer stood, picturing the old buildings and walkways as they must have been. On Saturday I saw alumni from decades past attempting almost the reverse: living in their memories of the old buildings and walkways, and trying to figure out where they were standing now. I stopped to talk with a few, and heard stories that opened new windows on UMBC's past. One of them: a 1984 grad I met on the Commons Terrace was here for the construction of the new wing of the Biological Sciences Building (creating the breezeway). As we looked at that structure, she recalled that for weeks there were serious problems with construction workers catcalling female students as they walked past.
- Many of the students I've known in my 13 years here came back, and connecting with them was almost overwhelming: so many stories I wanted to hear, so many memories stirred, and too little time for a deep dive. Most powerful were the reflections of graduates who see clearly how they're making use of what they learned as student leaders. Connecting them with current students, many of them experiencing similar challenges or holding the same positions, was thrilling. My list of alumni with whom to follow up, and ideas about how to tap their wisdom and insights, is long. I wish we had had more time. I wish we could be together in one place whenever we wanted.
- The 13 years I've been at UMBC represent a decent fraction of the entire history of the university (and a somewhat larger fraction of my lifetime). That's long enough that I'm often the person in the room with institutional memory: the bearer of history. Sometimes I feel old, like an ambassador from a lost time. But not during the anniversary celebration. To the people who walked UMBC's paths before the concrete was poured, and who helped to create the culture and conditions that seem so natural we don't think of them as having starting points, I'm a latecomer. That's humbling and inspiring at the same time. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we all can be UMBC pioneers.
What are the experiences from UMBC's 50th anniversary celebration you don't want to forget?
I'll submit all responses to UMBC's 50th anniversary time capsule, which will be sealed in a few weeks and opened 50 years from now, on UMBC's 100th anniversary.
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