to be continued

In the corner of a beautiful garden stands a bronze statue of a diminutive Greek figure clad in a kitchen apron. The expression on his face is warm and inviting. No rearing horse, no sword drawn in anticipation of an impending charge, nothing that signals either great achievement or noble purpose. Simply a man with a smile. Who was this common figure? At Lebanon Valley College, alums, students, and faculty can tell you in a heartbeat. His name was ”˜Hot Dog’ Frank and he was beloved.

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The owner of a small hot dog stand in town, Frank fed generations of students who had, and didn’t have, the price of a hot dog. His comment was, ”˜Pay me when you can.’ Then he’d deliberately forget just how much was really owed.

Frank Aftosomes was one of LVC’s greatest basketball fans, frequently jumping out of the stands to exhort the crowd – with his strong Greek accent – to cheer louder. In 1994, the Dutchmen were making a run at the National Championship against NYU – a true David and Goliath story. Sadly, Hot Dog Frank passed away just before that game, but the radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey, told “the rest of the story.”

At the last second NYU made a shot that apparently won the game. But the referees waved the shot off saying the buzzer had just sounded before the ball left the player’s hands. In overtime, the Dutchmen went on to victory over the heavily favored NYU team. And as Paul Harvey said, and lore would have it, ”˜Everyone that day knows whose finger was on that buzzer.’

In one form or another, every campus has such stories. These stories become part of the college’s lore and, as such, bind the community together over multiple generations. Special places on campus are opportunities to preserve the community’s memories and strengthen the bonds across generations.   Whether it’s the famous Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Notre Dame or the Algonquin maiden, Cuewe-Pehelle of the Lebanon Valley, these places are powerful reminders of a college’s longevity and stability.

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LVC statue

One can get a pretty clear indicator of which spaces on your campus constitute ”˜special places’ in the minds and hearts of your alumni and students. Where do families and friends take the most pictures when visiting campus? On Family Days, Parents Days, and Graduation Days, where are the commemorative photo opportunities most frequently occurring? Whether at the revered old oak, in the mascot garden, on the steps of Old Main, or at a beloved sculpture or grotto ”“ special spaces need to be treasured and elevated to the status of tradition.

As has often occurred with many campuses that evolved over decades, special spaces can be lost and so, the traditions and memories that accompanied them. Such was the case with Birmingham-Southern College. No singular place stood out as particularly evocative of the threads of the past.

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One solution was to create such a space. A perfect example was tied to the classic rite of passage of graduation and the new Urban Environmental Park. Within the park, a long walking bridge spanned a portion of the lake. In 2010, following the graduation ceremony, new graduates processed through the park and then each graduate walked across the bridge. This was a joyous moment and a wonderful photo opportunity for parents and friends. Now every graduate, past and future, will have this memory of crossing over.

Does your campus have long-standing traditions tied to special places?

Or do you need to create these spaces and traditions for tomorrow?

How will you tell the rest of the story?