Since then, I have returned only a few times, and aside from one two-week seminar, nearly all of those visits lasted only about as long as it takes to watch a football or basketball game. Even those visits stopped more than two decades ago, and my …
There was a time when the University of Wyoming campus was the center of my world.
That, as you can probably tell from the color of my whiskers, was a long time ago. It’s been almost 50 years since I matriculated at UW and spent four years of study, work and play on or near that campus. Later, I spent five summers doing graduate study in Laramie, but I finished that a long time ago, too, almost 40 years in fact.
Since then, I have returned only a few times, and aside from one two-week seminar, nearly all of those visits lasted only about as long as it takes to watch a football or basketball game. Even those visits stopped more than two decades ago, and my last trip to Laramie was a mid-90s excursion to attend a niece’s graduation.
Over the past weekend, though, my permanent roommate and I spent the night in the old college town, and Monday morning we took a walk around Prexy’s Pasture for old times’ sake. It was at UW that we met, after all, and it was on a similar walk, albeit somewhat later in the day, that we first began to discuss marriage.
As one might expect, there have been many physical changes since the day I registered for my freshman year. The trees are taller, for one thing, and a street no longer circles Prexy’s Pasture. Attractive landscaping has replaced it, making the open space look more like a park.
Curiously, my wife and I had different perceptions of those changes. She thought Prexy’s Pasture looked smaller; I thought it looked bigger.
A few of the buildings are basically unchanged since I first saw them in 1962. Additions — not all of them attractive — have been added to many others, though, and at least one has changed so much that I had a hard time recognizing it. Some, including the residence hall my wife lived in and two others that I lived in, no longer house students, and are used for offices and other purposes now. There are new buildings visible from the Pasture, as well.
The physical changes were not surprising to me, since many of them began while I was an undergraduate student in response to changing realities. As a freshman, for example, I donned a brown and gold beanie during registration at the suggestion of a football player, whose name I have forgotten, who was handing them out. Traditionally, freshmen wore those beanies for a week or two, but mine came off within an hour, and the tradition died a quiet death within the next year or two. Within another year, another tradition, the requirement that we wear coats and ties to dinner in the cafeteria, went by the wayside.
My class was one of the last to enter UW before the arrival of the baby boomers. During my four years, the student body grew larger, and a bigger percentage of it was female. UW had to build more residence halls and juggle space to fit in all the students, even to the point of housing men and women in the same dormitory, a novel idea back then.
Those four years were eventful on the national and world stage as well. Some of those events, such as an invasion of Beatles that altered ideas, not just about music, but about haircuts as well, were simply fun. More serious were the almost nightly news reports of conflict over racial segregation and the expansion of civil rights.
Then there were the really ominous events: a president assassinated and a small Asian nation slowly becoming a huge concern. Both would have profound, long-term effects on the nation.
I thought about those days as I walked around Prexy’s Pasture Monday morning. My student teaching experience came back to me as we passed the education building, and walking by the Arts and Science Building called to mind the concert that taught me to love classical music. The old Commerce and Industry building where I studied economics has been replaced, but walking by the site reminded me that the first computer I ever laid eyes on had been housed in that building, a huge contraption that probably had less computing power than the one I’m typing on today.
Near the end of our walk, we sat for a moment near the Student Union, and I looked down the Pasture at the Arts and Science Building, and, for a moment, I was back in the early ’60s, thinking about the four years that went a long way toward shaping my life. UW is no longer the center of my world, but my four years there remain a big part of who I am. They were pretty good years, and they have given me a good life.
And the best part of that life shared that walk with me Monday morning.