Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Farewell and a Comeback

Marywood University is tearing down its old library.  I'm okay with that.  Its time had come.  It was too small and too old for a contemporary university. 

The old library housed Marywood's radio station and television facility.  It was my first radio station.  I was on the air there from December 1979 to January 1983, so there is some sadness in watching the demolition.

The photo below was taken Friday morning.  The yellow X represents what used to be the entrance to the radio and TV area from the east side of the building.  The actual radio and TV studios were to the just to the right of the X, but on the west side of the building.

The antenna is on the roof, visible in the photo below up on the left.  I've been a broadcaster for nearly 40 years.  I still get a kick at looking at those hunks of metal on the roof, or up on a mountain, and thinking "my voice and my work comes out of those things."

I'm not a fan of the new library.  It's the wrong building on the wrong site.  It's a glass and steel monstrosity, in a traditional brick and stone world, that screams "inappropriate."  It slices the campus in half.  I suspect the effect will not be as severe once the old library comes down.

I remember the first time in the radio and TV  section of the old library-- a separate area in the back.  I can still hear the teletype, hear the slam of the heavy glass and wood doors, the aroma of the carpeting and the soundproofing material on the walls.  New radio stations are computers and monitors.  Old radio stations were magic.

The radio station is now in the new library, buried in the sub basement.  I remember asking construction workers where I could find it, when I was wandering around before the official opening.  The reply:  "It's down in the bomb shelter."  Marywood missed a golden opportunity when it buried its communication facilities.  They could have been glassed in, at ground level, adding to the vitality and brightness of a modern university, a focal point, a voice.  Someone gave past administration some bad very advice.

When I looked at the old building in pieces, I didn't think a lot of the on-air appearances.  I thought of the people and the friendships made here.  This is where we hung out between classes, worked on projects together, had some laughs, talked about our dreams...

I'll pass along one story from graduation day.  I was walking back to my car, after receiving my diploma, and I decided to stop by the radio station one final time.  Al Piela, now Mr. Ocean City (Google it) was on the air.  We had a brief chat.  Al's a great guy.  I had to get moving because I had to be at my real job, WARM, at midnight.  I said to AL, "Well, I have to go now."  He responded by singing "Go Now" by the Moody Blues as I walked out the door.
While I was on my little photographic expedition Friday morning, several members of the demolition crew recognized me.  I explained that my first radio station was in the building they were tearing down.  One asked if I wanted a brick.  I accepted, gladly.  That's my brick at the bottom corner of the photo above.  I'll treasure it.

Now, the comeback, and it was a snappy comeback at that.    Marywood's student news web site has a post semester ritual of grading the university.  In the past two years, Marywood received a D.  As I noted last year, I can imagine some high school student in a library, or at home, researching places to go to college.  He or she comes across the D story.  Next, please.  Don't gloss over your problems.  Discuss them openly and honestly.  Find solutions.

This year, an improvement, a C.  Plusses:  an increase in transparency and communication.  On the negative list, the decision to chain off snow covered sidewalks, rather than risk damaging them with rock salt.

Kids, I have news for you.  If maneuvering your way around a snow covered sidewalk is among your biggest problems, you have it pretty good.

The student web site put a link to the C story on Twitter.  A Marywood authority figure responded by saying, and I'm paraphrasing, that the C is on the students as well because we are all a community.  Bravo!  I went back a couple of hours after I saw the post.  I was going to copy, cut and paste the authority figure's response here, but it's gone.

Full disclosure:  I'm a Marywood graduate.  The current president was my freshman year French professor, a woman I respect a great deal. 

Marywood has done some silly things in the recent past.  They have been documented here and elsewhere.  Money problems, enrollment issues, friction between administration and faculty, accreditation scares, waste...

The university has also done a lot of good things

I do drop in on occasion and there are some good memories on that hill.  The university has lost its way, but it won't get back on the right path with everyone going in different directions.