Some of us are still waiting for the tomatoes to ripen.
It was one of those summers in the Pacific Northwest when the sun decided to
go somewhere else. Seemed like we couldn't secure three good days in a row
of unequivocal sunshine or pristine blue sky. Temperatures never let us
break a genuine sweat. And remember those endless daily sunsets over the
Olympics that linger on toward midnight with an orange glow on the horizon?
This year they most often dissolved into a haze around 8 p.m. without the
customary fanfare. We got more than the average number of visits from rain
and fog, too, normally the familiar companions of our other three seasons.
Not really complaining, mind you, when you think about the heat waves and
floods and tornadoes and drought that plagued the rest of the country.
At least it's calm and quiet on a college campus in the summer, right? Like
a beautiful, abandoned resort, all to yourself. Well, that tomato didn't
ripen either. Summer is always super busy on the Puget Sound campus, but
this summer was a humdinger. The singing of birds and the buzzing of bees
was drowned out by the roar of machinery and the pounding of hammers (along
with the gentle rhythm of some falling rain).
June and July offer a brief window to take care of improvements we can't
address when 2,700 students and 250 faculty are on campus trying to teach,
learn, rehearse, practice, eat, sleep, and do research during the school
year. This summer we really went at it--breaking ground for the new Center
for Health Sciences on the last day of final exams in May, and on the
morning after Commencement we started moving 22,000 cubic yards of earth
from the site. We quickly poured more than 2,000 cubic yards of concrete for
the building's foundation and brought in a towering crane to lift 380 tons
of steel into the air and install 95 tons of rebar in seven days. We drilled
40 geothermal wells in the ground, each 330 feet deep (that's 13,200 feet of
drilling--4 miles worth) to keep our new building working efficiently and
staying friendly to the environment. By July the complete (and beautiful)
shape of the four-story building was already peeking out from behind the fir
trees at the east end of Peyton Field. A humdinger.
On the other end of campus we renovated, remodeled, or improved four
residence halls in 90 days. That's 220,000 square feet of space under
construction all at once (about 15 percent of the facilities that make up
the campus), all to enhance the living quarters for 315 on-campus
students--almost 20 percent of our total residents. We laid 55,000 feet of
new flooring in those halls, applied 2,500 gallons of paint, put in 400 new
mattresses, improved the speed of network data access to 469 students, and
installed new furniture for 544 on-campus residents. By the time the 626 new
freshmen arrived on August 20, the network was up, the paint was dry, and
the beds were ready for their new occupants.
It was never very lonely on campus this summer. More than 300 workers and
contractors were wearing their hard hats and carrying their lunch buckets to
campus each morning, with Puget Sound helping out the local economy by
creating 250 construction jobs (putting in 216,000 hours of labor).
And it wasn't lonely for the construction workers either. They were
surrounded by 7,500 visitors who converged on campus to attend 37 different
conferences (ranging from western American historians to Pacific Northwest
cheerleaders). Then, over 450 alumni gathered for our first-ever Summer
Reunion and Alumni College, along with 1,000 young athletes who attended
eight sports camps in basketball, football, volleyball, and swimming. Summer
Academic Challenge once again brought Tacoma public high school and middle
school students to campus to excite them about learning math and science and
to prepare them for successfully going on to college.
Sixty-eight Puget Sound students earned summer research grants this year,
many working right here with faculty on projects in their labs and at their
computers--and some traveling as far away as Zanzibar or Granada, Spain.
Faculty taught 52 summer courses, too (not counting Alumni College), and the
Admission Office welcomed another 7,000 prospective students and families.
While Mary and I were here for most of the action over the summer, we also
managed to log about 36,000 miles in travel for the university between May
and August, visiting alumni, parents, donors, prospective students, and
families, sharing the excitement about what is happening here year-round.
Summer is no time for vacation on this college campus. All the energy
expended and work accomplished represent vital aspects of who we are and
what we are about at Puget Sound--as good scholars, as responsible citizens,
and as an increasingly impressive and energetic residential learning
community. This beautiful campus that we have been making an even better
place is built for the people who do the important work inside the
buildings, and often out of view. The demands of providing a leading-edge
and all-encompassing educational experience, the exciting innovations made
possible by technology, and the increasingly competitive market for students
all require an attractive campus physical plant and an efficient
infrastructure to create the stage for the effectiveness of a top quality
faculty, an innovative curriculum, and the expression of Puget Sound's
signature personal touch.
In that respect, it was a really great summer--one of the best we've ever
had. All we did was essential to the process of our coming of age, the
realization of our real potential as an outstanding academic
community--coming into our full ripeness as a college of genuine distinction.
It was some summer, all right. But I must admit: I did miss the tang of the
occasional juicy ripe tomato in my salad on some of those chilly summer