of faith, you might have had the psalmist in
mind, too, lifting up your eyes unto the hills.
You were well read, I know, and may also
have been thinking of Thoreau climbing
Mount Katahdin in 1846. His account of that
ascent came to mind when I climbed Mount
Monadnock in 1978, unaware then that this
university was rising some 3,000 miles to the
west. In the midst of my journey, I recalled
Thoreau wondering if Pamola, the angry
spirit of Katahdin, would allow him to attain
the summit. He made his way up, breathless,
scrambling among a tumble of immense
boulders, “a giant’s stairway,” he wrote, watching
the clouds swirl and thicken, then break to
reveal an orange sky and then close again, dawn
swallowed by darkness. In such a place, Thoreau
imagined, Atlas once stood. Here was the raw
material of the valleys, a place of the gods, not
yet prepared for their human children.
You must have felt that way at times, Dr.
Todd, as you strived to make a glorious college
of brick and stone, of soul and sinew, of mind
and spirit, out of those desolate 40 acres
of mud and brush at what is now 15th and
Alder. I have sometimes felt that way, nearly
a century later. Many of us have, who also
stood on the path you made, took the trail
you opened for us. We have all been driven by
dreams, armed with plans, and drawn by hope
and great expectations.
Through it, all of us—students, faculty,
staff—have taken our inspiration not from
the mountains that surround us but from The
Mountain that rises above us. When it shows
itself, at least. And, perhaps even more, when
it withdraws from view. It is no less there,
holds no less power, when invisible. Tahoma,
as the native peoples call it, can mean “place
of unseen powers” and also “where the waters
begin.” Our towering firs are its silent sentries,
gesturing toward the summit. Seen and
unseen, The Mountain is always there for us,
always will be. Our guardian and guide, calling
us to its heights as it catches our breath in an
instant of sudden surprise and revelation. Here
we hear what John Muir heard: “The Song of
God, sounding on forever.”
We have learned from you and from those
who followed you that even if the path is not
straight, it is distinct. And we do not travel it
alone. The way, we know, is precipitous and our
progress never as swift as we would wish. But
the vision that inspired you inspires us, too.
The call just as clear. We are still on our way.
Still getting there. One hundred and twenty-five
years is the time we have traveled that singular
and sinuous trail you walked upon. But the
distance we have come together is harder to
measure. Cannot be measured. A more critical
calculation is the path of the ascent still ahead.
We know the direction. Our footing is secure,
and our eyes are lifted up. We promise to keep
on keeping on. And we thank you for pointing
the way.
Ronald R. Thomas
The site of the present
Puget Sound campus as
it appeared to Edward H.
Todd in 1920.