This summer took Mary and me on a magic carpet ride to Istanbul for a few days. Yes, we did buy a carpet while we were there, despite our resolution beforehand that one thing we definitely would not do was buy a carpet. Well, we did. But we got a lot more from this trip: a sense of the complex the interweaving of historical forces that make everything look slightly different.

In the changing names of the city--from Byzantium to Constantinople to Istanbul (and several more in between)--you can trace 3,000 years of Greek, Roman, Christian, Islamic, and secular history. And you can see it no more eloquently expressed than in the magnificent cathedral called Hagia Sophia
("holy wisdom") in the very center of the old part of "The City." From its dedication in 360 A.D., and for more than 1,000 years, the central dome of this spectacular paradigm of Byzantine architecture was the largest globally, making this cathedral of the Latin empire a wonder of the world. The current building, rebuilt between 532 and 537 by Emperor Justinian after riots destroyed the original, was constructed from monumental pieces of pagan temples plucked from sites around the Roman Empire to demonstrate
Christianity's overcoming of the pagan world. It is a brilliantly successful pastiche and an architectural marvel.

One more critical layer was added to the history of Hagia Sophia with the conquest of the city by the Ottomans in 1453 when Sultan Mehmed II demanded the cathedral be transformed into an Islamic mosque. Its glittering mosaics were plastered over, the icons and altar removed and destroyed, the seraphim faces were obscured, and four towering minarets were added around the outside of the dome. Hagia Sophia became the model for all the great Ottoman mosques for 500 years until, in 1935, the newly formed secular Republic of Turkey declared the site a museum. Today you can see spaces throughout the
the building where the plaster has been peeled away to show fragments of the stunningly beautiful mosaics that once illuminated the entire interior.

Gazing up at this heavenly dome in the center of a city that for centuries has functioned as a strategic link between the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Aegean, forming the "Golden Horn" that bridges Europe and Asia, you can't help but feel history all around you. Enveloped in it, on a
magic carpet ride.

The trip made the events of this spring back on campus seem somehow different to me. Just before Commencement, we broke ground for our newest addition to campus--the remarkable Center for Health Sciences. The moment of turning the earth seemed important to me at the time. But now--without any
mosaics or frescoes, no minarets or domes in the plans--it all seemed downright historical. We were making way for a great new academic facility designed to echo the historic Tudor Gothic style of our campus, an architecturally significant building designed by one of America's most celebrated architects, a place where research and teaching about the mind and the body will take place, where human behavior and human health will be explored and understood, and where functioning clinics will provide care and
healing to patients as well as offer training for future practitioners.

But that's not all. We will now finally remove the U.S. Army Quonset huts we acquired in 1948 and added to the south end of campus as a five-year temporary fix to accommodate the college's rapid growth following World War II when so many veterans returned ready to take advantage of the GI Bill. In place of those buildings, we will construct an impressive new pathway--Commencement Walk--winding its way from Collins Library to Memorial Fieldhouse, unifying the campus north to south in a way it has never been.

When I returned to campus and saw the new building taking shape, I began to see those temporary buildings, inadequate to their purpose and an eyesore after standing in place more than 60 years beyond their time, as something much more. They were an affirmative gesture of faith in this college's history, a looking forward to that eventual day of groundbreaking--a day longer in coming than anticipated back in 1948. Still, one envisioned even then and finally made good upon, now a part of that same history. They were built into disappearing.

I was reminded of all this by our first-ever summer reunion that took place on-campus in June when we brought together the classes ending in zero and five to take charge of the entire campus again and remember their student days as they celebrated what came next. In this year's "Golden Logger" class,
the Class of 1960 was the first to enter the College of Puget Sound but graduate from the University of Puget Sound. Talk about historical stories from those returning former students--who have become attorneys, physicians, museum directors, developers, teachers, activists, and business people--recounted the profound influence of professors on the course of their lives, lifelong friendships forged here, voyages of self-discovery embarked upon, partnerships developed, romances kindled, talents awakened, careers secured.

Those stories and the people who tell them are the warp and weft of this college's history, the invisible architecture of its master plan, the shining mosaics beneath its plaster. Weaving together the personal histories of individual lives into the university's long historical development, they are expressions of faith in this college's future that will make the magic carpet ride of our history continues for generations to come. By the way, we got an amazing deal on that Turkish carpet.