Last week we sat in wonder as the presentation at the Anderson Hancock Planetarium unfolded across the dome above us. Beyond the incredible accomplishments of the Voyager missions to our planetary system, we were reminded of our own college community's achievements in recent decades, the planetarium itself being one of its principal wonders.
As one observer has noted, pioneers are also community builders, which is clear in the transformation that has taken place since we were two of the pioneers who joined the faculty in 1969. Fifth Street still bisected the campus from Putnam to Butler and private houses stood on campus along Fifth. A few modest advances to the physical plant in the decades from 1970 to 2000 were overshadowed by the unbelievable changes in the first 10 years of the 21st century.
A new recreation center, a library, and a housing facility were complemented by renovated and upgraded science facilities (including Anderson Hancock), a remodeled Fayerweather Hall, and freshened playing fields, all badly needed if the college hoped to compete in attracting new students each year. It is the young people, after all, without whom there would be no Marietta College. Each fall's somewhat uneasy new class matures over four years to excited seniors, still a bit uneasy, but now about to take on the world.
Jim and Mabry O’Donnell
Four decades of teaching at a small college like Marietta bring many joys; one of these is the layered friendships that have grown with students who become alums, faculty colleagues, and fellow citizens of the town. Over the years the graduates come back for reunions, call, write, email, text, and Facebook. More than a few will need a letter of recommendation, asking somewhat hesitantly if we would mind providing that support. Of course, we do not mind; it is a pleasure to have been a part of their lives.
The wheel often turns full circle, when, as this spring, the daughter of one of our first advisees will graduate and join that Long Blue Line where her mother walked several decades before. It's difficult to say who is more proud - the graduate, her mother, or her mother's advisor. Like the concentric circles started by a pebble in a pool, the current ring was set in motion much earlier, and in time the present graduates will transmit the motion toward the future.
That planetarium where we sat last week is the classic example of circles in movement. The principal donor was a student here, succeeded in life, wanted to give back, and therefore energized us with a gift that will keep the rings moving outwardly, perhaps in a figurative sense toward the stars. It was, after all, a Marietta graduate turned astronaut named Story Musgrave, who put the Hubble Telescope right, so we can photograph star worlds never before seen. No doubt in another half century, yet another Pioneer alum will steer the world toward the conquest of a different frontier.
Jim and Mabry O'Donnell are emeriti professors at Marietta College.