S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen


Smith College is an institution of many traditions, many of which cluster around commencement and reunion. The best of them involve good weather, so it was a real disappointment when cool drizzle set in to dampen all the usual outdoors events of this past weekend. Ivy Day just isn't the same when a large parade of white-robed women sit in a gym instead of processing through the sunshine and rows of rose-holding seniors. Illumination Night wasn't at all - it rained steadily, and the Chinese lanterns weren't even hung, let alone lit, on the rows of strung wire winding through campus. Commencement too was indoors, in the ITT instead of the ivied walls of the quad.

In the five years since I was last back, a few things have changed. The campus center was sorely needed when I was a student there; now there is one, a sinuous sky-lit space of white walls and fishbowl windows, spilling out of its walls to encompass a benched area on Chapin lawn. I liked the curves of the building, the fireplace, the convenience, the centrality. The retro chic '70s furniture seemed an unnecessary touch, however. Looking at it over the course of the building, I realized why it felt so raw: every other major building on campus has mature trees growing in front of it this time of year. Newly built, the campus center doesn't yet have that unifying screen.

With the bookstore and post office moved to center campus, the building which once housed them isn't necessary - and so is a very sensible site for digging the foundations for the new engineering building. There's a new parking garage somewhere (there was none before), but that's tucked away on a side street. The new version of the art museum looks good, pleasant space, a balance of skylight and walls, and the airy central courtyard now walled in to form a handy café space. Sidetracked in conversation, I never finished seeing the rest of the building and so missed what is apparently one of the place's highest highlights: the bathrooms.

Other moments of note:
  • In place of illuminations, a newly-met acquaintance and I spent a few late-night hours in the greenhouses, breathing in green and musing on Indian figs (prickly pears), Turkish corn (New World corn), and our unexpected talent for locating infesting slugs.

  • The Computer Science department's 3D printer is so nifty! 3D printing is meant for rapid prototyping and thus the results are no more durable than paper - even less so in some cases. The machine lays a layer of glue-bound starch 1/5 of a millimeter at a time to build up 3D computer-imaged forms. The resultant forms can be marvellously detailed; they can also be fully functional. It's possible to print ball bearings, for example, or rings locked into impossible knots or twisted into toroids. Printing Kepler's geometric map of the planet's spacing is entirely within this machine's capabilities.

  • Unfortunately, my class color is yellow. This means that if I continue to go to reunions, I will continue to accrue bright yellow objects; it's really not a good color for me.

  • I ran into more faculty with whom I'd studied while at Smith when I was at Kalamazoo last weekend, than when I was at Smith this weekend!

  • In German, "body bag" means "backpack". A "handy" is a mobile phone. Thus, one can have a "handy body bag".
Tags: reunion, smith

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