Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Iowa is what a University is to Me

Please Consider donating to the Iowa Red Cross. Eastern Iowa has been devastated particularly Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Like most Chicagoans when I arrived in Iowa City in the fall of 1985 I though I knew everything. I did not and I learned that Iowans are a different breed, rural, liberal, open minded and loyal. If any group of people can overcome these flood waters they are Iowa Hawkeyes. Watching the University of Iowa, my Alma mater being engulfed in floodwater's I was overcome by a deep sadness.
For me the University of Iowa will always immediately lead me back to the fall of 1985 when I first arrived there as a freshman. That fall of 1985 so many things that have become central to my life entered my understanding. I first fell in love with Thomas Merton, I learned about him from Professor David Klemm's classes. Merton in the Seven Storey Mountain talks about autumn on a college campus where all the classes look great and all is possible. That was certainly true for me. In my freshman year David Hamilton gave me a love for Ezra Pound, Lane Davis taught me to love politics. A simple art appreciation class taught me to love Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.
I was very blessed to be a freshman in Iowa City.
Many of my friends went to Ivy league schools and I got into a few of them myself but when I visited Iowa with my parents I fell for the place. There was something about the whole thing- it looked like a University. There was a spirit to the place and this filled everything. In the end I enjoyed every moment at Iowa. The crisp air and the football weekends and the art and the poetry readings all made my life fuller that it might have been otherwise.
I was living in Bolivia in 1995. While walking down the Paseo in Cochabamba on a cold June day in my old Iowa Champion sweatshirt an old man come running out of a cafe. He came up to me and in perfectly inflected Iowa English he said, 'Go Hawks'. Martin, a local Iowa graduate, and I became friends he was a 1937 graduate and he played on the Basketball team. Martin worked as a medical doctor in Bolivia and he never returned to the campus after he moved back to Bolivia. His first question to me was "is the Pentacrest still the same?"
So watching the waters rise made me think about where I have been in the 19 years since I graduated. Taking with me what I learned in that place and remaining always loyal and indebted to the University of Iowa. I also remember all the fun including some great football which is as much a part of Iowa City as the Writers Workshop or the Pentacrest. Iowa for me was what a University should be. Safe and challenging, open and tough, and mind expanding.
I have already sent my donation to her recovery....

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