Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bye for now, McGill

Last evening I went by McGill Hall to pick up the last of our possessions from the faculty apartment — McGill 107. It was a wonderful home. Patricia and I would spread out in the big comfy chairs in the evenings, typically sharing the ottoman. Each of the chairs could seat three students during our more popular events, like yearly chocolate tastings or graduation brunches, with plates of food scrunched together on the short wooden bar. On occasion I’d hold Sunday brunches, and depending on the year, a few students who went to bed at 5:00 am would get up at 7:00 am to have my breakfast casserole and blueberry coffee, joining the church goers. Whether attendance was large or small, and it varied widely with year, the conversations were a pleasure.

I remember great friend Will Clendening bounding across the living room at six am on a Saturday morning, towards the blueberry coffee in the kitchen, before a few of us went for a ride out to Liepers Fork — it was a ride Will would not return from. I sat in that living room talking to a recovering addict wanting to remain clean. Patricia and I played board games on the floor with students on Thanksgiving evening, and I watched the first performance of a one-act play that had been drafted a few hours before by the playwrights who came knocking late one night. Tornado warnings brought students to the first floor hall, and we’d open the door of 107 for coffee.

The big chairs were good seating for the music in the practice room down the hall — bag pipes, opera, piano, rock — over the year we heard the improvement, particularly in the rock bands. The parties in the McGill Lounge inevitably spilled out into the first floor hallway. We could hear every conversation that happened outside our door, but none I recall was particularly scandalous. The bedroom has a great thick door, and with the excellent foam earplugs from the library and the door closed, getting to sleep on even the noisiest of nights wasn’t a problem. Students would ask about the noise, wanting I think to keep the noise down, but I told them that any faculty member who had a problem with occasional loud sustained party noise probably shouldn’t be living in a student residence hall.

The McGill Coffee Houses in the lounge were wondrous, dark, and packed with students and sometimes resident life staff. While they were late in my day, which generally start before 5:00 am, Patricia and I would often go for the first hour — the talent in McGill was amazing, and includes much music, poetry and other spoken word, rap, and much else.

Each year since 2004, then a faculty member in residence at the “old Kissam”, I would do McGill Hours. I recall Professor Retzlaff, then McGill’s faculty member in residence, attending my first hour, surrounded by students, obviously comfortable. I also loved attending the McGill Hours of other faculty members (weekly presentations or facilitated discussions by faculty from across campus); Patricia too. In any year, there is a good chance that I attended more McGill Hours than any student (not a putdown), excepting my three years at NSF in Arlington, Virginia, and even then, I would look to see if any Hours were happening on my return trips to Nashville.

McGill has been good to me, and Patricia. Its been a great jumping off point to events after hours across campus — a faculty member in residence is first and foremost the faculty’s ambassador in the residence life of campus. And you can’t beat the commute. I’ve been proud to be a McGillite — they tend towards the fearless side, they stand up for what they believe, and they have each others backs — that’s my experience.

People have suggested that Faculty Director at Warren College is a big step up, by which most mean the Warren faculty apartment, I think, and it is an honor to have been selected, and now moved into an amazing residential space. But being a faculty member in residence at McGill, and before that at the old Kissam and North, but particularly at McGill, was a dream come true — as cool as it gets. I almost didn’t apply for College Halls — my lifestyle was that awesome, but I learned from NSF that its good to shake things up from time to time, and that’s what motivates this move — change, and I hope growth. And Patricia is thrilled by the new space, and her satisfaction is second to none. I love the space too of course, but the space isn’t why we choose this life on campus.

Bye for now, McGill!