Earlier this week, I received a Facebook message from BarnettShoals, who asked me to post the following for his Dawgography:
Come with me now, fellow Citizens of the Bulldog Nation, as I Seek and Inquire into the nature of my Thing for the University of Georgia.
The first memory I have as a student at the University is from my sixth year. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the programs offered by the Torrance Center, part of the College of Education, seated in Omar Clyde Aderhold Hall.
The timing of these classes was very nice in the fall, for they were held on Saturday mornings. So while I was taught Chinese or Spanish or video production, or even principles of law, my parents were able to have a nice morning’s tailgate. In those days of the late Seventies and early Eighties, virtually every game kicked off at one o’clock. So after a morning of mind expansion came an afternoon of chest expansion, whether for the purposes of hollerin’ or thumpin’, depending on the moment and the outcome of the game.
Many is the tale of an old alum that begins with trips by train or car or bicycle or even foot to that majestic edifice over Tanyard Creek and continues with four or eight or twelve or a lifetime’s worth of years as a participant in the active, formal life of the philosohpical institution that rises from both banks of the Tanyard, whether northerly towards our humane strivings, or southerly towards the good earth, or even easterly towards the practical application of beauty in thing and sound.
West lies the Insitute, which I already regret mentioning, Kyle.
Perhaps the best antidote to looking to the West in just that way is to look out the window by which I am composing this letter. It is a second story window in a building that houses the Taco Stand on Broad Street, and though the trees of north campus I can make out the roof of Phi Kappa Hall. It is there that we first met, though I had been a reader of yours for some time.
You see, one of the advantages of being a townie, in the original, Oxford-derived sense of the word (though one of the things that tickles me as an Athenian is how we have made our own definition, basically an indie-rock hipster who comes by it honestly), is that one is afford the luxury while very young of seeing and evaluating the college life. I was getting E. Merton Coulter on the boys and girls of Franklin and her daughters long before I was old enough to matriculate.
Among the many, countless unrepayable gifts given to me by virtue of being my fathers' son (and he is a BBA, UGA 1960), was that our house was one of the very few that had a postal subscription to the Red an Black, as they were a client of his. So I was lurking at the edges of the intellectual life of the students of the University from a very young age.
So when I had a chance to meet this interesting columnist in the flesh, I was happy to have it, and I have been touched over the years by your sense of me as a quality literary Brother, Kyle.
So while I do fit the caricature of being one of the fans of the Bulldog football team that has never earned a degree from the University, I do treasure my three (or so) quarters at that institution.
I notice now that I haven't mentioned a thing about Herschel Walker, Vincent J. Dooley, Harry Mehre, Wally Butts, Herman J. Stegeman, Hugh Durham, Judge Frank D. Foley, Judge Kent Lawrence, or any other of the heroes of the Red and Black pantheon, from the days of the Octagon and triumphs over Mercer, to the 90k witnesses of our last drubbing of Tennessee. I don't think most of your readers need more of that, however welcome it would be to read. I will mention one event in my life as a boy that has stuck with me from that day to this.
One summer I was priveleged to attend the Steve Webber Baseball Camp. I had also gone to the Tennis Camp when Coach Magill was still active, but baseball was a great love of mine, as it was of yours (and is once again, I believe, thankfully). It was summer, and Mama didn't believe in idle days in the summer time, so activities were planned for me for virtually every week and every day. It made for an interesting childhood, but I'm sure it's not the sort of thing of which the Agrarians would approve. Oh well, Georgia isn't Vanderbilt.
But one Wednesday, the week of the camp, my 11 year old body had had enough, and I found myself ill. It wasn't anything specific, I think I was just worn down with the joys of summertime. Unfortunately I missed out on a day of playing catcher on Foley Field and the Woodruff Athletic Complex.
But children are resilient, and by lunchtime I was up to venturing out, and so Mama was nice enough to take me to lunch at the snack bar of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
Well, after we ate I was mortified, because who else should be taking his lunch there but Coach Webber. I felt so ashamed for enjoying my lunch with Mama, when I should have been out on the field, doing my extremely youthful part to advance the cause of the Diamond Dawgs (I was as egocentric as a child as I am as a man, as you can see). I felt that I had to apologize to Coach Webber for my juvenile delinquency.
"Coach Webber, I'm sorry I'm not at camp today, but this morning I really was sick."
"That's okay, David. Go back and enjoy your lunch with your mother, and we'll see you tomorrow."
There was a man who, in his one respite from a busy summer week, in the life of a big-time college athletics coach, knew the name of one of his hundreds of campers. That is the caliber of individual I have experienced and come to expect from the University of Georgia.
The University of Georgia is the mind of the People of the State of Georgia, chartered in 1785, constituted in 1776.
I haven't been listening to the radio broadcasts a lot lately, but one thing I always used to enjoy were the snippets of Georgia's non-athletic history narrated by Tom Jackson, always ending with the slogan "And that's another Bulldog....Point of Pride.", in the same voice in which he always describes "The Arch, Hallowed Symbol of the University and of the State!"
Let me, in closing, share with you Kyle, the most on point point of pride I know.
I've mentioned already Oxford University. I remember a debate we shared in the upper chamber regarding the then-imminent change from quarters to semesters. One speaker (it may have been you, it may have been me, I sincerely cannot remember) said that there were only three institutions of higher education in the English-speaking world that divided their academic year into three portions: Auburn, Oxford and Georgia. "And two out of three ain't bad!", arguing that Georgia should continue to do as Oxford does.
So I do consider Georgia as a member of a continuum that proceeds from Oxford in the early part of the second millenium, to Georgia in 1785, to whatever unknown institutions that have been born in this Two Thousand Tenth year of the Common Era.
But Georgia marks a distinct break. All institutions before her were established for the training of ministers of the Gospel, in a sense that the mass of men must have tenders. But as a product of the American Revolution and the Western Enlightenment, Abraham Baldwin, John Milledge, and their companions in the Senatus Academicus gave birth to the first institution of higher learning in the English speaking world dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal in the capacity to learn, to seek, and to free themselves (as much as we can be free here in this cosmos) through their own minds.
What a Wise Just and Moderate proposition.
My thanks go out to BarnettShoals for concluding the scheduled series of Dawgographies in such fine fashion. Because other readers have inquired about taking part in this exercise, I am now throwing the floor open to anyone else who would like to share a Dawgography in the fanposts. Have at it!