Grounds

It was a gorgeous morning on Thursday…I hated to go inside.

At lunch time I took a walk around Grounds, (not “campus”!) to check up on the restoration work going on at the Rotunda. The Rotunda is Thomas Jefferson’s temple of learning, the crowning glory of his “Academical Village,” Enlightenment ideals realized in stone.

A short walk away from the bustling construction site is another busy worksite. The lavender hedges in front of Alderman Library are in full bloom and abuzz with big fat bees:

At the end of the day I met up with this kid, who actually consented to take a photo with his embarrassing mother to commemorate these days of commuting together to work/school…

I’d call that a pretty good day.

Now on to the weekend!

The Gardens at the University of Virginia

It’s gray and rainy today here in Charlottesville, but yesterday was a perfect spring day.

Yesterday, I wandered around The Gardens behind Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village” and found them in full bloom…Jefferson’s hope that the Gardens would “afford the quiet retirement so friendly to study” is being fulfilled even today. In each of the gardens, students were lounging in the grass reading books under a gentle shower of petals, poetically floating down all around them.

Today the Garden Club of Virginia, guided by Jefferson’s vision, maintains the colonial-style gardens hidden behind the famous serpentine walls. Although the pavilions are occupied, the Gardens themselves are open to the public…

Football

A few staggering football facts:

Scott Stadium seating capacity: 61,500 vs. population of Charlottesville: 43,500

Coach Mike London’s salary in 2012: $2.1 million vs. President Teresa Sullivan’s salary in 2012: $680,000

Debt for Scott Stadium upgrade: $100 million to be paid off by 2025

You can even get paid to lose:

Coach Al Groh’s severance pay buyout when he was fired in 2009: $4.3 million (I keep offering to lose some football games for half, or even a quarter of that amount, but no one’s taking me up on my offer. Hello? Hello?!)

UVa was paid $1.1 million by the ACC in 2011 to appear at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta when they lost to Auburn…

BUT!

It cost $800,000 to transport the team, band, cheerleaders, staff, etc. to the game, and Coach London and his staff earned $277,377 in bonuses for the team’s bowl appearance.

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Last Saturday I took the kids to watch the University of Virginia’s first football game of the season, and our very first football game ever. Through my work, we’d gotten free tickets to a luxury suite. (Leases for these suites start at $59,000 a season)! Being in the suite proved to be a godsend when the heavens opened and rain started dumping all over the stadium, and especially when the threat of lightning forced an evacuation of the stands that lasted over two hours. We were shocked to see the stadium fill right back up shortly after it reopened for the rest of the game. UVa has some die-hard football fans.

It was a nailbiter, but about six hours after the game began, our team won!

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Weekend Snapshots 4

FRIDAY

Sadly, our record-setting, unprecedented eight day streak of being on time for school finally, inevitably ended…

It was graduation weekend at the University of Virginia. At work we had our own graduation celebration and awards luncheon for international students. It was so inspiring to talk to the award recipients from all over the world. They will take away much from their experience here, but they will also have immeasurably enriched the life of this community in lasting ways.

Feeling invigorated, I headed to Helping Hands, the after school elementary service group where I work with a much younger set of future movers and shakers. One day these little ones might also set the world on fire. This session, we’ve been holding a supply and money drive for a wonderful organization in our community called Shelter for Help in Emergency or S.H.E. This agency provides services to and a safe house for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. (Find out how you can help S.H.E. here).

On this particular day, our kids just had fun making super easy bird feeders.

Rice Cake Bird Feeder

Directions: Make a hole in a rice cake and attach ribbon. Coat rice cake with peanut butter and dip in bird seed. Hang in a covered area…Voilà!

SATURDAY

“Chef Tedduccini”  whipped up a batch of pain au chocolat for breakfast. (Frozen Trader Joe’s brand…SCRUMPTIOUS)!

Chef Tedduccini

Our little renaissance man took a break from his labors to strum his ukulele:

Ukulele

Rained-out soccer games meant I finally had time to run a billion errands, starting with a long overdue trip to the blood bank.  My daughter scored me a Hello Kitty bandage by telling the phlebotomist that I should get a pink ribbon to match the skirt she was wearing, but that her favorite color was actually red:

Giving blood

Hair cut:

Hair experiments:

And…Happy reunions. Colin got back home just in time for bedtime hugs.

(Sure, he looks happy now, but just wait until I start meting out his punishment for having abandoned us for so long…)

SUNDAY

Quick day trip to Arlington to see my family, including my brother who was visiting for the weekend.

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Who’s that naked flying man in front of the library?

I’ve always loved the odd statue in front of Clemons Library at the University of Virginia. It stands out so audaciously against the staid, predictable colonial architecture for which the University is famous. The bronze statue of a well-muscled figure about to push off from the earth into flight stands 12 feet high, and sits on a solid pedestal. But rather than seeming heroic, it has a very human feel to it. Aside from the strap-on pair of wings, the figure is wearing only a comical looking helmet and what looks like a jockstrap. He is perched precariously on a lumpy, malformed globe. His stance is awkward and unsure. It could be the depiction of an escapade dreamed up by inebriated frat boys.

So who is this naked flying man who graces the courtyard of Clemons Library?

James Rogers McConnell entered the University of Virginia in 1907. He wholeheartedly launched himself into the life of the college, becoming in short order: the King of the Hot Foot Society (now the “IMP Society”), the Editor-in-Chief of the now defunct Corks and Curls, the President and co-founder of the Aero Club, a member of the Seven Society, a member of Beta Theta Pi, and a cheerleader. He gained a reputation for being a prankster, a hard-drinking frat boy, and a bagpipe player. He dropped out after only two years in the college and one year at the law school, (too much partying, not enough studying, perhaps?), but during his short time at the university, and indeed in his short time on earth: he lived his life with gusto.

In 1915, McConnell sailed to France to join the war effort. For a year he drove an ambulance for the American Ambulance Corps on the Western Front, earning the Croix de Guerre for bravery. Feeling compelled to do more, he joined the French Air Force and became one of the first members of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group comprised largely of American volunteer fighter pilots. The next year, while recuperating from a back injury caused by a rough landing, he wrote a memoir entitled Flying for France. On March 19, 1917, 30 year old James McConnell was killed when his plane was shot down during aerial combat with two German fighter planes. America had not yet even entered the war.

Alumni petitioned the university to honor this somewhat unlikely hero and UVA dropout as a model of courage and self-sacrifice. A press release from President Alderman’s office dated June 23, 1919 says, “There was a certain singular quality of heroism in the circumstances of his devotion and death that make a great appeal to the students and alumni of the institution.” Gutzon Borglum, the Danish-American sculptor best known for the monumental carving of the presidents on Mount Rushmore, was commissioned to create the memorial.

I imagine this quirky representation of McConnell as Icarus, gave pause to the administration when it was unveiled in 1919. In a letter written to a friend, President Alderman’s relief that there was no public outcry at the ceremony is palpable: “…what I think will amaze you is that practically everybody is enthusiastic about it.”

Armistead Dobie, the judge and UVA law professor who accepted “The Aviator” on behalf of the university described McConnell with these words at the statue’s unveiling: “To me the most characteristic trait of Jim McConnell’s nature was a hatred of the humdrum, an abhorrence of the commonplace, a passion for the picturesque.” (University of Virginia Alumni News, Vol. VII, July 1919, Number 12, p. 252).

Over the years the statue has been called an unseemly eyesore and there have been calls for its removal, but I’m guessing that McConnell would have heartily approved of the tribute.

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