View from the Now

In May, my family celebrated my dad’s sixty-eighth birthday in Athens, Greece. We had arrived from Istanbul late the night before, and because of large demonstrations taking place in Syntagma Square, the bus we took from the airport dropped us off several blocks from our hotel. Dragging our heavy suitcases, we had to cross the square, passing through a little bit of modern Greek history as thousands of residents protested the country’s bleak economic situation.

The next morning, the seven of us climbed the Acropolis to the Parthenon under the hot spring sun. As we neared the top and the public pathway narrowed, we had to thread our way through teeming crowds of tourists from all over the world, many of them following guides who held up signs with numbers meant to keep their group together—not that it mattered much, since they were all saying the same thing.

When we reached the site itself, though, there was more room to breathe. We spread out and wandered around on the rocky plateau, hardly able to drag our eyes away from the ancient, majestic Parthenon—unless it was to marvel at the sweeping vista of all of Athens and the surrounding countryside that stretched out below us.

My dad was the only one of us who had been there before. When he served in the US military in his twenties, he was stationed for a time in Turkey, and he developed a deep affinity for that part of the world. Our trip was a chance for him to introduce the rest of us—especially his teenage grandson—to the culture and landmarks that hold special sway in his memory.

He told us about visiting the Parthenon many times as a young man, sitting right where we stood and practically having the place to himself. He said he would spend hours gazing out across the miles and wondering what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Now, nearly fifty birthdays later, that mystery was solved; but the Parthenon for him was just as awesome, the view just as stunning, and the experience of simply being there made more poignant by the years in between.

I have been thinking about that visit to the Parthenon as we assembled this special issue of Emory Magazine. The university’s 175th anniversary is also an opportunity to return to some of the places we’ve been before, seeing them with fresh perspective, accumulated wisdom, and real affection. It’s a time to tell and retell the tales of our shared history—not because we’ve forgotten them, but because it makes us a stronger community to remember. And it helps to climb up high onto the solid ground of the present so that we can appreciate the big picture of the past.

We also have sought out some bright new angles on Emory in our guest contributions. In addition to the whimsical wit of award-winning cartoonist Mike Luckovich, there’s a trip down Emory lane, a tribute to the gift of friendship, a reflection on parallel paths that unexpectedly cross, a meditation on motorcades and their meaning, and a remarkably strong case for public confidence in Emory. There’s even a poem by an award-winning faculty writer, and a heartbreaking finale by someone whose name you probably know.

The Emory Magazine team—associate editor Mary Loftus, art director Erica Endicott, and I, as well as the wider circle of staff who play critical supporting roles—could not have made this magazine without drawing heavily on the incredible wealth of existing resources and collective knowledge about Emory and its history. Colleagues across the university—in the libraries and archives, the photography department, the health sciences, the arts programs, the alumni association and development offices, the communications and marketing division, virtually every school and department, our advisory board, and a special “175 things” committee—have faithfully answered our emails, sent us our photos, returned our calls, and helped check our facts.

It should especially be noted that the book A Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory Since 1836by Vice President Gary Hauk 91PhD has been beside my computer for weeks; as unofficial Emory historian, Gary plays a central part in the anniversary commemoration and has helped to develop the events and extensive online resources as well as advising the magazine. I also would like to credit the sharp eyes and institutional expertise of Vice President of Communications and Marketing Ron Sauder, and my boss Susan Carini and Jane Howell of Emory Creative Group.

Thanks to them and many others, in honor of Emory’s birthday, we give you 175 things we think you should know about this place—and believe me, there are many more. Like the new roundabout in Emory Village, or the Calhoun Oak (which I hear recently died), or a wild incident in 1953 known as the Great Monkey Hoax, or the somewhat ignominious Andrew Sledd affair, or even the fact that Emory Magazine was first published as the Emory Alumnus in 1924.

Emory may not be an ancient wonder like the Parthenon, but it has its own stories to tell. For those of us who love it, it’s a place worth returning to again and again—both to celebrate the past and to imagine what might happen between now and the next milestone.

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