Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr. ~ UL History Professor

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Illustration by Nicole Freewalt 

On November 1st my wife and I flew to Albuquerque for the annual meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. Dr. Scott Amos, the Chair of the History Department and I both read papers. Over the years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of sharing my research with other scholars in my discipline. I traveled all over the United States and Canada from coast to coast thanks to the generous support of our university, but this was the last time, and I shall miss the chances to share ideas and theories with colleagues from all over the globe. I am glad the meeting was held in New Mexico, which is my favorite state—after Virginia of course. The sky was turquoise and the cottonwood trees glowed like burnished gold.

During the five days we were in the Southwest, the cool nights and mild days transformed our campus into that tapestry of brown, scarlet, and gold that I have savored for sixty years. The angle of the sun bathes everything it touches with a golden glow and it is so easy to let my memory wander back to the September afternoon when I first walked through the college gates as a freshman. It had been cloudy all day and there was the promise of a storm that never materialized. I spent my first night in one of the tower rooms in Westover Hall, and I awoke every time I heard a strange sound. By dawn, I wondered why I was here in the first place, and then I walked to the window. Below me lay the Dell lost in mist as the first rays of the sun slid down the branches of the trees bathing them in shimmering light. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen ,and at that moment I knew why I was there and where I belonged.

When I was a student, I used to enjoy studying by the edge of College Lake, especially in October and early November when the sky was that particular shade of blue and the air was so clear and still that the water was like a mirror. There was no lake in 1903, but there were numerous streams, some of them fed by the mineral springs that still flow from the hillside behind the maintenance buildings by the main gate. In the midst of a grove of trees that were young when this nation was founded, there was a deep pool where the men swam in the summer. For Josephus and Sarah Hopwood, this campus was one the most beautiful spots they had ever seen, and they, as well as their successors, have tried to keep it that way. Some of the trees that Dr. Hopwood planted still stand near the library, and their leaves are carved into the head of the college mace. In the few hours that remain before you head home for Thanksgiving, take time to enjoy our campus when it is at its loveliest, and remember the Hopwood’s who appreciated its beauty and saw its potential so long ago. Have a wonderful holiday.

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