SMITH COLUMN: Taking a walk around UGA’s beautiful campus

Published 9:30 am Saturday, October 15, 2022

Sometimes when you are inconvenienced, it is best to push back against frustration. There may be serendipity lurking as you resort to damage control.

Recently, I had someone drop me off on the north campus of the University of Georgia, thinking that more efficient than trying to find a parking space and adding to the pollution with my car.

Had someone standing by to come pick me up when my meeting was over, but when that time came, my friend was going into a meeting and forecast that it would be an hour before he could come to the rescue.

“Never mind,” I thought. “I would walk back to my office on south campus. It would be retracing old steps which I had done many times before. Although I don’t take walks through campus that often anymore, I find that when I do, it is something that becomes emotionally fulfilling.

The University of Georgia is as pretty as the countless coeds who traverse the campus on a daily basis. The stately oaks are as stately as ever. The old buildings still have the charm they had yesteryear.

There has been some new construction, the centerpiece being the law school, but the Chapel doesn’t look one bit different than it did when I was a freshman. The library looks the same as it did when there was a Dean of Men and a Dean of Women in those “in loco parentis” days. This is a reminder that no University has ever had a more colorful dean than Williams Tate, who was dean of men, seemingly forever.

It was his job to mete out punishment to miscreant students and he did that with definitive resolve, but he liked nothing better than to encourage a student to apply diligence to his coursework and to underscore extracurricular pursuits. A well-rounded life on campus, he believed, enhanced opportunity. That, too, has not changed, thankfully. 

Today, if you are in touch with deans and professors who have brought about UGA’s preeminent status in higher education, you learn that today’s students are remarkable when it comes to academic achievement.As my journey took me down past the Henry Grady College of Journalism, I thought of the days when there were no computers and the newsroom of the Red & Black, the student newspaper, was home to several old, manual typewriters where reporters could crank out stories for the newspaper.

There was radio and television, but the newspaper dominated. You enroll in journalism, and you expected to become a fixture on a newspaper somewhere in your lifetime.  Many sought opportunity to connect with the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, but there were the many who were happy returning to communities such as Hahira and work for the Hahira Gold Leaf.  Even weekly newspapers thrived in those days.My goal was to become a sportswriter for the Red & Black. That, I believed, would be tantamount to ascending Mt. Everest. That was such a fulfilling experience, covering the Bulldogs, who were about to overwhelm under the leadership of a “native son, Francis Asbury Tarkenton.” Choosing pretty coeds for a photo op, “Girl of the Week,” added to the routine that took the drudgery out of the classroom.

Walking over the bridge and surveying Sanford Stadium brought about flashbacks to the days of Wallace Butts and “silver britches.”  The hedges were forever pristine and were a perfect backdrop for the red jerseys the team wore.

In my mind’s eye, I recalled the old press box where I was in awe of sportswriters such as Furman Bisher, Jesse Outlar and Jim Minter, and, of course, Harry Mehre who was the coach when Georgia dedicated its classic stadium in 1929.

After hiking over the bridge and connecting with Field Street which took me up through the science center and on past the Georgia Center for Continuing education, one of my favorite venues on campus, I soon was back at the athletic complex. I took a moment to recall the past 50 years, feeling good about what I have been fortunate to experience. I have always appreciated what the University has meant to our state. I appreciate the great games the Dawgs have won over the years and am grateful for the experiences I have had.

When I returned to my office, I was winded, but exhilarated that nobody was available to come fetch me when I needed a vehicular rescue.