26 May Congratulations, Class of 2016!
Across America, this is the season for college commencements. Each is different and yet, each is the same. Parents and siblings come in. Hundreds are in matching caps and gowns, forming lines that are not too far removed from the single-file, no-pushing lines they used to form in second grade as they walked obediently outside for a fire drill or to the cafeteria for lunch.
But this is different. For most, it’s the beginning of adulthood – careers, home purchases, families. Perhaps decades from now, these new graduates will be seated in those same chairs on that same sun-washed lawn, watching their own children walk up, take their diploma, shake hands with the college president , turn and smile.
We’re betting that a lot of what these graduates see when they are firmly in middle age—and watching a graduation line march, as opposed to marching themselves—will look a lot like it does today. We know, because we at Pine Hall Brick Company have been a big part of scores of college campuses for decades, playing a role that’s almost subliminal.
Those who design buildings will tell you that the design of a particular place will depend on its use. A warehouse will look different from a church. An office building will look different from a fast-food restaurant. And a college will look, well, like a college.
Conventional, residential, four-year colleges have a look and feel all their own. The residence halls, classroom buildings, dining halls and recreation centers tend toward similarities at every campus: classic architecture, usually of red brick. Fountains (usually hit at 3 a.m. at least once a semester by detergent-wielding students.) A bell tower that either congratulates you for getting there on time or chides you several times a day for running late. And everywhere, from the University of North Carolina to the University of Southern California, there are pathways of Pine Hall Brick clay pavers, close in next to buildings or across a quad of oaks.
Sometimes, they allow students to walk two abreast; others have bicycle lanes of clay pavers running alongside. In some places, clay pavers have been enlarged into a plaza, where they have been engraved with the names of those long graduated, who contributed money to their alma mater.
We’ve written often about our partnerships with institutions of higher education. We’re at East Carolina University, High Point University, Furman University, Auburn University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Pennsylvania, Wake Forest University, Converse College, the University of North Caroina at Charlotte, Champlain College, North Carolina State University and Flagler College.
And there are scores of others; too many to list.
We had occasion not too long ago to chat with a facilities manager at a leading university. He told us that they decided on a clay paver walkway up to campus buildings because it sent a message that students were entering a place that needed to be taken seriously, a place where it was their privilege to be, a place where they needed to pay attention and learn how to build a life for themselves and their communities. Out of all the places that they would visit, this was a place where they needed to be fully engaged and authentic.
Congratulations , then, to the Class of 2016. Your achievements are real; your potential has been demonstrated; and now, the real challenges begin.
You’ll be back here, on a future spring afternoon, waiting for your children to graduate. And so will we.