Friday, January 27, 2006

Tulane Revisited








On my last morning in New Orleans, I went back to Tulane and wandered around the campus by myself for awhile, trying to get a feel for my daughter's new home. The evening before, I had visited the Audubon Park across the street -- an absolutely lovely, manicured, but somewhat natural area, lined on either side by beautiful homes, and host in the slanted light of early evening to runners, cormorants, and fulvous whistling-ducks. I didn't have a camera with me to record my life-bird of the week, but the next morning I did try to compile a record of the Tulane campus. Don't forget that you can click on the pictures to enlarge them

Tulane University is in possession of something that the rest of our country lacks: a visionary and insightful leader of extraordinary skill. As a result, the campus looks reasonably acceptable, the students are housed and already volunteering all over the city, the classes are moving forward, and the mail system is only a minor disaster.

I think that my first picture is of an original Newcomb College building. Newcomb was the women's school, Tulane College was the men's and, until Katrina, they retained separate identities for administrative purposes. For all obvious intents and realities they have been merged into Tulane University for some time, with Newcomb having lost most of its identity to the men's school, just as Radcliffe and Pembroke have to Harvard and Brown -- but it is only with Katrina that the final blow has been dealt to whatever individuality they did maintain. Although I'm not sure exactly where Newcomb begins and ends in a geographic sense, it's easy to see from the rough outlines of that portion of the campus what a lovely southern college for women it must have been. I found some humor in my daughter's enrollment last spring in Newcomb -- she had steadfastly resisted all my efforts to interest her in eastern women's colleges and then, somewhat by accident, found herself a student at a southern one. With sororities, no less! And now I feel saddened by Newcomb's demise; her diploma, should she decide to stay, will read "Tulane University" only.

The fourth picture, by the way, is a little present for Carol, a proud graduate and loyal alumna of Newcomb College.

I tossed the second picture in to demonstrate that, while Katrina may be somewhat responsible for the effect, frat houses tend not to look like the gracious buildings maintained by southern women's colleges, regardless of the circumstances. The cardboard sign on the second floor says, "Yes, We're Open," a familiar enough message around New Orleans, but certainly an important beacon to college students on a Saturday evening.

The third image illustrates the center of the Tulane Campus. I myself am not a fan of the combination of yellow brick and yellow grass, but I am confident that the grass will return to its original pre-Katrina green at some point in time. And the yellow bricks, which I consider particularly ugly, are at least bolstered by a humorous story. It seems that at some point in time, the same architect was designing clusters of buildings for both Tulane and Vanderbilt. The bricks for each school's buildings were shipped to the other by mistake, and the universities agreed that they would not bother with an exchange. From what I hear, the yellow ones would have been much more in keeping with the Vanderbilt campus as a whole. All I know is that I wish they were anywhere but Tulane.

And finally, the last image, with a student running alongside one of the buildings more aligned with my taste in Gothic university architecture, honed by my own alma mater and my son's years at Chicago, represents what was truly a delightful sight to me on that early Sunday morning: a campus at peace, a campus on which students who had adapted to extraordinary circumstances all over the country were finally able to engage in ordinary activities in the place they call home.

9 comments:

Carol said...

Thanks for the present! It certainly looks weathered and beaten, somewhat like the college itself--down but not yet out. I was glad to see the photos of the live oaks. At least they're still standing, albeit somewhat pruned. And yes, that first picture was of Newcomb Hall--the Newcomb College administration building. In fact, when I was a student all freshman women had their single sex English classes and all foreign language classes were held there; Tulane College, known as the College of Arts and Sciences in those days, didn't have a foreign language department.

I never knew the story behind the yellow bricks, nor do I recall the Vanderbilt campus being composed of them. Interesting!

Audobon Park is truly a gem and oasis in the city which has undergone some fairly nice renovations over the past 10-15 years. As a student, we often took its proximity to campus and resources for granted. We did however, often roller skate on the levee in a little area called The Butterfly. And there's a bandstand in the park that was donated by some long ago relatives in memory of the family patriarch.

Anonymous said...

Great photos of Tulane. I have never been there and I don't think I know anyone who attended Tulane.

She MUST visit the zoo if she has a chance and the park.

If she is into volunteering and likes kids Children's Hospital must be nearby as they "rolled" us patients to the Zoo once. I was there before it was so big (no doc on staff it was strictly rehab) and the Tulane students would come and play games with us or help in arts & crafts or just talk.

Oh yeah, ask if she can find some Newcomb Pottery. I see it on the Antique Roadshow.

hope she enjoys her stay and does well there, making lots of friends for life.

Marie

Marie said...

[i]sorry for the firts post. I gofed and clicked other when my eMac had remembered that I had posted to someones blog here before.[/i]

Great photos of Tulane. I have never been there and I don't think I know anyone who attended Tulane.

She MUST visit the zoo if she has a chance and the park.

If she is into volunteering and likes kids Children's Hospital must be nearby as they "rolled" us patients to the Zoo once. I was there before it was so big (no doc on staff it was strictly rehab) and the Tulane students would come and play games with us or help in arts & crafts or just talk.

Oh yeah, ask if she can find some Newcomb Pottery. I see it on the Antique Roadshow.

hope she enjoys her stay and does well there, making lots of friends for life.

Marie

tess said...

Your trip and the impressions that you have posted go a long way to demonstrate that there are normal moments to experience in the aftermath! Thank you for your efforts, your perspective and your appreciation!

Kathryn said...

Thanks for the tour of the school! It is a lovely campus. I hope the semester goes well for your dd.

Waterfall said...

Wow, it has been a long time. I spent the first semester of my college career at Tulane (Newcomb).

Paul said...

This series on NOLA and Tulane has been fascinating. You have human interest, local history, architecture, nature, and geography all written with caring and panache.

Globetrotter said...

I love your daughter's choice of college!

I tried to convince my middle son to apply there, (so I could go to Mardi Gras for 4 successive years!) but he succumbed to peer pressure and ended up at Colgate.

I must agree with your opinion about the yellow lawns and yellow bricks. Yuck!

Too bad the brick exchange went awry!

I do believe that if you return in the spring the sumptuous scent of southern blossoms, as well as trees dripping with Spanish moss will distract you from the visually unappealing yellow bricks, as that is when I visited and fell in love with New Orleans.

betty said...

thanks for writing about your adventures down in New Orleans and Tulane University. I found them interesting to read.

betty