I decided to visit the centennial exhibit on display in the Cook library. I really enjoyed the pictures of the campus in its early days. I am stunned by not just how much the school’s appearance has changed but also how much of the surrounding area has transformed in the century since USM began. The old issues of the student printz were interesting because I have always enjoyed looking at old documents. Knowing history is different than actually touching something that existed at the time.
I was looking at a large picture of the Friendship Oak when I overheard a few ladies in the exhibit actually discussing the live oaks in the area. As an interesting coincidence, I told them a story about how I was recently visited at my home by some people from a local organization that is studying live oak trees in the southern United States. These individuals are trying to catalog all of the large live oaks in the area. I happen to have a large 150-200 year old live oak in my front yard, and they added it to their online database. Personally, I had no idea about any of the history of the Friendship Oak concerning the university but I found it an interesting piece of the local history.
These exhibits are important to our history as a reminder of the societal realities of students in past times. For me, it is easy to forget in these tough times how much progress has been made in our community. It is very easy to only acknowledge the bad things that happen. The centennial exhibit showed how the university rose from a couple of buildings in a field to a culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse institution that has grown immensely. This exhibit both helped me to appreciate where we started from as a university and also reminded me of the progress that the university and the community at large have achieved. Visit the exhibit online at http://www.usm.edu/centennial/