Made by history
Aug. 10, 2016
“What the what? Where did that come from? I know it says 1900 right on it, but surely it hasn’t always been there, right?” Those were the thoughts that ran through my head the first time I noticed the stone monument between Linton Hall and the MSU Museum in the “sacred space” near Beaumont Tower. I was a student at the time, and had walked that path numerous times since I lived in Campbell Hall. For some reason that spring day, I noticed the stone. I didn’t know anything about it, but the date alone told me it was part of MSU history. I wondered how many Spartans had passed by without ever noticing—my guess would be quite a few.
Last October on a tour given by the Campus Archeology Program, I learned that the stone was actually a water fountain donated to the university by the Class of 1900. One side provided water for horses (the side facing out on the sidewalk) and the other side for people. When I walked through the brush to the backside, sure enough, there was a spigot I had never seen that had long ago served water to Spartans walking along the path. All those years later, the 1900 stone still had some surprises for me.
In more than a century’s time, imagine all the MSU history that fountain has witnessed—thousands of students have roamed campus, hundreds of buildings were built, countless discoveries made and innumerable lives changed. If only the fountain could talk, imagine the tales it could tell. While I have contemplated the historical significance of this manmade monument, I never really thought about nature’s monuments all around it—until a wicked storm passed through campus last month.
An incredibly large tree that shrouded the fountain (and hid that spigot on the backside) came down with a bang as winds whipped through area. I don’t know much about trees, but I knew this one had to be pretty old.
Frank Telewski, a professor of plant biology and curator of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum, works in my building. I caught him in the hallway shortly after and he began to tell me about the tree. Through science, he’s figured out just how old the tree is. It’s not only much older than that fountain, it’s way older than the university itself…and the state…and the country. Check out his engaging FACULTY VOICE: Every Spartan tree has a story, to learn just how old it is.
While it’s sad to lose a tree with that much history, Spartans always make the best of a bad situation. The same storm that took down that tree took down 20 other mature trees on campus. But instead of scrapping the wood into chips or just disposing of it, that historical wood is going to be turned into furniture and works of art.
A cool program, MSU Shadows, between the Department of Forestry, W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum, Landscape Services and several mid-Michigan artists will see that the wood will be repurposed and sold at the MSU Surplus Store. The money raised will go toward planting new trees on campus, student internships and academic programs. Check out the MSUTODAY story to learn more about it and how you can have a piece of MSU’s natural history.
For Amy Michael, history is more than interesting—it’s her passion and life’s work. A recent graduate student in archeology, she was part of the Campus Archeology Program and was a contributor to the program blog. Check out the STUDENT VIEW: It’s a wrap! to learn about her favorite experiences as a Spartan.
As Spartans, we know that it’s not just our past that defines us, but also what differences we can make for future generations.
Shannon Manning and her team are tackling one of the world’s biggest challenges—the fight against diseases. Engaged in what she calls, “an evolutionary arms race at the molecular level,” she is finding ways to protect people today and tomorrow. Check out the short video MSUTODAY FEATURE: A safer tomorrow, to learn about her incredibly important research.
I think it’s fascinating to think about all the history around me every day as I walk through campus and work in a 100-year-old building. I know that long before I was a Spartan, Spartans were leaving their marks on the world. I also know that long after I’m gone, Spartans will continue to make the world a better place. We’re Spartans—it’s our past, present and our future.
Historical photo courtesy MSU Archives