It’s been a quarter of a century since I last visited the sprawling campus of my alma mater. As I embarked on my sentimental jog along Stadium Road passing historic General Van Fleet Hall, I was elated with fond memories of the happiest years of my life.
Student-life taught me more about cooperation and diversity than 20+ years in the Navy ever will.
I remember sitting through boring lectures, the long hours toiling over class projects.
I remember the all nighters because I had procrastinated writing my essay until the bitter end, then sitting through boring lectures the next day, surviving on no doz and power naps.
As I walked past Rhines Hall, the school for Material Science and Engineering memories of linear equations started popping through my head. What I liked about Materials Science is the fact that it combines engineering, physics and chemistry to solve real-world problems. That’s why I switched my major from Public Relations to MSE.
As a tireless engineering student, resident assistant and community activist, I wore many hats – all of them fit, but never too snugly. But despite the heavy course-load and a wide-range of extracurricular activities, I couldn’t be more content.
I loved the hustle and bustle of student life, the spirited sporting events, and uplifting social scene. Gator Growl was a welcomed annual ritual, the swamp with the cacophony of cheering fans and blistering heat was according to the legendary coach Steve Spurrier, “the place where only Gators got out alive.” And hawking ice-cold cokes in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium made me enough pocket change to sustain me until the next home game.
Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits, a Dollar; All for the Gators, stand up and holler! That chant played back mindlessly when I should have been focusing on Ohm’s Law and the Pythagoras’s Theorem – Emmitt Smith was my hero, and I definitely bled Orange and Blue. And when I returned to visit the Gainesville campus after been absent for a quarter of a century I embarked on a lengthy nostalgic trip.
If it wasn’t for my first assignment to Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, R.I., I probably never would have never left.
The campus resembled a ghost town or a city on lock down. Thousands of students were relaxing and enjoying the early spring sunshine in Daytona, Miami, Bahamas and all points south and both the central HUB and Reitz Union were eerily quiet.
There were many advantages to visiting during spring break. In many ways, I had the whole place to myself. I got to run around my old stomping grounds with abandon without running into countless bikes and skateboards. For a long, mindless stretch, I was the only soul within earshot, just me, the wood ducks and the feisty alligator sunning in Lake Wauberg.
Although I was an RA in my third year, I stayed at a co-op the first two years:
I was surprised how much Collegiate Living Organization (CLO) looked the same
It was Fat Tuesday and I was in the mood for jumbalaya and andouille sausage. Harry’s Bar and Grill in downtown Gainesville was the perfect venue to celebrate the Cajun festival. I sat down at the bar and immediately ordered an Abita on draft.
“What are you eating?” I asked. An attractive middle-aged lady was enjoying her seafood gumbo next to me.
We immediately started a conversation and connected about life in Gainesville. She was not connected to the university, but she had lived here for a few years and her adult daughter lived here, too.
“Thinking about going bar-hopping after this. Wanna come?” she asked.
That’s all she needed to say. I was ready to go visit some of the bars that had opened long after I had left.
We then visited this club down the street called Midnight. The club was an open patio that