WKU

There is something special about a college town. There is something extra special on campus. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Division I university, an offshoot campus, a Division III college or a private institution. They are little communities nestled amid larger communities, elevating their host towns’ energy level. The typical four year student cycle brings constant new ideas while celebrating a rich history.

Except when they don’t.

Western Kentucky University is a hilltop campus overlooking Bowling Green. It  was a ghost town a few days ago when I decided to visit the campus — except for a few co-eds walking the paths. Parking lots were empty. Buildings were closed. Benches were empty.

I knew it was going to be a surrealistic visit as I turned right off College Street onto College Heights Boulevard. Just to the right by one of the many statues, three girls posed with their white mortarboards. No gowns. Everyday late spring attire. I  pulled over and watched them toss their caps skyward — generally the culmination at graduation ceremonies to thunderous applause. They had me, the videographer, and each other. A sign of the times we’re in.

I spotted Abraham Lincoln sitting on a bench in front of the Kentucky Building — which houses the Kentucky Museum and  Special Collections Library. The building was closed, so there was plenty of available parking for Angelina and I to take the walking tour that looped along the Avenue of Champions, University Boulevard, and Normal Street, cutting through paths connecting Garrett Conference Center, Gordon Wilson Hall, and Van Meter Hall.

We introduced ourselves to Lincoln, still an integral part of Kentucky history despite being the Union president and Yankee commander-in-chief. Lincoln, complete with a virus-inspired face mask, “explained” he was a native Kentuckian, born in Hodgenville, about 65 miles northeast.

We meandered through the artistic Stickwork Project, a series of walk-through “huts” from the mind of artist Patrick Dougherty. Dougherty, his son Sam, and many volunteers constructed Highbrow, a sculpture made from intertwined tree saplings, on the Museum’s front lawn. It was dedicated in 2018.

Our next stop was a historical sign heralding Bowling Green as the first Confederate capital of Kentucky, established at the convention in Russellville Nov. 20, 1861.

Continuing on the Avenue of Champions, we saw the Guthrie Bell Tower; and we looked inside the E.A. Diddle Arena through locked glass doors; Houchens Industries L.T. Smith Stadium through locked gates; and Nick Denes Field from the outside.

On Normal Street, we saw the whimsical Mimosa parking lot, appropriately behind the Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Center, which houses the university’s student publications office and student newspaper; and we saw the ornate arch welcoming guests to Diddle Park, named after winningest men’s basketball coach in WKU history and the ninth winningest coach in NCAA history by total number of victories. His home used to stand on the site of the park and stones in the archway were taken from Coach Diddle’s front porch.

Just before cutting back, we were attracted to a grassy mound behind Gordon Wilson Hall. I was told it is the highest point in Warren County. It was home to Fort Albert Sydney during the Civil War. Here, we also saw the Kissing Bridge, one of the most recognizable spots on campus. WKU lore says if you bring a first date to this spot, you’re destined to marry that person! Because of this romantic tradition, this spot has seen many proposals, weddings, and receptions.

We passed the Faculty House, the first student center on WKU’s campus. Back in 1920, there was a drought that killed many of the trees on campus. Students decided instead of burning the fallen trees, they would use them to build a student center in the form of a log cabin. It has since become a faculty lounge.

Next was the Guthrie Fountain and Van Meter Overlook, followed by some sculptures ranging from modern to the antique Cherry Sundial, named after and taken from the home of WKU’s founder, Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry.

Our last stop was the Felts Log Cabin, moved to Western Kentucky University from Logan County in 1980 and considered an example of advanced architecture on the Kentucky frontier during the Victorian era. The cabin houses a museum exhibit that depicts life during this historic period.

It was an easy mile or so, flat walk. I missed the interaction with students and not being able to wander through some of the sites {although that would have been problematic with my furry friend}. But, college campuses certainly do have charm. They typically bridge the past and the future during the present.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble — Bob Hope

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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