Notes From Under the Oaks | September 2014

Although I pass daily under the shady canopy on the Forest Grove Campus as an alumna and employee, I sometimes feel like an outsider. Perhaps all non students feel this way. The students live here. Even the ones who live off campus spend an inordinate amount of time under the trees and in the smart, wifi enabled, hallowed halls. I on the other hand, used to live here.

For four years this place was my home, but much like passing by one of my old apartments or rental houses, I am both sentimental and acutely aware the space now belongs to someone else.

Although the feeling has faded some, when I first returned to work at Pacific University I kept looking for my old friends. Every once in a while I’d catch sight of an employee who I knew as a student and the relief would be palpable. It’s hard not to think of the Twilight Zone when all the familiar faces have been replaced with new ones.

I recently had a renewed version of that feeling. Last week we wrapped up construction on the first phase of the University Center refresh. I have been very excited about this project. At 50 years old, the UC was ready for a makeover. When I stepped inside I was overwhelmed and excited, but also profoundly sad.

That feeling nearly stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t expect to be sad. This project was deeply needed. It is a huge leap forward for our student center. I shouldn’t be sad. Yet, I was. I miss the old UC. It feels like someone snuck into my home in the night and remodeled it while I was sleeping. While I am grateful for the open spaces, gorgeous lighting, fresh paint, hip furniture and overall sleek design of the place, I still long for the home I remember.

The dictionary defines alumnus as “a former student or pupil of a school, college or university,” but perhaps a more fitting definition might be “someone who used to live here.” Of course Pacific will always belong to each of us; it just so happens that the Pacific we see today may not be the place we remember.

This is not the first time I’ve found myself caught between yearning for Pacific to remain as it is in my memories and excitement about the future of this great institution, nor will it be the last. The best remedy I can find is to keep coming to visit. For me this is as easy as coming to work every day, but for other alumni it might entail a bit more planning. 

I hope you’ll come back for Homecoming 2014 if you’re able. I’m sure you’ll find that even if the physical spaces feel different, the core elements that make Pacific a special community remain in place.

When you come back at Homecoming or in the future, feel free to stop a student and share your story. You used to live here!

Until then, keep sharing your stories and don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything I might do to be of assistance.

Best wishes,

Martha Calus-McLain ‘03
Director of Alumni Relations

Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014