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Saturday, February 25, 2012

My View of Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Campus, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

On a nearly perfect day I was fortunate to be able to spend an afternoon on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge.  After a late lunch with one of my sons, who then had to rush off to class, I had time to wander the school’s magnificent grounds.

LSU's Greek Theater
One of the many beautiful buildings that adorn the campus grounds.

 I began my tour at the Memorial Tower.  This 175-foot clock tower was built in 1923, though it was not dedicated until 1926.  Inside are the bronzed names of the 1,447 fallen Louisiana World War I soldiers for whom the tower was dedicated.  Every quarter hour, the Westminster Chimes can be heard.  I was too late to hear the LSU Alma Mater being played at noon.

From the open field to the east I was able to catch this view of the flag pole.  The Stars and Stripes were rippling in the brisk wind along with the Louisiana state flag.  The LSU banner, however, had slipped a clip and was doing its best to hang on to the cable.

 Facing the Memorial Tower is the impressive facade of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center.  Louisiana being a civil law state, the only one of its kind in the United States, LSU’s Law School requires the most hours of any in the nation.  So this is the place to study if you want to be a lawyer and you want to go to school where it will take the most time, which just doesn't sound that fun to me.

 But who cares about how much law you have to study?  Why not drop the law books and spend time studying the artwork above the entrance?

 The original center of life at LSU was the Quad, though now most of the activity can be found over at the Student Union.  But here at the quad the real beauty of the campus can be seen.  Amidst the Italian Renaissance flavor of stucco walls, red-tiled roofs, and airy porticoes, this quiet piazza is populated with ancient live oaks.  These oaks, along with the many magnolia trees on campus, are said to be valued at over $50 million dollars.

 Despite the students crisscrossing the courtyard, and the groups milling about, the whole scene manages to remain peaceful enough to allow for an afternoon nap.

Over at Tiger Stadium you might notice the windows that make up the perimeter of the stands.  It turns out that when Huey Long (then Governor and Kingfish of Louisiana) wanted to increase the seating capacity of the stadium, he was told there were no funds allocated from the state budget for such an expansion.  There were, however, funds set aside for student dormitories.  So Huey built dorm rooms at the stadium and built seats above them.  Students lived in these dorms until the 1980’s.  Good ole’ Huey.  Always thinking!  It wasn't the first time beds, money, and politics became tangled in Louisiana.

The original idea was to call this ‘Deaf Valley’, but it quickly became known as ‘Death Valley’.  You might think this moniker is alluding to the extremely high temperatures down here but that isn't it at all.  Visiting teams know the real reason; the Tiger’s record in ‘Death Valley’ at night is pretty tough to match.  (Since 1960, the Tigers are 219-60-4 in night games at home.)  And when the sun goes down during a game, the announcer makes sure everyone knows that ‘it is now night in the Valley of Death’.  It was here, in 1988, that the unranked Tigers came back to beat #4 Auburn with under two minutes to play.  ‘The Earthquake Game’ crowd made such a racket that it registered on a seismograph in the Geosciences building.

Just across the way from Tiger Stadium is what the students call the PMAC.  The Pete Maravich Assembly Center is the home of the Tigers basketball team.  Also known as the ‘House that Pete Built’, it opened in 1972.  (And thank God and Pistol Pete it was built, since LSU played in ‘The Cow Palace’ prior to this.  Not the best name for a sports venu.)  What I love about the PMAC is its futuristic design.  This is what I thought the world would end up looking like when I was six.  At this time, many buildings were built in this style.  Advertisers, movie-makers, and even illustrator's for children's books (Child Craft, anyone?) seemed convinced the world would soon abandon the right angle and build everything with acute angles, obtuse angles and wild curves.  I'm still mad that we don't all live in geodesic domes!

Snugged between the sports arenas and the campus buildings are two little hills.  The LSU Campus Mounds are believed to be 5,000 years old; older than the Egyptian pyramids.  Prior to football games, in the carnival atmosphere of Game Day, many kids whiz down the hills on makeshift cardboard sleds.

I leave you with a shot of Mike the Tiger.  He's just a big kitty who likes to sleep all day.  Below Mike, I'll toss in a few more shots.  The trolley was just a fun picture, as was the mailbox.  The whole campus was filled with color on that sunny day, especially purple and gold.  If you are ever in the area, make sure you take a few hours to walk this impressive campus!

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