As commenters let us know, the photograph on the earlier entry came from a recent trip I took to Mount Carroll, Illinois, to the original campus of Shimer College. It was a February day, and the drive was lovely. I was amazed at how much of Upstate New York, I discovered as I drove -- in the form of town names -- Oswego, Illinois (linked in my mind to Oswego, NY), Albany, Illinois (linked in my mind to. . . Albany, NY), Geneseo, Il (yes, Geneseo, NY). You get my drift. It was not only the names of towns, though. It was also the architecture and the landscape, with its flatness (on the one hand) and rolling (perhaps glacial?) hills (on the other hand). When I arrived in Mount Carroll, I was a bit early for an appointment, so I drifted into the town, saw the buildings and thought about upstate NY some more.
Among my experiences: I visited all the buildings, and saw, for example, the restored president's house, hoods once used for science classes, and residence halls. I had a wonderful conversation with the current director of the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies, about both the work done there (in conservation, collection care, etcetera) and about Frances Wood Shimer. I learned of American chesnut trees and more. Later, I ate sauerkraut pizza (which I actually liked) and learned more. The campus -- like today's Shimer -- spoke loudly to me of community and intellectual virtue. And, I admit it, the campus spoke to me of the many ways that circumstances change institutions, and why we face our future in Chicago. I recognized the love alums (and others) from the Mount Carroll era have for that campus -- and left view books to remind those who visit that Shimer continues in Chicago. As importantly, those view books remind us that today's Shimer is continuous with Mount Carroll's as it offers intellectual challenge and growth, as well as communitiy across generations, to today's students.
To say this another way, my reflections on upstate NY and Mount Carroll's environs remind us that the story of Shimer -- the story of Frances Wood and Cinderella Gregory -- began elsewhere. It is a story that is rooted in a journey -- from one place to another. While the pilgrimage to Mount Carroll is important, as a trip to Geneva, NY (yes, there is a Geneva, Illinois) where Cinderella died might be a pilgrimage, pilgrimages and nostalgia are not all that Shimer is about. While we are about heritage and history, we are also about the future or, more importantly, our future and the future of today's and tomorrow's Shimerians. Our journey from upstate NY to Mount Carroll to Waukegan to Chicago reminds us, I hope, of the journey that is education.
For those who commented wondering about the reasons for the trip: to know Shimer is, of course, in part to listen to all of you -- and to learn about the Shimers that constitute today's Shimer. One of those is constituted by those who were and are devoted to Mount Carroll. (Waukegan will have to wait for another trip!) Working together with that Shimer in many ways is a key to our future -- perhaps funding a scholarship in honor of our Mount Carroll years would one way that those of you devoted to the campus can ensure that the spirit of that beautiful rural area remains alive for in today's Shimerians.
Meanwhile, I promised more pictures. Here are a few: (and it is not my desire for these to be sideways, but I have lost patience and you get what you get!) -- and the person pictured is the Executive Director of the Campbell Center: Sharon Welton.