THE SPARTAN LIFE
The stadium tower is quieter on weekends. I was ready to head home after catching up on a few of the things that fade into peripheral vision during the week’s endless stream of opportunity that comes with my Spartan lifestyle.
The elevator chimed, revealing the recycled glass lobby floor and I saw them: two 40-something adults and a kid looking through the windows at the original terra cotta Spartan statue.
I opened the door. “Want to come in?”
They were from Wisconsin. The young man had been accepted by two Michigan schools. It was assumed that he would attend the other one, but, since it was on the way home, they decided to make a stop in East Lansing.
I’m always fascinated by the elements that so mix to influence watershed moments like these. We try to be objective, but there’s that certain subjective something that always seems to tip the scale.
“Would you like to see the press box,” I asked? They eagerly accepted. As we moved through the stadium, I said, “Tell me about your day.”
They talked of entering campus off of Trowbridge Road, impressed by our immense residence hall neighborhoods. They could see the trophies on display as they passed the Duffy, their attention inevitably drawn to the huge south end zone score board with it’s two story square pictures of Spartan football warriors.
They parked their mini-van in the IM West lot and decided to let nature take it’s course. The timeless reassurance of the Red Cedar was framed by the leafy green finery of trees in full bloom. The western sun made the rippling rapids dance like diamonds as the trio crossed the library bridge. They saw John Hannah’s towering presence striding toward the administration building and the Beal Gardens haunting testimony to MSU’s agricultural heritage. As they took all of this in, the family happened upon a pair of summer school scholars, passing in the shadow of Beaumont Tower.
“Would you like us to show you around?”
With authentic students in the lead, they got a glimpse of the MSU experience from two who were living it, touring classrooms, marveling at modern silver lines of the Broad Art Museum, juxtaposed with the classic academic architecture on Circle Drive.
There was an endless stream of questions. What was it like to got to school here? Did you live in a residence hall? How is the food? Does the university still offer exposure to a broad curriculum in addition to a marketable major? What made you decide to come to Michigan State?
It turned out that this family had done their homework. The Ben Franklin Balance Sheet exercise had been long completed. But the confluence of Spartan sights and stories are just as seductive today as they were when you and I first saw the campus.
They told me all of this as we stood at the press box window, looking out over the majesty of Spartan Stadium, eastward toward Hubbard Hall’s twin towers. The mixture of clouds and sunshine gave the southern horizon a Monet quality, painting the fields beyond in watercolor pastels; the visual sensations that create lasting Michigan State memories in every Spartan heart.
I accented the scenery with my tales of Spartans helping Spartans and the lifelong bond we share with one another, even though we may have never met.
When the questions faded, the profound silence of the deserted press box surrounded us. I asked the young man, “So what do you think?”
“I can get a good education at all of the schools that accepted me,” he said. “But I think I’ve made my decision.” His parents eyes locked with his. We all knew we were witnessing a life changing turning point.
“I want to become a Spartan.”
Facts speak for themselves. We are a top tier academic institution, training leaders, lifesavers and world changers to face life’s most complicated challenges. But in the end, this young man understood that, sometimes, the most important things don’t show up in a U.S. News & World Report spreadsheet. He realized what you and I already know by heart.
There is no life like the “Spartan Life.”
W. Scott Westerman III, ’78
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association