April 23, 2007
Harvard Square Observer

Virginia on My Mind

Ernest Cassara

After the tragedy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia is on the minds of many folks in the United States, and, I suspect, around the world.

During my days at George Mason University in Fairfax, in northern Virginia, across the river from the District of Columbia - twenty years to be exact - I was able to visit a number of college campuses, both public and private.  This was especially so, when I became active in the Virginia Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and, especially when serving as president of the organization.  I saw a few more in Maryland and Delaware, when active in the Chesapeake Chapter of the American Studies Association, serving as an officer, including as president, in that organization as well.

My wife and I probably would have opted to remain in the Old Dominion after retirement, but our two grandchildren were in the old Bay State, so back to New England we came.  One of the supreme pleasures of life, after all, is to observe the growth and development of the kids in the family.

Remaining in Virginia would have had certain advantages, “weather wise,” as folks say.  Spring arrived earlier than in does in Harvard Square, and autumn came later.  And, having a mountain place in Maine to escape to, we could avoid Washington weather in August, which, as the great humorist Russell Baker said, “is like glue.”

If we had stayed, just consider: if conceived at all, this website may have been designated “The Old Dominion Commentary,” or “The Fairfax City Commentary,” or some such!

Yes, my visits to the various campuses was very pleasant.  I can think of only one disagreeable incident, which has stuck in my memory all of these years.  At VMI - the Virginia Military Institute - coming out of a meeting, I discovered that someone had ripped a bumper sticker from my car.  At this distance in time, I don’t remember what the message on the sticker was, but I could only assume that the cadet who did that did not agree with my liberal ideas.  The faculty members of the school, however, I found to be very agreeable.

I only remember visiting Blacksburg and Virginia Tech - as the name is abbreviated - once.  My wife’s institution, the University of the District of Columbia, had a joint program with Virginia Tech, classes held in northern Virginia.  (I used to joke that Virginia Tech had its own air force, for it used to fly faculty members from Blacksburg, at the southwestern tip of the Old Dominion, to northern Virginia, to teach the classes.)  It was a very pleasant visit, the campus and its setting being so beautiful, and, the ceremony in which those particular students received their degrees being very impressive.

It is said that the young man, Cho Seung-Hui, who killed thirty-two students and faculty members, was a “loner.”  We have heard this about trouble makers before.  But, I have often wondered if it isn’t our responsibility to do our best to make sure that “loners” mix in with our group?  Then, they are no longer “loners,” and but one of us.


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