Reeling in the years

The exercise I logged this weekend was hard to quantify: Without a FitBit, I had no real way of knowing how many miles I walked after parking the car on Friday night and using only my feet for transportation as my husband and I explored our old stomping grounds at Indiana University with some of the best friends I’ve ever had — one of whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years.

We got drenched in sweat and rain. Though the only time I broke into a run was a futile attempt to escape a downpour, I was on a nonstop runner’s high all weekend.

Nobody could have predicted the strangeness of the occasion: Saturday was both the 150th anniversary of the Indiana Daily Student and the last day of print publication for Bob and I’s former primary employer, The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne.

We had to sneak past construction barriers to get a photo in front of Ernie Pyle Hall, home of the former School of Journalism, which is being converted into a Campus Welcome Center. The official “celebration” was at Franklin Hall, home of the glitzy new Media School funded in part by IU grad Mark Cuban. It’s a technological marvel, with the fastest computers on campus in its virtual reality lab. The future of journalism is waiting to be discovered there, though nobody knows exactly what that might look like.

Given all the uncertainty in the air, it was hard to know what to feel as I signed Ernie Pyle’s desk, a ritual for the outgoing editor-in-chief ever since the Pulitzer-prize winning correspondent’s death in World War II.

Somehow there was a period in the 1980s when this ritual was forgotten, and so a handful of us former editors whose signatures were missing were asked to sign retroactively on Saturday. At a time when I most often sign my name on a screen, applying Sharpie to such a hallowed wooden structure gave me a little shiver.  

Will anyone still be signing Ernie Pyle’s desk 150 years from now? That’s hard to picture, and not just because there isn’t much space left on the drawer designated for that purpose.

But at breakfast on Sunday, an old friend who now works for the university told us how they handled the sad realization that the expansion of the School of Business required the removal of a tree planted by the late legendary chancellor Herman B Wells. Jenny told us the school took starts from that tree and planted 500 new ones.

It’s not the same. But maybe it’s better.

Ernies desk

Signing Ernie Pyle’s desk with my old friend Kate McKenna, whom I saw for the first time in 30 years over the weekend. (That’s what happens when you live nearly 900 miles apart and raise seven kids between you.) It was amazing how we were able to pick up right were we left off. From now on, we’re going to get together once a year. 

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