Last Word: The Eternal Present
An art purchase gives one alumna an insight into the Bucknell she loves.
By Erika Szendrey '00
When I saw the antique print depicting an aerial view of my beloved Bucknell University online, it was love at first sight. I knew that I had to find a way to make it my own. I had just graduated, and money was tight. I phoned my parents and mentioned to them how much I liked the print, hoping that they would purchase it for me as a Christmas gift. To my delight, they did.
The hand-colored engraved print that hangs above my couch is signed by Richard Rummell and dated 1907. As a former art history major, I undertook a quest to learn more. In my research, I discovered that Rummell had gone around the country in the early 1900s, creating bird’s-eye views of the nation’s most prestigious schools. Although no one is sure how Rummell captured such perspectives — airplanes had just been invented and were hardly used for commercial flight, much less for artists to capture aerial views — most art historians believe he achieved his vantage point from a hot-air balloon.
The scene in my print is set on a sunny day, perhaps at the end of September, when the leaves are just changing from verdant tones to the warm, golden hues of a Pennsylvania autumn. The print shows a different Bucknell than the one I attended in the late 1990s, but it is my campus all the same. The old Tustin Gymnasium stood where my senior-year residence hall, Gateway Malesardi, now stands. The facade of Old Main, now known as Roberts Hall, looks quite different, as this was before the 1932 fire destroyed the building. The old chemistry lab, now the Art Building, sitting alongside the small bridge and winding creek, looked different during my day. I spent so much time there. There’s the Carnegie Library, which, in the 1990s, the art department fought to save because of its historical significance. Some aspects of the campus remain timeless: the distinctive, mixed Queen Anne and Romanesque architecture of Bucknell Hall, Roberts, Trax, Kress and Carnegie Quadrangle, the sloping nature of the campus, and the Susquehanna flowing in the distance.
I live hundreds of miles away from Bucknell now, but this print keeps my college memories always close. The original owner was most likely an alumnus or alumna, someone who, 100 years ago, loved Bucknell as much as I do, someone who shares a kinship with me through our college roots.
On lazy days, I stare at the print, taking in the old-time automobiles and carriages driving along the dirt roads of Victorian Lewisburg and figures playing football or doing calisthenics in the old Tustin Field. Times have changed. The campus continues to evolve as institutions must, to evolve along with the changing world. Through the changes, the basic beauty and spirit of the place remain in the hearts of its alumni and in the distinctive Georgian buildings nestled in the hilly landscape along the rambling Susquehanna — qualities that will always give the University its sense of history and tradition but, even more so, make it my Bucknell.
When not staring at her engraving, Erika Szendrey works as an allocation and planning analyst for Converse in North Andover, Mass.