Dear friend of Berry College:
Geology and building foundations have been key topics in recent months. The foundation of the north end of our Krannert Center suffered a great deal of damage in October when during a two-week period the basement floor beneath the post office subsided just over two feet. The subsidence put great stress on structural elements of a portion of the building with earthquake-like consequences. Fortunately, three-quarters of Krannert was spared such damage. Before the crisis was over, we had pumped 10,300 cubic yards of grouting under the site to avoid further sinking. Many offices had to be relocated as have a number of college activities. Repairs to the affected section are well under way, and we should be open for business as usual in August 2000.
Fluctuations in the water table weaken limestone formations that lie beneath us. A combination of the prolonged drought, several drainings of Victory Lake during repairs a dozen years ago, and activity at the nearby quarry seem to be behind the appearance of sinkholes over the past decade. A 1931 map reveals earlier sinkholes on the campus, including one next to the Krannert site. The crater is still there, although I did not recognize it as such until recently. We have learned to live with geology. The new science building, now well along in construction, rests upon 124 caissons, very large reinforced concrete columns that extend well beneath the earth to bedrock. The science building has the firmest of foundations. In the meantime, we are using sonar-like technology to predict where further subsidence is likely to occur, although the tried and true method of looking out for cracks in walls and doors that stick remains effective.
New Course Explores the Story of Our Nation
A more pleasant type of foundation work is taking place in our curriculum. This spring marks the beginning of a new course called "E pluribus unum: Moments in American Democracy," offered now in a pilot program but becoming a required course for all Berry students next year. From the earliest days of our founding as a nation, we have spoken of ourselves as "one from many." Native Americans came to this continent from Asia many thousands of years ago. Some of our ancestors arrived from Europe in the 17th century, but many more have come from all parts of the globe much more recently. My extended family contains 20th-century immigrant German grandparents as well as Puritan forebearers from the earliest Massachusetts colonies. I am told that 120 languages are now represented in the Atlanta school system. We have been and we remain a diverse people.
The American civilization is remarkable in that it was created from ideas. Jefferson and Madison helped to create a nation from Greek, Latin, and European philosophical writings. Not many countries have been invented out of books. Japanese people seem to be Japanese in different ways than Americans are Americans. We are a construction, something intentionally put together, and not a result of thousands of years of ethnic and national evolution. Even the strongest constructions require continuing maintenance. It strikes me that one important way to be a good American is to read and understand the texts that guided Jefferson and Madison, Lincoln and Calhoun, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Woodrow Wilson, FDR and MLK. We should read both what they read and what they wrote as we seek to understand the struggles they had to endure. Our national story is one of creation and re-creation, a process that continues. Good citizenship in this country has never come automatically. It has had to be learned and learned again. If all Berry College students have only one course in common, it seems fitting that e pluribus unum should be it.
|Berry's Opportunity Drive is active with the sights and sounds of progress. Repairs are being made to the north end of Krannert Center, which suffered structural damage in October due to subsidence. Across the street from Krannert, the science building (pictured above) is beginning to take shape and is scheduled for completion in fall 2000.