Economists are sometimes compared to meteorologists in that both sometimes try to predict upcoming events, and both manage to do an acceptable job at this, but occasionally make mistakes. Neither can predict future events with complete certainty, as unforseen events tend to have an effect on the outcomes they are trying to predict. For economists, it may be a change in consumer confidence in a far off country that injects “error” into a prediction, while for a meteorologist, small changes, sometimes described as a “butterfly moving its wings”, can cause their predications to be incorrect. I found myself thinking of this as Ursuline College approaches the one year anniversary of a destructive meteorological event, the arrival of a tornado to campus. This was a tornado that destroyed our athletic center, damaged much of the campus and radically changed plans for the future of the college.
In the early morning of July 20, 2013, as much of the area hoped for a respite from the hot, humid weather that had been torturing us for the previous week, a storm came through, bringing some relief from the heat. As it did, it brought with it a tornado. That tornado ripped apart out gym, took the roof off our pool (and placed it back exactly where it had been, a placement that did not prevent the pool from being considered too unsafe to use.) Paths in the woods, used by the Biology department to study plants and trees, were destroyed, and hundreds year old trees were torn from their roots. Debris from campus was found miles away, and a storage shed was found in the bottom of our campus lake. For months, a piece of roofing hung on a tree outside my office window, until it was finally removed last winter. Once that was moved, it was time for the math department to move, to make room for necessary renovations. We still hope to return to our old offices, close to our colleagues in the sciences in the “S.T.E.M.” building since, as we like to point out, math is the language of science and the “M” in S.T.E.M.
It is amazing how different the campus looks only one year later. After months of having half of a gym sitting on our campus, it has been torn down, as has the pool, which was filled in, leaving only flat earth in their wake. Luckily, someone took pictures of the Christmas tree that was placed in the destroyed gym last December. Covered in snow, it brought a message of hope in the midst of destruction. Bulldozers are continuously working to make way for the new buildings that will be constructed in place of those that were destroyed. One of those buildings was planned for years ago, and will house labs and offices for those in the “Creative and Healing Arts and Sciences,” while another is a gym worthy of Ursuline’s new status after being admitted to Division II of the N.C.A.A. only weeks before the tornado. Our college president likes to joke that, upon our admittance, she said that she just wished she could have a new gym. She claims that God took her at her word, and sent the tornado.
It is amazing to see how much our campus has changed in only one year, and even more amazing to see how much it has changed in the sixteen years I have been here. In that time we have added several programs, including our first doctoral program (awarding the degree of a D.N.P., a Doctor of Nursing Practice), added an N.C.A.A. sports program and built a new dorm as well as a new classroom building that includes an upgraded cafeteria . Now we are adding two new buildings, including a new gym for our athletes. Indeed, just the other day, I ran into a faculty member from another school who told me “let me know if they have any openings for someone with my field." We don’t at the moment, but it was exciting to see the level of respect Ursuline College has recently attained in this part of Ohio.
I would never wish the tornado on anyone, but it is interesting to see how our college has rebounded from the disaster and how hopeful everyone is about our future. Indeed, the footprint of our campus will soon look very different, thanks, in part, to the tornado that saw fit to visit us one year ago this weekend. Now, if I could just get my office back into the S.T.E.M. building….