As I teach my class in Abstract Algebra, I am spending time with the idea of inverses, especially those found in multiplication and addition. In both cases, what is done through these operations can be “undone” by applying an inverse. For example, addition can be undone by subtraction, multiplication can be undone by division, and, what’s more, taking a reflection about an axis can be undone by taking another reflection. I find myself thinking of this concept of “undoing” events as I look at the remnants of our gym that were left in ruins a few months ago. It seems that there may be ways to “undo” the damage that was done, and to even make the new gym nicer than the one that it will replace The best way to describe what will happen is that we will more than undo the operation that destroyed our campus. I am not sure if there is a special term for doing that, other than to perform a new operation, which means, in this case, assembling new buildings.
As the semester gets going, members of the Ursuline College community are beginning to hear new information about what will happened to our destroyed gym. As I have written about before, a tornado passed through the campus in late July of last year, tearing the gym and swimming pool apart and leaving our athletes, newly accepted into Division II of the NCAA, begging for practice space from neighboring schools and literally running around our own and neighboring states so they could continue their life as athletes. In the past few months, as a shell-shocked campus returned to life, plans have been laid to build a bigger and better gym in place of the one that was destroyed. As Christmas approached, someone put a Christmas tree up in the ruined gym. It was soon covered in show and stood tall against a backdrop of torn walls and broken basketball hoops. It was seen by many as a sign of hope and promise, that things will get better and the result may even be an improvement over what was there before. A video found on a fund-raising site  containing interviews with members of our college community highlights this idea.
While details of the new gym are not completely written in stone (so to speak!), it seems that plans are for the new gym to be twice as large as the old one, becoming, as one administrator put it, a “double wide” gym. With access to locker rooms from both outside and inside, it is designed to accommodate the level of athletics recently attained with our acceptance into Division II of the NCAA. At the same time, a new building that has been planned for several years will be built alongside the new gym. Some changes have been made in how the two buildings will connect with existing buildings, but it seems that the planned progress on that building will continue despite the destruction on campus. The tornado will eventually become only a large speed bump on our college’s path into the middle of the twenty-first century.
As I think about being a parent to my daughter, I sometimes wish that I could “undo” some of the things that I have done in the past. Alas, doing so is not always as easy as building a new gym. And yet, as parents, we move forward, hoping that we are making the right choices, and that decisions we make today will not negatively affect our children’s wellbeing in the future.
And so now Ursuline College takes the next steps towards recovering from the devastation of last summer. I hope that everyone is feeling such hope as the new semester unfolds.