Friday, May 23, 2003

Commencement is on Friday afternoon. A couple of ceremonies precede it: an awards program last night and a Hooding tonight. I attended the awards alone because the babysitter was a no-show. The program was held in "The Mansion" on campus, a former summer retreat of George Jay Gould in Lakewood. Even arriving 20 minutes early left me few seating options; the mansions foyer was full. I found an unoccupied folding chair next to a large marble column, behind another marble column.

The atmosphere was festive, if a little self-congratulatory. Sr. Irene played Sinatra and Andrew Lloyd on the baby grand. The MC was the gentle Sr. Dorothy who moved things along. The presenters were rarely amusing but never stuffy. Naturally, my turn came towards the end. Dr. Schubert called forth Sr. Natalie and myself to receive the Whos Who for her department. I was dressed in black and the Franciscan wore pale purple. Casual observers might have confused us. I asked a stranger in the audience to snap my photo as I accepted the award. Looking at the digital display later, I discovered a lovely picture of the wall under the main staircase with only a small section of Dr. Schubert's shoulder visible. The shy Dr. Schubert would never allow a second one be taken.

We were free to tour the mansion's downstairs afterwards. Built in the late gilded age, in Georgian style, and donated in 1924, the sisters have made minor but significant changes. The solarium has been converted into a chapel and the bare-breasted French beauties in the music room's murals have been artfully draped in not-so-sheer, fluttering fabric. Listed as a historic building, the college is obliged to maintain the house. Locating artists appropriately skilled for touch-ups is becoming difficult. Ten years ago, specialists traveled from France to remove soot from wood carvings in the library. Much of the furniture is original. On display is a book that was found recently at Sotheby's with photographs taken when the Goulds were in residence. A mural based on The Canterbury Tales spans three walls in the rear entranceway, one of only three such murals in the nation. Five years I'm at this school, and last night was my first visit to the mansion. I wish my husband had been there.

The Mansion