Old water leak requires some tooth-chattering drilling at Journalism School's famous archway

Thursday, November 5, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Kenny Lewis digs a three-foot deep channel with an excavator in front of the Missouri Journalism School Archway at Walter Williams Hall on Wednesday. To repair a water leakage, the School of Journalism has to drill and excavate next to the foundation of its historic archway.

COLUMBIA — Chatter hushes as superstitious students pass under the Missouri School of Journalism archway; one of the most prevalent myths is that students who talk during the dozen or so steps it takes to walk through it will flunk their next test.

But the stone walkway linking the northeast end of Francis Quadrangle to the intersection of Ninth and Elm streets will be a loud echo chamber for a week as repairs are made. Starting Wednesday, jackhammers were used to drill into the base on the Ninth Street side to get at a water leak that's been seeping into an underground classroom for years.

“We’re hoping to reopen the archway on Tuesday, Nov. 10,” said Pat Cloyd, administrative assistant in the journalism dean's office. “And we’re hoping they can do that — that there won’t be any unforeseen problems.”

The archway is one of those places on campus that is often used for photographs and postcards.

Completed in 1937, it is between Walter Williams and Neff halls. Above it on the Ninth Street side are the words "Wise shall be the bearers of light." Inside it, a plaque states, “On this campus the world’s first school of journalism was founded by Walter Williams Sept. 1, 1908.”

"It's a traditionally sacred location within the journalism school," said Libbi Gordon, president of the MU chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. "I never talk while walking under it because of the superstition."

According to myth, two students once boasted about cheating on an exam while passing under the archway. A professor in an office above the archway overheard them — and failed them.

"It's a neat tradition that I think most journalism students recognize, a fun thing that we share," said Cassandra Batchelder, a junior in strategic communications, which is part of the Journalism School.

The archway’s stone lions, particularly well-remembered by alums, were carved in Chufu, the birthplace of Confucius, during China’s Ming Dynasty, and once stood guard at a Confucian temple in Nanjing, China. They are more than 500 years old.

The lions were dedicated to the Journalism School in 1931 by Chao-Chu-Wu, Chinese minister to the U.S., and presented during the school’s 22nd annual Journalism Week festivities.


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Tanner Tucker November 5, 2009 | 12:41 p.m.

And the purpose of this article is....

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