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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Francis Quadrangle represents a remarkable container of community

By W. Arthur Mehrhoff/Missourian Reader
January 9, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missourian reader W. Arthur Mehrhoff shares this postcard of the columns on the MU campus from 1909. Mehrhoff, academic coordinator for MU's Museum of Art and Archaeology, says looking onto Francis Quadrangle has offered him a view of the parade of campus life.

W. Arthur Mehrhoff is the academic coordinator for the MU Museum of Art and Archaeology.

Like the view on my antique postcard, I witness the passing parade of campus life from my vantage at the Museum of Art & Archaeology located in Pickard Hall on historic Francis Quadrangle.

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I still recall the brisk, bright October morning two years ago filled with vivid fall colors when nearly 15,000 people gathered on Francis Quadrangle near the museum for ESPN’s Game Day coverage of the upcoming (and victorious) MU Homecoming football game against No. 1 Oklahoma, but how are the circumstances changed ...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne

On a cold, grey, and blustery December afternoon recently, the bell from the campanile of venerable Switzler Hall tolled 26 times during the somber memorial service for the children and teachers murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That visceral moment, overlaid upon the memory of that joyful Homecoming celebration, reminded me that special places like Francis Quadrangle must on occasion provide the stage for the entire human drama, especially John Donne’s timeless yet timely message of community.

Even during the worst of times, I believe a university campus offers a container of community in ways that the virtual world never will. As the old saying goes, you had to be there …

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor is Joy Mayer.