"The Future is not an Inheritance, Its an Opportunity and an Obligation" – President William Jefferson Clinton

Category: Unplugged

Horace Rackham

Horace Rackham

As I was searching for a moment of inspiration in Dana Building (School of Natural Resources and Environment), I knew seeing Rackham would lend me that rather than reading any other document for my phone interview tomorrow. As I passed the diag (The Michigan Diag, and its tale needs to be a separate post in itself), and sauntered nomadically towards Rackham I saw those pale grey tinted steps on the outside.

Rackham (called, Horace H. Rackham Graduate School) is the academic heart of Michigan, which eventually gives us our diplomas, and manages the entire process. As I sat on those steps overlooking the sky, I remembered a cold, damp summer (August) afternoon in Ann Arbor back in 2009 ever so warmly – like looking through a sand clock in the Aztecs. It reminded me of nostalgia and reminiscence. My dissertation was finally approved three years before on the very same day, after a myriad of tribulations. After it was approved, I sat on the same steps wondering in intermittent rain on how it all ended. I was to leave Ann Arbor the next day, and go to New York to see the US Open practise with Arun. A few days later, I would leave to India, after which I would go to Australia for my postdoctoral work.

As I entered the elegant first floor, I saw the contrasting difference between outside and inside. It was almost elegantly spartan inside, a few luminous chandeliers above the circular oak tables, and the tables had nothing on them. A sense of serenity set in. I love running my fingers through fabric and walls, as I approached the main audutorium I slowly ran my fingers through the pale brown textured leather on the doors (they were locked), and remembered Al Gore speaking inside many years ago. It was a speech arranged by my own center in Ann Arbor. As I walked back, I saw the plaque about how scientists in Ann Arbor had conducted experiments and identified a drug for poliomyelitis (polio, a condition I have) back in the nineteen hundreds.

I always wanted to appreciate Rackham this way. When you go to University of Michigan, you only go to Rackham for an official meeting, receive feedback on your qualifying exams, or receive sealed feedback on your dissertation in itself – all of which are watershed moments. It is analogous to Federer seeing SW-19 (Wimbledon) now, and coming back in ten years to appreciate it differently.

As I took the stairs up on the right hand side, I ran my fingers through the pale grey marble walls  – I knew it was a unique building. The air smelled and felt different inside. A picture of Rackham on a vintage paper surface enclosed inside a glass case said the building was given to the University of Michigan in 1936. I remember waiting to walk for my graduation next door.

When I picked up the mini cup-cake wrapper someone had left on the carpet floor, I noticed the three trash cans for different recycling materials on the side. There were two students in there, and she said hi. The corner room inside has a meeting table that can easily hold twenty people. I was surprised to see a white board and markers, when I opened the two equal halves of the wooden dark brown cup board doors – I don’t know why I was surprised to find a white board and markers in there.

I walked up to the fourth floor encompassed with spread out dimly lit elegant chandeliers. As I walked through the hall way with no one inside, I could appreciate the serenity and satisfaction Rackham offered me. After all, the dedication lines in my dissertation read: “To the Power of Creativity, Imagination and Rationalism Bestowed Upon the Human Race”.

Rackham is normative (on how ought to be) in spirit. I could hear my own footsteps due to the acoustics inside, and I smelled the wooden air – that was when I knew why I love Rackham ever so much. It is a suspension from reality, and it presents an opportunity for dreams, thoughts, progeny, dare I say (Audacity of Hope), and nourishes our incredible power of imagination to change the world. When you are from deeply liberal graduate student towns such as Berkeley, Stanford or Ann Arbor – you are encouraged to dream, and encouraged to believe that you have the power to change the world. You believe that this is where ideas are germinated, thought process is encouraged and nourished, and solutions are expressed ever so elegantly that you almost believe that this microcosm  – that in so many ways is not reflective of the real world is true, pristine – and even worse, the norm.

As someone who believes I can change the world, I make it a point to visit as many grad schools as possible where ever I am. I believe education presents a solution for poverty, ignorance, our children’s future and terrorism. Rackham embodies in spirit, what the real world does not in the latter’s quest for money and mundane pragmatism. Rackham is enchantingly idealistic.

As I came down on the other side from which I went up, I ran my fingers through the coral understated blue walls – remembering that I indeed went to Michigan. That spirit of idealism, service, a commitment to the future generation, and providing them with a cleaner planet Earth is embedded in myself. As the Horace H. Rackham plaque read:

Horace H. Rackham 1858-1933: Poverty did not embitter him nor wealth affect the simplicity of his life and the even tenor of his way. His mind moved always on a high plane, serene and noble, and his vision extended to the problems of human suffering and happiness everywhere. His broad humanitarianism and his pervading wisdom remain a living force, his memory a refreshing inspiration.

I cried on the first floor, wondering how I am to leave Ann Arbor in a few days.  I have always been a dreamer …

Its must be Rackham

History of Rackham


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