SULLIVAN: What’s in a Name? For Spaces, Quite a Bit
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 02:10
Space at Georgetown is always in short supply, and for better or for worse this constraint has shaped our history in many ways. The history of our great space disasters and triumphs alone could fill a book — a book likely to be in the “tragedy” genre.
But our close quarters have also shaped the spirit of Georgetown. They contribute to our close community and add to our appreciation for the precious facilities that comprise our Hilltop. This sense of meaning for campus space adds to the importance of the naming of our buildings, both the good and the bad, so that physical space can become a part of the more symbolic nature and spirit of our beloved university. While Joseph Lauinger is somewhat out of luck, the lives of Frs. Healy, Copley, Gervase, White and Gravenor, the Dahlgren family and William Gaston retain their importance in the magnificent structures that bear their names.
The newest “member” of our campus building community is Regents Hall, which was dedicated on Oct. 4. While the addition of Regents Hall is benefitial for the natural sciences at Georgetown, the administration has left us with much to be desired. They missed an excellent opportunity to instill this new part of campus with Georgetown’s mission to unite faith and science. Instead of looking to an aloof Board of Regents, we should have instead looked just across the way to the Jesuit cemetery, where some of the greatest minds in American science lie peacefully.
The opportunity with Regents Hall may be lost, but there is still hope for the pleasant grassy space that borders Regents, the Rafik B. Hariri Building and Leavey Center. Someday, this quad may be home to new Hoya traditions such as serving as a place for watching Hoya football or sledding when the next Snowpocalypse strikes or.
It is time that we support a student-led proposal to name this space the “Fr. James Curley Quad.” The namesake of “Curley Quad” was a pioneer of the natural sciences at Georgetown who both loved and was loved by his students. Devoting himself to Georgetown from 1833 to 1883, Curley established the university as a major academic center for the natural sciences, particularly astronomy. He convinced both his wary Jesuit superiors and the skeptical Holy See to approve the commission of the Georgetown Astronomical Observatory for the purpose of engaging the sciences at the nation’s first Catholic university. After helping to raise the necessary donations, Curley’s contribution to campus was finished one year before the U.S. Naval Observatory and was used in 1846 to calculate the first latitude and longitude measurements of the District. That observatory still presides over campus.
While the university continues its age-old search for more space around D.C., there will always be frustration and delays. This is why we need to make the space we do have meaningful, whether that means saving it from endless administrative offices, bringing farmers markets and food vendors onto campus or making sure that spaces like Carroll Parlor and the Healy Vault stay preserved. As present students can attest, the names of our community spaces both honor those who gave us the Georgetown of today and give meaning to our everyday interactions. Looking out onto the lawn from a class in White-Gravenor or listening to a lecture in Gaston Hall are part of a collegiate experience unique to this small but beautiful hilltop that overlooks the swift Potomac. Curley Quad deserves to be a part of that experience.
Kevin Sullivan is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. GHOSTS OF HOYAS PAST appears every other Tuesday.