Forty years ago this week I came down to Miami to visit the University of Miami as a prospective student. I was a junior in high school at the time and I was considering several colleges; among them Northwestern, Rollins, Stetson, Lake Forest, and Fort Lewis in Durango, Colorado, only because two of my best friends were applying there, too. But Miami sounded pretty nice; they had a drama program and my grandmother lived here. So after a week of skiing in Colorado and affirming the fact that I really didn’t like winter all that much, I flew down here to see what UM had to offer.
My grandmother met me at the airport and took me directly to the campus in Coral Gables. I remember we parked near the Ring Theatre and strolled across the wide lawn to the administration building to pick up an application packet. Having flown down from Toledo that morning where the late March temperatures were still in the 30’s and the skies were cloudy all day, to arrive in sunshine, 80 degrees, and seeing people strolling around campus in tank-tops and cut-offs basically sealed the deal even before I poked my head into the theatre in the middle of one of Buckets Lowery’s acting classes. Almost exactly a year later I got the acceptance letter from UM, and in September 1971, on my 19th birthday, I returned to Miami and moved into the then-un-air-conditioned 1950’s-style Mahoney Hall dorm and … the rest is history.
I drive past UM every morning on the way to work. It has changed a lot over the last forty years, going from a campus that looked more like an industrial park than a seat of academic learning to a beautifully landscaped enclave. I made a lot of friends in the years I was there and they’re still with me, either in spirit or through the mail, Facebook, or, as in the case of the dear Old Professor, almost every day. And I can still walk across that wide lawn and still see what I saw back then.