The lake is the center of campus in many ways. It is the focal point of the campus map and virtual tour, as well as of the physical walking tour experienced by each prospective student. I’ve seen dozens of tours stopped on the commons bridge, with the tour group strategically placed facing the lake. The lake divides the Westhampton side of campus from the Richmond side and is visible from many important buildings – dhall, the library, commons itself. Every Sunday night for the first couple months of freshman year, I walked around the lake as I caught up with my family on the phone. I always ended at the gazebo to read one of the books I’d brought with me from home. It gave me time to appreciate the beauty of our campus and remind myself of how lucky I was to be at Richmond.
I recently returned to this spot to reflect on how my perception of the lake and campus as a whole has evolved during the time I’ve spent on campus. During September of last year I had no knowledge of which tree species lined the perimeter of the lake, nor did it even cross my mind to wonder about them. I now know that there are American Beeches and Sassafras trees, among many others I’ll have memorized by Tuesday’s tree test. I didn’t know that the lake was manmade, but I’ve since learned that commons is a dam, and that the lake gets dredged regularly due to sediment buildup. Last year I may have looked for yellow bikes at the bottom of the lake, but not for pools of algae that result from a surplus of nutrients in the water.
As I spend more time on campus and learn more about its physical and human geography, my understanding of University of Richmond as a distinct place with a unique identity is enhanced. This is manifest in the aspects of the lake that stood out to me freshman year in contrast to those that do now.