Since the foundation of the University of Bologna in 1180, and even earlier during the early Middle Ages in monasteries, the university was the center of learning and culture. This important function still resides with the university. It is a place of innovation and is a place for preservation of intellectual values. Young people are formed here and their tastes, preferences and visions are influenced by the university.
The everyday world is too busy to pay attention to the cultural heritage and to the thoughts and creations of the past ages, but society needs reserves where its values are deposited and preserved for future generations. The university is such a place and we need, with forethought, to consider the values, both physical and intellectual, left us by past generations, and to determine which are worth saving and which can be discarded.
The NMSU campus is 100 years old. Only one building remains from that time, the old Seed House on College Drive. It is an undistinguished building in appearance, yet has a great value to the university because it predates it. It was here when the founding fathers met April 27, 1888 and it looked benevolently on the early efforts of faculty and students who built what is now a great university in the wilderness of southern New Mexico. No other college buildings are preserved from the past century.
Young men and women who spend their early adulthood years at NMSU become emotionally attached, not only to the idea of NMSU, but also to the physical reality of it. Classrooms, walks, dormitories assume sentimental value; they remind former students of their first intensive efforts, their dates, their discovery of the world. Coming back years later, the nostalgia of their youth and of the carefree life is one of the valuable experiences education provides. We wish to preserve the physical reality of the campus as much as the practical modern world permits.
One function of a university is to be on the cutting edge of the intellectual life. Both discovery within the logical systems of the sciences, as well as creativity in the limitless lands of art, literature and music, properly find a home at the university. But equally properly, the university is a preserve of the ethical, traditional and social values formed over centuries and millennia in the sunny lands of Greece and Rome, in the foggy islands of Britain and other European lands, as well as in the sunny lands of Spain and Mexico, and literally of every country of the world. The university is the heir of that wealth, and it is our responsibility to preserve the heritage and carry it on.
Continuity of culture and architecture is doubly important for its inherent value and to provide a stable background to the advanced research and change against which it can regain its meaning, judge its value and balance its results.
Students change every few years; the university stays. In this disposable, unstable world, where only now and here is valued and where performance is judged by return on margins, we need the dimension of time provided by historical buildings. We need to have classes in buildings that stood here before we were born and before our parents were born. We need the sense of permanence that an old building, an old piece of art, an old book can give. A reassurance that generations struggled before us for the same goals and felt the same pain and joy.