Life can be difficult, complicated, and worrisome, particularly at a time of budget cuts, revenue shortfalls, and temporary salary reductions, to say nothing of final exams, student debt, and graduates facing a less-than-welcoming work force. But life also has its brighter moments.
On May 12, under the sponsorship of Acting President and Mrs. Reece, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) held its own version of a Caribbean carnival ice cream social. More than 1,000 members of the UMB community gathered to enjoy the simplest of pleasures--an ice cream sundae.
That this event took place in the magnificent new Southern Management Corporation Campus Center (SMC) on a beautiful day in spring at a time when the campus looks its loveliest only added to everyone's enjoyment. And, as Irma Robins, JD, from University Counsel commented, there was ice cream galore and there were more toppings available than she could manage to taste. It is a tradition in the School of Medicine to welcome back faculty, staff, and students at the beginning of the school year, and Acting President Reece was glad it was extended to the campus this spring.
The event brought together all sides of the community from housekeepers to students, professors to facilities management staffers--even members of the UMB Police Force dropped by for a scoop or two. For one day across the campus lab benches, study carrels, and lecture halls emptied out and for a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon there were no occupational or disciplinary boundaries as the campus constituents found that they could be children again.
Third-year pharmacy student Brittany Farrugia thoroughly enjoyed what she called a "unique event." "I appreciated the opportunity to talk with students and faculty from other schools and I really enjoyed the excitement the event generated for the campus community and the new campus center," she said.
Sherifat Mohammed, MA, a development associate in the Office of External Affairs, agreed. "I really enjoyed the event's festive atmosphere," she said. "What a great way to bring the campus together at the end of the school year. It was a refreshing and delicious afternoon break."
Malinda Orlin, PhD, MSW, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School, whose staff in the SMC Campus Center played a major role in organizing the event, was delighted at the turnout, which exceeded all expectations. Orlin had been concerned that sophisticated academics and overworked staff and students might not take the time to enjoy such an old-fashioned treat. During the course of the event she and other planners went from worrying about whether anyone would show up to being concerned about whether the refreshments would run out. Fortunately they were wrong on both counts. The enthusiasm of the crowd proved contagious, and the event was judged a sweet success.
Ice cream socials in the United States date back to the 19th century. In fact, one of the earliest occasions on which ice cream was served was the 1808 inaugural ball of U.S. President James Madison. Robert Smith, who was chosen in 1813 as the first president of the University of Maryland, served as James Madison's secretary of state and was almost certainly at that inaugural ball.
By having an ice cream social at this time in the campus' newest building, Reece helped the University to remember its proud history. UMB President Smith served at a time when Baltimore's Fort McHenry was under attack. A few budget setbacks surely pale by comparison!