My first visit to a campus of a college founded by the Sisters of Mercy was a gem, in a lovely setting and with many environmental and justice projects underway.
Without a car, I made my way to Philadelphia by train, and got a ride the rest of the way to Georgian Court University, with a Sister who coordinates the justice activities in that region. That gave me a solid two hours of train time each way to get started on Michener’s Chesapeake, which I wanted to read for a sense of the landscape and history of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, now that I live nearby, and I’m finding it a fascinating read.
The first thing you can’t miss in Lakewood, NJ, is the substantial Hassidic Jewish population, with men walking around in black suits over white shirts, and large black hats, and women in long dark skirts. I had to smile seeing them doing their jogging in the same outfits.
The campus is the former estate of the Gould family, with a couple of mansions still intact (one used for entertaining and meetings, another for the administrative building), the former stables turned into the dining hall and a former cottage now the campus ministry offices. Grecian-style urns and fountains dot the campus, along with ornamental gardens.
There are plenty of very modern touches, though, with a bank of solar panels providing electricity to the main academic building and another building with a living roof (covered with plants for good insulation).
I was there for a week focused on sustainability, with talks, presentations and activities all on that theme. It was quite impressive talking with young women really involved in contemporary issues, and a number of them will be taking a bus to DC on Sunday to participate in the big circling of the White House by activists hoping to stop President Obama from OKing the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. It’ll be fun to be part of an action with them all.