My Alma Mater, Part III

The Bell Tower on the IU Bloomington campus, steps away from my old graduate school apartment -
The Bell Tower on the IU Bloomington campus, steps away from my old graduate school apartment –

By Mary Anna Violi |@Mary Anna Violi

Next month heralds once more my return to my alma mater, Indiana University Bloomington, for an event that merits pride and happiness:  My daughter’s graduation. She  will be awarded her B.A. degrees in Journalism and Classical Studies, and her minor in Art History.  She will walk Commencement that morning, as will my darling nephew Daniel that afternoon on the same campus.  Our family joins them for receptions for at their respective schools the night before. The next day they will don their cap and gown, crimson stole, and fasten the tassels of their schools to their mortar boards.

No doubt I shall shed tears of joy at their academic achievements.

When I graduated in 1976 from the aforementioned university, I didn’t walk Commencement.  Having officially graduated in August, I would have had to wait until either December or the following May for Commencement.  The wait, coupled with  graduating with 4,0000 other soon-to-be-former students, held little charm for me.  My parents were not college graduates, yet three of my mother’s brothers obtained their M.D. degrees from the IU School of Medicine, another brother had a degree in Business from IU, and still another was a Purdue Engineering graduate.  It wasn’t that Mama refused to go to college; it was simply that her family with nine children was cash poor.

In short, my parents didn’t push me to attend my Commencement.  My brother, however, had other ideas.  Five years younger than I, when the time came for his IU graduation, we witnessed his Commencement and celebrated with him.  In those years, it was I who colored outside the lines, and my brother who very much colored within those lines.  I was the risk-taker; he followed a more conservative path.  Perhaps it reflected my writing, literary, and musical pursuits that contrasted with his economics and business ones.  Whatever it was in the ‘70’s, the fact remains that I elected not to walk Commencement, he did.

Having grown up in the 1960’s and having come of age in the 1970’s, our culture was different:  The racial riots burned metropolises nationwide, urban terrorism terrorized city-dwellers, the women’s movement left gender roles confused, the Sexual Revolution condoned random sex, and the Vietnam War broke everyone’s heart.  My daughter has come of age in a 21st century cultural landscape of economic chaos, crippling college debt, a declining job market for college graduates, and gratuitous violence.  She stands as my hope for a better future.  You bet I will be there to cheer her on as she graduates in May.  I applaud her pending law school endeavors, passion, fervor, intellect, and compassion.  Not only is she is the light of my life, her luminous vision wants to make this a better world.  I remember the feel of that inner fire, that smoldering passion of those undergraduate and graduate years at my alma mater.  I know that my daughter will shine her light too, with her IU degrees in hand.

Ciao for now.

My Alma Mater, Part 2

IU Auditorium on the Indiana University campus -
IU Auditorium on the Indiana University campus –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi 

On Friday evening, we dined with my nephew Daniel.  Like my daughter, his cousin, he too will graduate next month from Indiana University Bloomington, my alma mater.  The focus of the Mom’s Weekend at my daughter’s sorority was mothers and daughters, but Daniel is dear to my heart.  It would have been unfathomable to not break bread with him while I was on the campus!  After all, we are Italians, and alla famiglia is our motto.

It was, therefore, incumbent upon us to dine at Puccini’s, our favorite Italian restaurant on 4th Street [Giacomo Puccini happens to be my favorite Italian opera composer].  This particular street is home to various culinary offerings from around the world:  Thai, Italian, Turkish, Indian, and Chinese, to name a few. At Puccini’s the three of us feasted on bruchetta, calamari, three different pasta entrees, washed it all down with vino rosso, and then shared tiramisu over coffee.

And then we went to the opera.  Earlier that Friday morning, I had purchased tickets for us. Since it was the first Friday of the month performance, we could claim any seat in the house we wanted.  Daniel was wild to sit in a box seat.  Consequently, we arrived as soon as the doors opened so that he and his cousin could scramble up the flights of stairs to the box seating. As a former voice major, I still get thrills every time I set foot in the Musical Arts Center, the MAC as it is affectionately known.  Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff was premiering that night.  The IU School of Music is renowned around the world.  Its operas promise the audience extraordinary singers, enchanting sets, lighting, and costumes, and brilliant orchestras.  This first Friday performance of Falstaff did not disappoint.  Though not on my top five list of favorite operas [remember that I mentioned I am a Puccini opera aficionado?], the humor and witty staging of this performance held my attention throughout the nearly four-hour performance.  It captivated Anjelica and Daniel too.

In the cool of the night we strolled back to the car, weary, but full of conversation about the magical operatic event.  We did not wish to relinquish the opera, for we three were aware that next year would be different:  my daughter in graduate school in another city; my nephew starting his new job in yet another state.  For the past four years, I have had the inexpressible joy of sharing my alma mater with my daughter and with my nephew.  Our iPhone photos may document particular moments for us, but how I shall miss their undergraduate years.

Ciao for now.

My Alma Mater



The Old Well House, IU Bloomington -
The Old Well House, IU Bloomington –









By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

This weekend I’m back at my old stomping ground, IU Bloomington, where I spent my undergrad and grad school years.  This is Mom’s Weekend at my daughter’s sorority house.  Blowing in to town around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, I met my daughter at her house, handed her the cooler filled with Italian Easter bread, Italian lamb cake, Belgian bunny cookies, and homemade tortellini.  After checking into our hotel, we sped off for a late dinner at The Uptown Cafe.

This particular Mom’s Weekend is a milestone of sorts:  After her May graduation,  no more Mom’s Weekends, no more Little 500 weekends.  Nostalgia washes over me.  While she’s working at the School of Journalism, I’m imbibing a Venti Zen tea at  Starbucks in the IU Memorial Union, a sprawling Indiana limestone structure with gothic windows reminiscent of medieval England.   The cacophony of students and faculty seated at the morass of tables in this large Starbucks is upbeat.  It’s Friday; today’s sunshine promises a sun-drenched weekend.  Classes end later this month, so soon, so sadly, but not for the students, I’m certain.  The rapid passage of these four years takes my breath away.

She chose IU Bloomington over Loyola-Chicago.  Not that I don IU spirit wear on game weekends, although Hoosier Fever was endemic during the legendary Bobby Knight years.  With Bobby at the epicenter of IU basketball, we students circled in his orb.  We spilled out on to Kirkwood Avenue, celebrating wildly after the NCAA Championship wins.  Good times.  Anjelica has had classes in Ballantine, where I savored almost every English class during my undergrad years.  She has walked much the same routes that I did on her daily campus treks.  She is fortunate that the School of Journalism stands on the original, the prettiest part of the campus.  IU is a limestone wonder, but the older buildings remind one of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.  During her first two years, Anjelica was ensconced in Collins Living and Learning Center, located a block from the “J-School”.  Collins played up its kinship to the Harry Potter books and movies.  After she pledged the sorority, she initially missed Collins’ Disco Calzone Nights.

I remember the raging intellectual curiosity of the 1970’s on the campus:  The anti-Vietnam War protests; the combative Feminist Movement; civil disobedience; the fall-out from 1964’s Civil Rights Act; and Watergate.  While protests still occur on the campus, they lack the mammoth national proportions of protests of yore.  Yet as I gaze around me, a surge of hope washes over me.  This generation may lack the passion we had of the ‘70’s, but students are poised to explore the depths of commitments, no less intellectually challenged in this 21st century. I remain hopeful for the future through the leadership of students like my daughter.

My alma mater, flawed though she may be, nonetheless stands tall.  Big Red Rules!

Ciao for now.