It wasn’t until after I enrolled in a University of Pittsburgh philosophy class that I first encountered the concept of “Ideal.”
As I soon learned, that while an “Ideal” may be difficult to achieve—at least one understands the concept and potential of something being “perfect.” As I embarked on getting acquainted with this new situation during my freshman year at the Cathedral of Learning, I soon encountered dozens of examples of “ideals.”
Most memorable of those new experiences were the decorated trees that, during the holiday season, held pride of place in Pitt’s Nationality Rooms.
According to a university press release, after WW I, the chancellor at that time when the new campus was being built in Oakland, conceived of the idea to involve representatives from all of Pittsburgh’s ethnic groups in creating classrooms decorated in the style of their countries. The story of that effort was documented in a video.
About two-dozen rooms, decorated in the traditional style of each country, such as Germany, England, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Greece, demonstrated the variety of their “ideals”. To an impressionable visitor, each room appeared to be more lavish in its decor than the previous.
One room in particular impressed me. Because that first year also was my initial exposure to things “ala Francaise,” I was most in awe of the petit palace-sized lecture room, decorated with gold fleur de lis embroidered draperies, sky blue-leather cushioned chairs, and pale oak parquet flooring. It was a good environment for a young student, who sat there attempting to learn her Normandy ancestor’s language.
Since that inaugural encounter with other countries’ customs, I often reflect about the richness of that exposure—especially the holiday customs such as Ste. Lucia, St. Nicholas, Pere Noel, Father Christmas, and best of all—the thrill of smashing the huge, candy-filled piñata.
When it was broken open, its sweet bounty rippled across the slate-floored Commons—for everyone to enjoy.
Visit the rooms at www.nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/ to learn about these rooms.