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What is the most spectacularly foolish thing you did on Grounds?

“Riding the chalkboards in the Chem building. They were about 3-4 deep so the teacher could push a button and raise one to write on a new board. They would go all the way to the top of the auditorium. The push button control was right there on the side, so one of us would lower the boards to the point where some of us could get on and then push the button to raise it, and we’d ride it all the way to the top.”—Tim Bronaugh (Educ ’91)

The tippy top of the world-famous Rotunda was the site of a lot of folly over the years; alumni across generations sent in stories about climbing the scaffolding all the way to the oculus. Others got up there in different ways. Barbara Eley Parker (Nurs ’66) recalls: “I was dating a guy who had access to the roof of the Rotunda. One spring evening we went up these very narrow steps and exited onto the roof. It was a beautiful view of the Lawn.”

“My fourth year, I lived on 14th Street. To save time on my way to Grounds, I would hop the chain fence and walk over the train tracks next to St. Maarten’s. This was much faster than walking up The Corner and I was almost always running late! One morning, I was particularly behind schedule and, to my dismay, a train was stopped on the tracks; in an absolutely bonkers move, I crawled under the train, backpack and all! I still can’t believe I thought that was a good idea, but desperate (and hungover) times, desperate measures.”—Chelsey Jones (Col ’07)

“In the fall of 1978 I was reading on one of the couches in the mural room (a.k.a. the ‘nude room’) in Clark Hall. I looked up and saw that someone had written ‘Easters 1968’ in the heavy dust on the glass. Obviously that had been there for a long time, so I decided the skylight needed to be cleaned. That involved hauling buckets of water up a short ladder that led from the third floor to the roof, and with a stiff brush and sponges I washed each of the 216 18”-by-36” glass panes, walking carefully on the metal framing between each pane. I started over Thanksgiving break and finished over Christmas break. For my efforts, I got a letter of commendation from the department chair. I think shortly after that, they put a padlock on that roof access door!”
Neal Grandy (Col ’79, Grad ’99) Sanjay Suchak

“In my first semester, my RA organized a ‘road trip’ to Mary Washington College. This consisted of renting a U-Haul truck and loading us in the back. What astounds me to this day is how this common practice was enabled at both ends of the pipeline.”
David Williams (Engr ’81)

“Showed up at a Chi Phi frat party dressed as a bunny—and not the sexy kind.”
Teresa Moros (Col ’74)

Graduated a semester early (WHY DID I DO THAT?!?!).”—Justine Fritz (Col ’08)

One of the original Moes, VMI's kangaroo mascot
VMI Archives Photographs Collection

“Participated in the kidnapping of VMI’s kangaroo mascot, brought it back to Charlottesville and tried to sneak it into Scott Stadium for the UVA-VMI football game.”
Rodney Caldwell (Engr ’59)

Pictured right: One of the original Moes, VMI’s kangaroo mascot during the 1950s. After a series of Moes filled the role, the live animal was ultimately replaced by a costumed mascot in 1972.

“A few classmates and I had to arrive for J-Term on New Year’s Day, so we thought to have a fireworks show on Mad Bowl that night.”—William Booker (Col ’20)

“I scheduled nothing but Tuesday/Thursday classes for one semester. A mature, organized person could have made that work. I did not. And I thought it was genius at the time I did it. It was not.”—Steve Joynt (Col ’84)

“I took my brand-new Ford Bronco II ‘off-road’ in the U-Hall parking lot. This was in the early ’80s, when the parking lot was not fully paved and there were about 4-5 levels (with steep grass banks between the levels) going from street level down to the level of U-Hall. It was lots of fun and even got some ‘air’! Thankfully, no harm was done to the vehicle, its occupants or the parking lot!”—Shelley Payne (Engr ’86, ’87)

While the steam tunnels were cited as a favorite hideout in our most recent Time Capsule, some alumni remembered them a bit less favorably—enough to warrant a mention here. Marianne Padgett (Col ’81) tells of her regular Dungeons & Dragons group taking to the tunnels one night in 1979. Though they played safely and quietly—encountering “dangers” and “treasures” throughout the tunnels—it was foolish, she says, “since at the time it was a judicial offense if one got caught without permission in the steam tunnels; one of my compatriots says it later became trespassing.” Don Lovett (Engr ’71) recalls a 1 a.m. trip on the last day of exams his first year: “We must have seen every tunnel beneath the Grounds. It was interesting, filthy dirty, hot and sweaty, and certainly dangerous enough. I guess the tour took a couple of hours. These days, I’d not want to see even the first 50 feet of a steam tunnel again.” Chris Tyree

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