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From the editor: A tour of college towns gets me thinking of home

By ,

Summer is supposed to be a time when things slow down.

Not in my household.

I’ve spent recent weeks on a quest with my youngest son to find his future university, traveling hither and yon through the Northeast and Midwest so he can try on college towns for size.

One epic weekend, we drove up to a school in New Jersey for a soccer tournament, then across Pennsylvania for a stop in Pittsburgh before continuing on to another school in the center of Ohio. After a daylong campus visit we were back in the car at 4 p.m. and home in bed 10 hours or so later.

Then up the next day and back at work, where I spend my “free” time sketching out our next voyage.

Ah, life on the road.

I’ve come to appreciate just how profound an effect the previous economic boom had on our nation’s campuses. Nearly every school we visit shows off its new buildings and recently rehabilitated classrooms. One added an indoor rock-climbing wall. Another a snazzy wrestling center.

Three years ago, when I toured schools with my older son, computer labs jammed with desktops were all the rage. Now it’s ubiquitous wireless.

I’ve also marveled at the economic ecosystem that is the college town. It’s easy to forget just what a financial engine a university can be, especially in a region like ours where the government and host of diverse industries power our surroundings. In many places, the university is the center of the universe, and it is impressive to see the kinds of hip, affordable, locally grown businesses that take root, where owner and customer take care to support one another in an intellectually curious environment.

Even the ice cream parlors seem smart.

All this traveling around got me thinking about those ties, and why they aren’t more prevalent here. Indeed, our local halls of knowledge recently grew so concerned they were being taken for granted that they issued a report reminding anyone who would listen of their varied contributions.

Somehow I think we might all be better off if we could find more ways to bring the best of the college town to the big city.

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