Installing the newest ivy stone takes under two hours, but it’s a hot May morning when Bates mason Ron Tardif sets out for his traditional pre-Commencement job. The temperature is heading into the 80s, and by 9:30 in the morning, he’s already built up sweat.
“Can we get the makeup team over here?,” he jokes as a photographer circles the scene. “I need a touch-up.”
Class ivy stones have been placed on most Bates campus buildings since 1879 as a rite of graduation for the senior class. With the entire stretch of Pettengill’s left flank, facing Alumni Walk, now filled with ivy stones, this year’s stone is the first one one the building’s right side, next to Smith Hall.
Compared to the location of more recent stones, along the busy Alumni Walk thoroughfare, the new stone is nestled down an embankment in a grassy bowl in a quiet spot. As Tardif sets to work, a sign of spring passes by: a student on their bicycle, a mesh bag full of soccer balls slung over one shoulder and a gigantic pink exercise ball held firmly, if desperately, under the other.
Armed with a well-worn level, basic pencil, and a tape measure. The designated spot for the stone is just right: at the same height as the other stones in the side of Pettengill, and right in line with the alternating brick pattern and the window edge. And, he joked, not too far from an electrical outlet for his power tools. He then measures and outlines the 8-inch square that the stone will sit in.
This year’s design shows the power of strong lines, details and symmetry. At center stage is a flower in its totality — its stem, leaves and even the root anchoring it to the ground. Hovering above the bloom, as if being held up by the cheery perkiness of the petals, is a single word: “Bates.” A ribbon gathers around the stem, proclaiming “2022.”
This year’s stone designer is Kaitlyn Boehm ‘22, a studio art major from Denver. Each year, seniors are invited to submit a proposal, and the senior class votes to choose one. Boehm wanted her design to perform double duty, representing something unique, the experience of the Class of 2022, and also transcendent, the 156th time Bates has graduated a senior class.
The flower in the design could be a tulip, or something else. Or neither, says Boehm, who prefers that viewers think of it however they want.
Of the four classes at Bates right now, the Class of 2022 is the only one that experienced a typical, pre-pandemic year. “That’s significant, but I didn’t want to necessarily include imagery that was like a mask or a COVID virus symbol,” Boehm says. “I wanted a symbol of how we’ve overcome a lot of challenges.”
The idea of growing up in Colorado but having something she created now part of the Bates landscape “feels really profound, like, ‘Oh, I made this place my home too.’ And this is representative of a lot of people that I became so close with over these four years.”
Boehm spent 2020–21, the first full year of the pandemic, remotely, attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she expanded her skills in illustration and graphic design.
It was rewarding to deepen her skills. She considered transferring, but decided to return. “I realized that at Bates, I had a unique opportunity to shape my education more than I would at another school,” she says. “I was able to work with professors individually and in my student art thesis to explore what intrigued me most. That’s not always the case at other institutions.”
Perusal of ivy stones from previous years reveals some common themes: Bobcats; Bates landmarks or symbols, like the Hathorn bell tower; and, of course, ivy itself. Boehm’s design does not feature any ivy, but maybe that reflects how differently the Class of 2022 experienced college, she laughs.
To cut into the brick, Tardif uses the tools of his masonry trade. First up is a corded DeWalt circular saw with a special blade embedded with tiny diamonds. Clouds of white and red dust fill the air as he saws into the brick.
Tardif cuts a neat square, right over his pencil marks. He doesn’t quite complete the cut on the four corners — doing so risks extending the cut line visibly beyond the hole — so the bricks and drill don’t topple out just yet.
The next tool was a drill, another DeWalt, much bigger than the drill one might use to hang pictures at home. Depending on the bit, it can drill or hammers. It’s a hammer drill!
“If it only drilled, it wouldn’t cut the mustard — or the brick!” Tardif laughs. “Well, maybe it would cut the mustard. But not the brick.”
After drilling a few holes around the interior perimeter of the square, he switches to a chisel bit that hammers away the brick and mortar. Then he spreads fresh mortar around the perimeter of the new cavity, sets the stone inside, makes sure it’s level, and cleans up the edges.
With that, a symbol of the Class of 2022 is set in stone.