title
 

The Rock
For just over a quarter century it sat, more silent than the University of North Carolina’s Silent Sam, more sedentary than the seated Lincoln at the University of Illinois. Like them, subject to the whispered rumors of successive graduating classes.

Then suddenly, in 1999, it was gone, the gaping hole left in front of Heth Hall by its mythic flight rapidly covered over by facilities management operatives. The rumor appeared to have come true – had a virgin graduated from RU? The cause for the departure of the Heth Rock has remained a mystery – until now.

I began my search into the rock’s flight by doing what any intrepid reporter would do – looking into the lurid lives of previous graduating classes in the hopes of finding an island of virtuous behavior. A friend helpfully suggested I focus upon computer science graduates, but my queries there ended upon the realization that anyone can ‘get lucky’ on the Internet.

Bookish former English majors studying Emily Dickinson, former chemistry majors whose search for the flame had carried them no further than their Bunsen burners, former religion students involuntarily mired in agape – I left no stone unturned, yet I seemed no closer to an answer.

Then I learned that the rock’s flight had been short indeed. Rushing over to its new location by Parking Lot CC beside the steps to University Drive (only slightly more than a stone’s throw from its former location), I physically examined the rock for traces of moss. Finding none, I could not rule out the possibility that this flying rock might instead be a rolling stone.

I was feeling more like Sisyphus all the time. My investigations had attracted the attention of a person who would identify herself only as Pyrite. She showed up at my overheated office in the Allen Building one sultry winter day, her stone-washed jeans so tight that the underlying foundations looked gneiss. But what I thought might crack this monolithic mystery quickly turned into crackpot conspiracy as Pyrite explained that the Heth Rock had been moved according to the demands of “the highest levels of RU administration” in order to quell the rumors the stone generated.

With the trail gone stone cold I contacted Tommy Manning, ghostbuster and director of facilities management operations, with whose help I had explored the steam tunnels and phantoms of RU. He put me in touch with Bob Nicholson, director of maintenance.

“In 1999 the rock was moved to make room for the new Tartan Plaza which was installed over a period of time during 1999-2000,” Nicholson wrote via e-mail.

There you have it, dear reader – “the rock was moved.” Facilities management did it. The rock didn’t fly, or at least has not yet. Still, I can’t rid myself of the questions posed by Pyrite’s theories. Sure, the rock was moved for the construction of Tartan Plaza, but what if moving it served another purpose? Sure, her theories had faults, but by moving the rock could facilities management have killed two birds with one stone?

    — Jeff Crooke

 
top of page  home