Reporters: Caleb Smith and Amaya Wingfield
Devotion: Psalms 6:2-4
This morning we arrived at The Hotel at Auburn University at 9:45am. We are now back in the Central Time zone (2 hours ahead). Once the bus pulled up to the hotel, we were greeted by staff members who were assigned to each group. They escorted us up to our rooms and helped us with our bags. They unlocked our rooms for us and gave us a quick tour of our luxury rooms. We were surprised when we saw our favorite candy sitting on top of the dresser along with a hand written note to each of us. The note was from the Managing Director Hotel Operations and Education Initiative Hotel Mr. Hans van der Reijden. In the note, Mr. Hans welcomed us to the hotel and to accept their gift of our favorite candy and a soda. All of us remembered at our last meeting when Pastor Carol asked the participants as well as the chaperones our favorite candy. It was forgotten up until this moment. After we put our bags away, we returned to the lobby and walked down the hallway to a huge banquet area where a southern buffet lunch was served. There were, fried chicken, fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, greens, salad, potato salad, bread etc. We dived in after Mr. Hans introduced himself and informed us that there will be more activities later on in the hotel. Once we ate lunch, we had a guest speaker: Thom Gossom.
Mr. Gossom was the first African American athlete to graduate from Auburn University. He also received a full scholarship for the next 3 years. Mr. Gossom spoke to us for about an hour and talked about his life. He talked about how life is like a movie/theatre. It has three acts. His first act was growing up in Alabama and going to Auburn University as a black student. There was tension between him and his colleagues, which led to arguments or just avoiding them by staying in his room after games. After he graduated, he was drafted to the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. Once the NFL let him go, he turned his focus to acting (2nd Act). You may have seen him on series such as: In The Heat of the Night, Savannah, ER, Cold Case, and The West Wing as well as movies such as: Fight Club and Jeepers Creepers. For 30 years his life was dedicated to being on film or on stage. After 30 years of avoiding College Reunions, with the support of his wife, Mr. Gossom decided to attend and felt really good about going. He even locked arms with the man he resented after all these years and they became friends. After attending the reunion, we felt better about going back to Auburn University and currently is Chair of the foundation that raises money to support programs at AU. This year their goal is to raise $1 billion dollars. Currently, they raised $800 million based on Alumni donations and other companies and supporters.
We took photos with Mr. Gossom and boarded the bus to take a tour of AUs athletic center. It was established in 1856. The colors for the college are blue and orange. Once we arrived at the University, we visited the trophy room. There were a lot of crystals and also diamonds. Many of the trophies were from former athletes who won the Heisman trophy and other trophy’s were on proud display. The baseball coach of AU along with some of the players also greeted us. They explained their daily activities as a student and athlete. One of the ladies that work there got us each a bracelet that said Auburn University on it. Our tour guide took us around the facility and showed us their training field both indoor and outdoor. We learned that the indoor training field is 4 feet too short to play an official game. Our tour guide also showed us the workout room. He explained that the coach is all about safety. So the players start off basic and work their way to advanced workouts. There is also a traditional bell inside of the workout room. It only rings when a player passes a personal workout goal and the entire room cheers in support. However, if it rings just for fun, the entire team is punished by the coach and makes them run up a steep incline they call “ Green Monster”. Our next room to visit is the players meeting room. It is equipped with high tech gadgets like virtuous goggles that put the player back on the field from the moment they walk out of the locker rooms. After the tour was over we were introduced to the official mascot “Aubie” the tiger. He was very excited to see us and we took separate photos with him along with a group photo.
After the photos, we were introduced two of AU Ambassadors to show us a tour of the campus. Aubie joined us as well, but mysteriously disappeared after we passed his home: Jordan-Hare Stadium. We continued on without him and visited the student center, the communications building and the admissions building. We didn’t get to tour much because it was really hot and it was about to rain. The Ambassadors were kind enough to walk us back to our hotel, that was across the street, but before we left, they pointed out their current library building, which is five stories tall. What the contractors did not account for was the 5 million books that were given to the University and the library is sinking one foot each year.
We returned to the sweet air conditioning at the Piccolo Jazz Restaurant that was at the lobby of the hotel. He introduced us to his staff: the Front Desk Manager, and Manager and the Executive Chef of Arricio, the Manager of Housekeeping, and the Manager of Banquets and dining. We were split into groups and toured behind the scenes of what makes the hotel so enjoyable. We reached the 6th floor, which is only accessible by key entry. There was a small pantry that had fresh baked cookies and refreshment that is free to those who stay on the sixth floor. Next we took a tour of the presidential suite. It was a huge area that had a bar, a lounging area and dining table with a possibility of having two separate bedrooms with the doors on the side.
After our tour was done, we gathered our laundry and gave them to our chaperones. They went to the Laundromat down the street from the hotel while we were taken to the kitchen and had a private cooking class. On the menu today was our own personal pizza. With the help of Mrs. Schultze and the “A-team” and executive chef we all made a personal style dish that consisted of cheese, pepperoni, peppers, onions, cheese, sausage, cheese, ham, cheese and anything we could think of. We dined in a private closed off area in the restaurant and waited for our chaperones to return. Jalen and Mrs. Nadine received a special desert because it was their birthday.
Before we ended the night everyone gathered together to talk about how awesome our day was experiencing the luxury of the hotel and special VIP treatment. This was also the last night that Uncle Darrin was going to be with us. We gave our tributes and prayers for safe travels and love and he provided us with words of encouragement. Instead of goodbye, we said, “See you Monday” since he will be at the church waiting for us!