Vassar Stories

Lights on the Lake

Allison Pemberton ’15 was working hard on an end-of-semester computer science project Sunday when she decided she needed a break. So at dusk, Pemberton walked down to Sunset Lake, lit a candle cradled in some colored paper and cardboard, placed it on the water and watched it float with about 100 others.

Floating paper lanterns on Sunset Lake

“It was a really nice way to take some time away from studying,” she says.

It was students like Pemberton that Sharon Lee ‘14 had in mind when she conceived of an evening of floating lights, soft music and meditation at the lake as her final project for the Office of Health Education.

“The stresses of college aren’t always easy to handle, and the Health Education Office is dedicated to helping students find ways to take care of themselves,” Lee says. “I wanted to do something as my final project that would bring the community together. I view these small lanterns as symbols of letting go of the things that may be burdening us.”

More than 200 students gathered at the lake as night fell. Many lit candles and floated them on the water as a Vassar ensemble, the Mahogonny Choir, chanted a cantu by Norweigian composer Frode Fjellheim. Later, visiting assistant professor of physics Zosia Krusberg led some of the students in a meditation.

Lee says her inspiration was an idea hatched last spring by graduating senior Matthew Kramer, who floated more than 1,000 small LED-powered lights on Sunset Lake during Founder’s Day weekend. “Matthew did it last year, and he gave me the courage to try something similar while adding a few other elements,” she says.  She was aided by 13 student volunteers and received support from the offices of Health Education, Religious and Spiritual Life and Residential Life.

Luis Inoa, assistant dean of students and director of residential life, applauded Lee for organizing the event. “This is an appropriate way to bring some calming to campus during a hectic time,” Inoa says, after placing a candle in the water. “It’s a nice way to end the year.”

Renee Pabst, director of the Health Education Office, agrees. “This is a great way to close the year, bringing the community together for a few moments of quiet reflection,” Pabst says. “I’d like to see it become an annual tradition.”

--Larry Hertz

Photo by Rebecca Hernandez

Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014