Evanston RoundTable, Dec. 23, 2021
I had to admit, I chuckled when I read this hometown dig by the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay in a recent column: “What do you know about Bouvet? I’m reading that it’s an uninhabited island 1,000 miles or so from Antarctica. It’s very pretty and quiet and doesn’t get carried away with sports. Sounds sort of like Northwestern.”
Gay is a Journal sports and humor columnist and is the author of the 2015 bestseller “Little Victories.” The Society of Professional Journalists named him Sports Columnist of the Year in 2016, and he has been a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
So, OK, the comment was meant to be funny. But here’s the thing: we in Evanston love Northwestern, and we know these kinds of jibes are probably the result of people who envy our small slice of the world and would send their kids to college here faster than they could snap their fingers.
Case in point: Walking along the NU lakefill last summer I passed a gaggle of parents and their children dutifully trailing behind a Northwestern tour leader. The kids looked high school age and obviously were there with their parents to explore going to school here. For some reason that my wife finds inexplicable and embarrassing, I turned to the assembled group and yelled, “People, I’ve lived in Evanston for almost 40 years. It’s a great city. This is a great school. Just send your kids here, you’ll never regret it.”
I’m not sure how persuasive that was but at least they laughed.
I’m serious. Let’s count the ways Evanston is Heavenston:
- Fabulous lakefront, including public access to Northwestern’s lakefill.
- Caring community.
- Diverse, intriguing urban/suburban mix.
- Great school system with terrific teachers.
- Largest body of fresh water in the world.
- Great beaches.
- With its own symphony orchestra, dance company, children’s choir, children’s theater, arts center, book house and other arts organizations, Evanston thrives on culture.
- Excellent public transit system.
- Far from those pesky hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and coastal flooding. (Take that, New York resident Jason Gay!)
- World-class university, i.e. the aforementioned Northwestern.
- Dozens of vital and engaged civic groups like the Evanston Community Foundation and venerable public service organizations like Y.O.U., the YWCA and YMCA, as well as a vibrant religious community.
- Problems? Like any substantially sized city, we have them. But there are hundreds if not thousands of people here (see # 11) dedicated to helping fix our problems and bring us closer together.
If Northwestern is too quiet for Jason Gay’s taste, fine. But we find the university and city plenty noisy, exciting, richly diverse, fun and a great place to live.