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A moment of reflection at the pond

Richard Nixon spoke next to the fountain in 1973

Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 18:02

Pictures of it dominate the UCF homepage and flyers handed to high school kids to promote the university. It's even larger than students' faces on the recent model of the UCF student I.D. card.

It, at any given daylight hour, houses at least one studying pupil, and it has been known to draw a larger student crowd during Homecoming week than does the actual game.

There's no denying that UCF's Reflecting Pond is a university trademark, quite surprising considering its humble beginnings.

It might come as a shock to most students, who have spent their time at UCF considering the pond one of the most prominent features of campus, to find out that the Reflecting Pond wasn't included in the original blueprint of campus. In fact, it was built not for beauty, but as a solution to a terrain problem.

The pond hides a natural annoyance called a wet-weather pond. Simply put, it's several feet of muck that's never wet enough to be water and never dry enough to be dirt. The pond existed as a murky land blemish slightly to the right of the land between the planned Library and present-day Millican Hall.

At the request of UCF's first president, Charles Millican, architects shifted the planned locations of the two buildings to center the pond, then he proposed two solutions to the unsightly mark: landscaping over the pond with shrubs and hedges, or digging up the 5 to 6 feet of mud, laying cement and turning it into a reflecting pool.

Though the idea of the pool was slightly more expensive, it was the solution chosen.

The fountain has its obvious uses: It is a pleasant study area complete with surrounding cement chairs, a unique university centerpiece and of course, the location for the renowned Spirit Splash. But the pond's most important role was played in 1973, when President Richard Nixon came to speak at the June commencement ceremony.

At the request of the Secret Service, the pond was drained and strength-tested in hopes of holding the 9,000-odd faculty and graduates inside of it. This was necessary in order for security to have an ideal view from their posts on the roofs of the surrounding buildings.

UCF complied, and for the only time so far in campus history, the pool was completely drained and dried, then weight-tested to ensure that it could hold the weight of the graduating class, and ultimately the students and faculty.

This weight testing indirectly resulted in the present-day student Homecoming privilege of invading the pond.

Though the pond's primary purpose, aside from Spirit Splash, is to shoot a pleasant array of water displays and provide students with a serene study spot, it is undeniably a distinguishing feature of UCF, all thanks to the stubborn patch of mud.

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