The Foucault pendulum in the Mathematical Sciences building swings once again after nearly 20 years of remaining idle.
The pendulum broke down in the 1990s and kept still until Eileen Swindling, UCF alumna class of ’88, decided to do something about it. Swindling met up with Tara Kemmerling, associate director of development for the College of Business Administration, for lunch one afternoon. After catching up, Swindling told Kemmerling her “pendulum story.”
“The pendulum was my strength at UCF at times when I was discouraged,” Swindling said. “I had many classes in the math building, but as a working, commuting student, I had little time to take note of the buildings. I did not come from money, and I saw college as my ticket to a better life. Attending UCF was the beginning of the life I chose for myself.”
Swindling said that she did very well in high school and was unaccustomed to getting bad grades. So when she received her first bad grade on a test, she was devastated.
“I felt my dreams falling apart," she said. "As I entered the math building, I looked up and saw a string. Curious, I went down to the lower level and looked up. It was the pendulum. I had never noticed it before."
She returned to the pendulum as often as I could after that day.
"It was as if it had been waiting patiently for me," she said. "As I watched its gentle movement, I realized that this great achievement was developed by great minds, who started — just like me — in the halls of a university. [I] thought about all the many failures they must have had in discovering the motion of the pendulum, and suddenly my one bad test score didn't seem so overwhelming.
“The pendulum's sway seemed to be whispering to me, 'just keep moving,'" Swindling said. "I took the advice of 'my friend the pendulum,' as my daughter calls it, and came to have the life I had only dreamed of back then."
Once Kemmerling heard how important the pendulum was to Swindling, Kemmerling suggested setting up an endowment to keep the pendulum in good repair.
Kemmerling got the ball rolling and worked with Michael D. Johnson, the dean of the College of Sciences. They had the pendulum back up and running before homecoming of 2015, before Swindling created the endowment.
“All I did was get the conversation started.” Swindling said, “Since then, my family has made an endowment so that the pendulum will continue to inspire students.”
Rosemary Monroy, the special consultant to the dean of the College of Sciences, said that though the pendulum has been sitting still for almost 20 years, it is her understanding that several attempts were made to fix it. She is not sure, however, how many attempts were made, nor by whom, because the building has undergone many occupancy changes through the years.
Monroy said the pendulum repair cost $5,500 for parts and labor along with some miscellaneous costs not included in the vendor’s proposal.
"Although the pendulum is swinging again, the project is still in progress," Monroy said.
Swindling has two college-aged children who said they have been inspired by their mothers’ "pendulum story.”
"While I don’t have many classes in the Math and Sciences building, I enjoy stopping by every once in a while to view it," said Stanley Swindling, a junior film major. "To me, it represents a unique and important piece of UCF: Our school’s drive for innovation and enthusiasm for education.”
Stephanie Swindling, a senior majoring in political science, said that when she first was accepted to UCF, her mother told her her “pendulum story.”
“I thought it was lame at first,” she said. “How could a ball on string provide a person so much strength and confidence? It wasn't till I arrived at UCF myself that I began to understand. Adulthood can be hard and scary — sometimes you need something bigger than yourself to believe in.
"The pendulum never stops, never quits, never gives up. My mother was right. To be able to see the world moving, even when you feel like yours has stopped, gives you the strength to want to keep going on with your life too.”
Stanley Swindling said that his mother has spent decades working on her career and finding her own success, thanks to the lessons she learned at UCF.
"To see her give back in this capacity speaks to the determination and ingenuity that is so deeply ingrained in our school’s culture," Stanley Swindling said. "If UCF stands for opportunity, the pendulum epitomizes it.”
Brianna Ordenes is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.