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Just down the stairwell from the fifth-floor loft where graduate students toil away in Science Hall, students have been writing their names, graduation years and parting thoughts on the wall for some time. People know little about the practice in the building, which was constructed in 1887. But autographing bricks seems to have been a rite of passage for most of the life of Science Hall.

Among the oldest legible autographs are somewhat familiar names such as Frank M. Reilly, a Madison architect who, despite never completing a UW degree, carefully signed his name and added a date — January 16, 1897 — before he left campus.

The inherent tension of academia comes through a little, too, in notes such as one left just a decade ago: “When I look back on this year, it will be with sheer disdain.”

Most students take care not to mar the marks of their predecessors, and they choose to leave on a happy and thoughtful note. When Jacquelyn Gill MS’08, PhD’12 got her doctorate in geography, for example, she paired her name with a quote from poet Mary Oliver: “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

You’ve done a great job of paying attention, Anthony, and thanks for bringing the story of these quirky signatures to our attention!

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