Centre College officials had a head start on cracking satisfied smiles by the time the vice-presidential debate hit the airwaves Thursday night.
The college grounds slowly filled with people as anticipation built throughout a clear, crisp day and more more people took in the debate festival and the live filming of MSNBC’s broadcasts. Quick polling showed a big win for the college.
Richard Trollinger, co-chairman of the debate steering committee, said he realized early on Thursday afternoon that the incessant lists he had been making for almost a year were no longer needed. There was nothing left but the debate itself.
Trollinger said things went off virtually glitch-free.
“Earlier, one of the debate’s executive producers Marty Slutsky stopped me and said, ‘How do you come up with a perfect autumn day? And it is so gosh darn happy around here,” said Trollinger.
The vice-presidential debate likely will stay in the headlines for at least a week until the next presidential debate, but the event likely will resonate for even longer at Centre.
“I’m so proud of our faculty, staff and students for bringing this all together,” said Centre President John Roush, who along with his wife Susie has now been part of two vice-presidential debates at Centre and one presidential debate at the University of Richmond.
Roush said work will begin immediately converting the campus to its pre-debate state from the fenced-in focal point of the nation’s politics.
As midnight approached Thursday, word began spreading that the Secret Service told employees the “building is ours” again, meaning the take-down of the infrastructure that allowed for more than 3,000 journalists could begin.
Centre’s communications director, Michael Strysick, will get to work almost immediately crunching the numbers to determining what kind of a boost Centre may have gotten from the debate.
Strysick has pointed to figures like 3,200 media credentials, including 600 foreign journalists and other news personnel from 48 different networks hailing from 40 countries. Other figures he knows so far are an estimated 7,500 attendees at the debate festival and the one the college is the most excited about: about 130 students who got into the debate and many others who got unique experiences such as meeting people with an office in the White House.
Reaching for a sports metaphor to describe an event that ended up airing against playoff baseball games, Strysick said, “It wasn’t a home run, it was a grand slam for the school, the community and the state.”