Like the North Star, the dome guides us back to campus, beckoning us to return. It's there in the distance, standing tall and distinguished, identifying the campus to all who see it.
"I see the dome, and I think of the university," said freshman Eva Jensen. "It looks especially good at night, although it's due for a paint job."
For those who haven't a clue which dome is being spoken of, look south on the Quad and settle your sights on the elongated Victorian structure balancing a gold-plated ball high above Jesse Hall.
This building, built of brick, stone and slate, with a sheet metal roof, cost $250,000 when completed in 1895 and has survived the elements for more than a century.
The dome, designed by architect M.F. Bell was lit for the first time in October 1987. Most of the time the centerpiece, fashioned after Richard M. Upjohn's Connecticut State House of 1872-1878, casts a white glow, on special occasions it is dressed up in gold.
The last major renovation was in 1982 when the state funded a $390,000 cleanup job that took a year to complete. Last year, the university started a $3.2 million project to give Jesse Hall a face-lift.
"The campus wouldn't be complete without it," said sophomore Beth Hart. "It's like a centerpiece on a table" they need to keep it looking good."
At MU students know better than to judge books by their covers, and the same goes for buildings. Although it is a rare student who has actually been inside the dome, those who go find dust-bunnies, cobwebs and hundreds of names carved into the walls by former students who found themselves there.
"There is nothing up there. The dome is simply unfinished space with some light fixtures to illuminate it at night," said Phil Shocklee, assistant director of communications for Campus Facilities.
It seems that even the most prestigious building on campus can turn into an amusement for those who have altered their state of mind on any particular night.
"I don't know anyone who has climbed it, but lots of guys I know threaten to," Jensen said. "Climbing tall objects seems to be a challenge that presents itself a lot when guys get drunk."
It's odd to think that hundreds of students found a way to get into the dome that hovers 180 feet above the ground at its highest point. Climbing through the mazes of ladders and trap doors would be enough of a hindrance for the less determined. Most of these names are rumored to have gotten into the dome when their owners were inducted into the QEBH Honor Society.
"That is a secret," said Georgeanne Porter, adviser for QEBH. "That is not information that I can give out."