My first thought upon entering Alumni Hall: it smells like mold in here.
Alumni Hall, which has not been a major part of life on campus since 1978, lies empty, with the exception of a few chalkboards and a pile of old seats from the auditorium. Industrial-style lighting is wired through each room, the walls of which are cracked. The impressive auditorium, with its old wooden arches, seems considerably less impressive next to the crumbling walls, patchworks of lime green, beige and no paint at all.
Standing on that stage, you would not think Alumni Hall is a number one priority.
According to President Roger Taylor, the top three fundraising priorities over the last 10 years have been Alumni Hall renovations, faculty salaries and fitness and athletics renovations. But Taylor acknowledges issues with donor interest.
“I personally talk to donors about giving to the college and about Alumni Hall,” Taylor said, “and in some of those instances, the donors said, ‘Faculty salaries are of more interest to me. I’d rather do an endowed chair.’”
Mark Kleine is a member of the Board of Trustees and a local businessman. He also serves as the chair of the Alumni Hall Task Force, which recently rechristened itself “Reimagining the Gateway.”
Over the summer, the task force commissioned a local architectural firm, Metzger and Johnson, to conduct a study of the campus in terms of space needs.
“This project is really much larger than just a building. We needed to step back and take a look at more areas of our campus in terms of space utilization,” Kleine said.
This process, according to Kleine, is a big part of generating donor interest. Potential donors would prefer to see that their money will contribute to a campus-wide project instead of one building.
“[The space study consists of] taking a look at various areas of the campus, interviewing people and trying to determine what their needs are for their department,” Kleine said. “Ultimately, we will determine what would be the best use of Alumni Hall.”
Thus far, it is expected that certain departments currently housed in CFA would have space in Alumni Hall, including the admissions office and welcome center. The auditorium would be repurposed as a lecture hall and space would be devoted to an art gallery.
Both Taylor and Kleine cited past cost estimates for the renovation in excess of $10 million. They also asserted that demolishing Alumni Hall for the purpose of building anew is not a viable option, given recent work done on the windows, roof and asbestos abatement, not to mention the building’s historical significance to the institution.
Kleine expects that the space-needs study will be completed by the end of the year and the next task force meeting will take place shortly thereafter or at the beginning of winter term.