Built to last
President Tipson shares plans for campus
by President Baird Tipson
What will our campus look like 100 years from now? Jim Dexter, our director of public relations, provoked that question when he brought me a drawing that some campus planner had designed 100 years ago, imagining the Wittenberg campus of that planner’s future. The campus hasn’t turned out at all the way the planner imagined; the drawing includes two large structures on either side of Myers Hall, what appears to be an apartment complex right in the middle of Myers Hollow, and a large quadrangle approximately where the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center stands today. The buildings share a common architectural style, and they are all some shade of red brick. With a few exceptions, they are also figments of the planner’s imagination.
I take this moral to heart: there is no guarantee that any plan will endure the test of time. Had a donor appeared, I suspect most of the planner’s buildings would be standing today. But he/she imagined no science building, no large indoor sports facility, no chapel larger than the one in Recitation Hall, and — most anachronistically — no parking for automobiles. So some of those lovely red-brick buildings would probably have had to be torn down to meet those and other crucial needs of a modern, residential college campus.
What plans do we have for the next 100 years? First of all, we plan to work hard to maintain Wittenberg’s signature historic buildings: Myers Hall, Recitation Hall, Zimmerman Hall, Carnegie Hall and Weaver Observatory. These buildings lend a distinctive flavor to our campus, something the architects of Hollenbeck Hall instantly recognized. Hollenbeck picks up many elements from these older buildings.
Second, we will erect new buildings and add to existing ones whenever the needs of our academic mission require them and resources allow their creation. We will also make every effort to ensure that additions do not detract from a building’s character, something earlier campus planners could not always afford (witness the additions to Zimmerman and Recitation Halls). The new addition to the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center is a case in point; the center will be even more attractive for the addition. Third, we will maintain the green spaces and plantings that help make this campus such a magnificent place to learn and work.
We have some immediate pressing needs, however, including a better venue for our award-winning theatre program, improved facilities for psychology, education, music and the academic departments now housed in Carnegie Hall, and new and renovated residence halls. Even our athletic facilities lag behind those of some of our competitors. How can we address these needs, consistent with our overall campus planning, in a time of severe budget constraints? We are making some small progress, and I want to report on three initiatives.
First, we will be reclaiming the space between the Benham-Pence Student Center and Weaver Chapel by closing that section of Woodlawn Avenue. Although access must be preserved for emergency vehicles, we now have the opportunity to re-landscape that area. Open space that was once a serious safety hazard for students crossing the street will now become a place for gathering and recreation.
Second, the area immediately north of the Benham-Pence Center, on the east side of what once was Woodlawn, is being prepared for a new residence hall. At the present moment, we can’t afford to begin building the hall; recent declines in the stock market have put that project out of reach. But plans are ready, and all but two of the houses that formerly stood on that site have been razed. The new structure will blend well with our existing buildings, so keep your eyes on that site.
Third, we have just completed Keller Place, the first in what we anticipate will be a series of upperclass apartment buildings. Keller Place occupies the area on the east side of Woodlawn Avenue between Park Place and Ferncliff Avenue; it backs up on the Phi Gamma Delta house. The building contains 12 units of four beds apiece, each unit with a kitchen and bathroom. Thomas and Marker, the contractors for Hollenbeck Hall and the addition to the Kuss Science Center, built this building at their cost to our specifications; we leased them the land for a nominal cost. We guarantee them an annual fee, which we collect in rent from the residents; there is some money left over from the rent to cover routine maintenance costs.
We anticipate entering into a similar arrangement for a second 48-bed building, yet to be named, shortly. So we are beginning to construct — or better are having constructed for us — attractive apartment-style living to complement our existing upperclass housing units.
What will you see when you return to campus next spring, or in five, 10, or 25 years? Our signature buildings will still be here, looking better than new if at all possible. You’ll see quite a few new buildings and additions to existing buildings, similar to Hollenbeck Hall and the Kuss Center addition. You’ll see plenty of trees and grass, global warming permitting. In other words, you’ll see the same campus that first attracted you years ago, looking better than ever. Welcome back!
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112