When 1954 Ohio Wesleyan University graduate Gordon Smith thinks about Stuyvesant Hall, he is transported back to a time shortly after midnight on a Saturday morning during his time as an OWU student.
Smith recalls that after Stuyvesant Hall’s signature bell tower chimed at 12:30 a.m.—curfew for the young women who lived inside—he and all of his fellow fraternity brothers walked over to the outdoor courtyard 15 minutes later to serenade the female freshmen with love songs and other musical melodies.
“That, indeed, is a pleasant memory,” said Smith, who later married Helen Crider, a 1956 OWU alumna and current Life Trustee for the university.
Helen Crider Smith also spoke during the groundbreaking ceremony, held Thursday afternoon in the building’s courtyard, 223 W. William St. The Potomac, Maryland, couple are among the many OWU alumni and friends making contributions to fund the 15-month, $15-million renovation project, which will result in the chimes’ ringing once again.
As she stood at the lectern, Helen Smith noted that she was able to look up at the second-floor window of the Stuyvesant Hall room she called home back when the building was in its prime.
Smith said she is excited that the renovation project will restore the beauty of the historic structure and make it “even more functional for the way students live today.”
Although the renovation of Stuyvesant Hall had been an OWU priority for many years, the project rocketed forward in February, when the university received an anonymous $5 million challenge gift to support the project. The gift urged the university to break ground this spring.
Helen Smith said the energy created by the anonymous gift has been palpable. “It was exciting to see many people who felt the same way joining hands to seize the moment. Now we can’t wait to see the final project.”
The renovation will transform 74,000 square feet of Stuyvesant Hall, one of 11 Ohio Wesleyan buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The project will add a new south entrance, new courtyard terrace, and environmentally friendly elements including energy-efficient heating, cooling, and lighting. The university will register the project with the U.S. Green Building Council, which reviews construction and awards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
Wendy Piper, OWU’s Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Residential Life, said the renovated building will be an integral part of the residential campus experience provided by Ohio Wesleyan.
“It is our belief and philosophy that what makes an Ohio Wesleyan education distinct is the immersion and engagement in a residential community where leadership skills are honed, lasting friendships are made, and life lessons are learned—all which complement [students’] academic and classroom experiences,” Piper said, adding that she is excited to see Stuyvesant Hall once again become an in-demand location for students to live.
Tim Carney, a member of OWU’s Class of 2012 and Vice President of the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs (WCSA), agreed with Piper, telling the crowd that despite Stuyvesant Hall’s rich history and tradition, students have considered it “hot, dirty, and old.”
“This renovation sets a new benchmark for residential life at OWU,” said Carney of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.
Mike Long, Chairman of the Ohio Wesleyan Board of Trustees, thanked all of the project donors and recognized President Rock Jones for working “tirelessly and at a feverish pace” to meet the funding challenge and pushing the project forward. Long, a 1966 OWU alumnus, called the feat “nothing short of remarkable.”
Jones said he remembers touring Stuyvesant Hall in 2007, when he still was a candidate for the OWU presidency. Jones said he and his wife, Melissa Lollar Jones, were struck by the building’s beauty.
“I remember thinking, ‘What a treasure and what a need,’ ” Jones said, adding his thanks to the Trustees and the project’s many donors and supporters for “sharing and fulfilling the vision for renovation.”
“What a great day. What a great day, Evan Corns, to be a Bishop,” Jones said, borrowing a favorite phrase from Corns, a 1959 OWU graduate and Alumni Trustee from Pepper Pike, Ohio.
Though the $5 million anonymous challenge has been met, fund-raising will continue for the Stuyvesant Hall project and other OWU campus priorities. Jones said he is especially gratified that, to date, 83 percent of the people approached to support Stuyvesant Hall have made contributions.
“That’s almost unheard of,” Jones said, “and it speaks volumes about the power of the OWU residential campus experience and the love our alumni and friends have for the university. I’m grateful for this outpouring of support.”