August 26, 2015 2:15PM
In what has become an annual fall tradition on the Pittsburg State University campus, officials, students and guests gathered Wednesday to rededicate a renovated residence hall. What made this ceremony special was that it was the final such ceremony in a 15-year, $30 million effort that has transformed every square foot of residence space on the PSU campus.
The renovation of Nation Hall East, constructed in 1966, cost more than $3.1 million. Like the previous projects in Nation Hall West, Dellinger Hall, Tanner Annex, Tanner Hall, Trout Hall, Bowen Hall and Willard Hall, workers replaced finishes and fixtures, enlarged bathrooms, replaced windows, renovated laundry rooms and upgraded mechanical systems.
“We are so proud of what has been a huge accomplishment,” said Connie Malle, director of university housing.
In addition to the renovations to the university’s five traditional residence halls, the university acquired and renovated a federally subsidized housing complex in 2005 to create Crimson Village Apartments and constructed Crimson Commons apartment-style housing on Joplin Street in 2010,
The result is that today’s students have many more options for on-campus living, ranging from traditional residence halls to suites and apartment living.
Steve Erwin, vice president for student life, said the plan to renovate university housing came out of a crisis, of sorts.
“In the mid to late ‘90s, we found ourselves at a crossroads in regards to on-campus living accommodations for students,” Erwin recalled. “It would not be an overstatement that then, as the director of university housing, I felt like we either needed to address the condition of our facilities or consider discontinuing to offer on-campus housing.”
Erwin said he made his pitch to then-president Tom Bryant and he focused on Willard Hall, which opened as a residence hall for women in 1924, but was at the time used for some academic programs, but was largely vacant and was badly in need of repair.
“My thinking was, if we can’t be successful in attracting additional students to a renovated Willard Hall, we certainly have no hope with our other facilities and their more generic exteriors,” Erwin said. “Certainly, when looking at the totality of the circumstances, any investment in any of our facilities represented a significant risk. But again, if we were going to continue to be a campus with a residential component was had to take that risk.”
That risk paid off and soon a multi-year plan to renovate and expand university housing across the board materialized.
“We are so proud of these renovations,” Malle said as she invited guests to tour Nation Hall East. “These renovations have put new life into our 50-year-old-plus residence halls, which will be enjoyed by present and future PSU students for many more years.”
Campus life – a new chapter
In the early days of what was to become Pittsburg State University, housing for students was provided in a number of boarding houses around the campus and the community.
In 1924, Frances Willard Hall was opened as a residence hall for women.
Over the decades, as circumstances caused enrollments to fluctuate, a variety of solutions to student housing were offered, including Quonset huts for students in programs like the Navy V-12 College Training Program.
The end of World War II and the beginning of the G.I. Bill brought a flood of veterans to campus and a building boom: East Hall, 1953; Tanner Hall, 1954, Trout Hall, 1955; Bowen Hall, 1956; Mitchell Hall, 1957; Shirk Hall, 1958, Nation Hall, 1962; Nation Hall addition, 1966; Dellinger Hall, 1966.
University Housing renovations/construction chronology
Willard Hall - 2000
Crimson Village Apartments - 2005
Bowen Hall - 2009
Trout Hall - 2010
Crimson Commons - 2010
Tanner Hall - 2011
Tanner Annex - 2012
Dellinger Hall - 2013
Nation Hall West - 2014
Nation Hall East – 2015
By the Numbers
Renovated Rooms - 579
New Rooms - 205
Renovated Restrooms - 93
On-campus residents 1998 - 778
On-campus residents 2014 - 1,293
Guests tour a show room in Nation Hall.