From its beginning, Indiana State University has been dedicated to training teachers for the classroom. Now, the College of Education is returning to part of its roots as it continues the same mission.
“For nearly 50 years, the needs of Indiana State University, its students and the children who went to school here were well-served by the Laboratory School,” said College of Education Dean Brad Balch. “Now, as University Hall, the building will help fashion the future for new generations of educators. It’s been a long time coming but the wait has been worth it.”
Indiana State rededicated University Hall during the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 10.
“As you look around this building, it is a magnificent achievement as today we rededicate University Hall,” President Daniel J. Bradley said. “It is no mean feat to be able to restore a building in a way that is true to its original builder’s vision while, at the same time, creating a facility that is aimed squarely at the future.”
State Sen. Luke Kenley and State Rep. Clyde Kersey attended the rededication. In praising the building, Kenley urged university officials to expand on its mission for serving students across Indiana.
“Not only is this a great opportunity for an old building, but there are great opportunities out there for you,” he said.
For Kersey, who helped usher the renovation project through state appropriations and graduated from ISU in 1971, University Hall holds special memories for him.
“I made many trips over here when I was a student,” he said. “It seems only fitting that this building once again be preparing students to go out.”
University Hall formerly housed the Laboratory School and State High, which not only educated elementary through high school students but also served as a training ground for future teachers.
“Parents covet the opportunity to send their children where they not only benefit from the latest methods of teaching and equipment, but also from association with the very competent critic teachers,” Olis Jamison, the first director of the Lab School, told the Indiana Statesman in 1937.
University Hall, which was built in 1935 for $1 million as part of the Works Progress Administration, operated as a school until the elementary closed in 1992 following the high school closure in 1978 and the junior high in 1991.
Susan Kiger, interim chairperson of curriculum, instruction and media technology, in recalling her time previously spent as a teacher in University Hall, said the building was, and now is again, one of opportunities. One of her favorite memories involved an eighth grade nutrition class.
“As part of their experiential learning activities – yes, we’ve been doing experiential learning for quite some time – students were charged with not only learning the basics of good nutrition, but also to provide a form of community service by selecting and teaching another group the principles,” she told the audience gathered for the dedication.
The students chose to create a mock television broadcast aimed toward the elementary students. Communication students at Indiana State worked with the eighth graders to create a professional broadcast.
“I’m just so thankful to come back ‘home’ to the building and I am thrilled that today’s students will have an opportunity to experience all that University Hall, the Lab School and ISU represent,” she said.
In 2006, state officials approved $26.88 million in funds toward renovating the building listed on the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology’s Historic Sites and Structures List. The university contributed $2.92 million toward the $29.8 million renovation project, which began in June 2007. Faculty and staff moved in during July 2009 from the 15-story building it occupied since 1976.
“This building is more than a structure of brick, glass, concrete, wood and fancy fabrics,” said Provost C. Jack Maynard. “With its 13 classrooms, meeting spaces, theater and atrium, it is the embodiment of ISU’s and the College of Education’s long tradition, history, philosophy and culture in providing experiential learning opportunities.”
Part of Indiana State’s targeting the future, includes preparing students to enter their future classrooms. To help with that, University Hall’s classrooms feature the latest technology. Also, data and electrical outlets are spaced through the classrooms so that no student is more than six feet away.
The building’s continues to pay homage to its past and its history remains throughout the building. A restored mural by Gilbert Wilson graces one of the school’s entries. The mural’s artwork was done in a style during the 1930’s commonly known as “social realism” or an attempt to depict stylistically a grittier point of view not common in art previously.
The University Hall mural, which the Works Progress Administration funded, has a message. In his writings, Wilson stated “It is an attempt to state thru the medium of form and color the greatest problem facing civilization today. That problem is WASTE. Waste of the earth upon which we live and the waste of human life.”
To avoid as much waste as possible during the renovation and in the future, university officials used green building practices. Recycled steel provided about 90 percent of the steel need, with newly forged steel only being used for load-bearing walls. In the atrium, the architects developed skylights that capture the most amount of light necessary in the wintertime to help with the heating, but also reduce it to a minimum during those hot summer months when the light would be most direct and overhead.
Through overall energy-efficient construction such as using a night chiller for small air conditioning loads and occupancy sensor controls for classroom and restroom lighting, the university is expected to save about $1 million per year in energy costs.
Arched doorways, clay bricks and original wood window casings keep the building’s aesthetic anchored in the past. Yet, just as the state created the university to prepare teachers for future classrooms, University Hall continues to further that mission.
“Every bit of space is learning space,” Balch said in an interview. “There is intimate learning space so students can sit with a professor and reflect on one’s work.”
Student enjoys their new college home and Balch said he has found students in the building late at night.
“They say ‘I just wanted to see my new college,’” he said. “They come over here to study now. That’s been neat to see.”
University Hall commemorates the past and its future.
“We’re celebrating the profession of teaching,” Balch said. “I can’t imagine a more noble profession. To touch so many lives is a powerful thing.”