When the Van Dyke Center was built on the Emory & Henry campus in 1960, the new building was greeted with much enthusiasm, in part because it was the latest in what seemed to be a flurry of building activity that was changing the landscape of the campus, recalls Henry Dawson (’62), who was an E&H student during that time.
Just two years prior to the completion of Van Dyke, the College constructed Memorial Chapel and the residence hall now known as Wiley-Jackson Hall (Martha Washington Hall), two structures that loom large in the memories of E&H alumni.
The new construction “was a reflection of the growth the College was experiencing and optimism about where the College was headed,” said Dawson, who sees a return to those exciting days of building development on the E&H campus.
Between 1958 and 1970, Emory & Henry experienced one of its most active periods of new construction. In addition to Van Dyke, the Chapel and Wiley-Jackson, the College constructed, in 1968, Kelly Library and followed that up two years later with the construction of the King Athletic Center.
It was a period of construction activity that would not be matched until today, when Emory & Henry is once again in the throes of a construction boom that not only is transforming the campus grounds but revitalizing existing buildings for a new century of learning while generating enthusiasm among members of the campus community.
Currently, construction is underway on the $5.5 million James H. Brooks Field House, a 18,237-square-foot facility at the east end of the Fred Selfe Stadium that will house locker rooms and training areas as well as space for offices, classrooms and meetings. In April, the College broke ground on an $7.5 million residence hall, Hickory Hall, which will provide space for 117 beds and follows the completion two years ago of another residence facility, Elm Hall.
These efforts are the latest in a series of multi-million construction projects at Emory & Henry that began in 2000 with an $12 million, 46,000 square-foot addition to and renovation of the Gibson Science Center to create McGlothlin-Street Hall. All told, Emory & Henry has invested approximately $50 million in major construction and renovation projects over the last 12 years.
Other projects within that timeframe include a $6.3 million addition to an academic building, a $5 million renovation to the main administration building; a major addition to the King Athletic Center; the construction of two 22-bed residence halls in the Emory village; and approximately $1.1 million in campus beautification projects. Completed in 2008, a three-story addition to Byars Hall provided much-needed space for the music, theatre and art departments. The project also included the renovation of the historic literary society halls on the third floor of the 1880s portion of the building.
In 2009, construction crews completed a $5 million renovation of Wiley Hall, the main administration building. The project included reconfiguration of office space, the addition of an elevator, new flooring, new bathrooms, and the restoration of the building cupola and entrance way.
In 2006-07, Emory & Henry constructed two new residence halls in the Emory village, a few blocks from the main campus. Cambridge and Prillaman houses, which provide modern and attractive apartment-style living space, were the first installments to what was expected to be a neighborhood of six such facilities.
Other projects have been aimed at improving the beauty of the historic campus. Thanks to the generosity of Tom McGlothlin (’68) the campus has been blessed with long stretches of brick sidewalks and the construction last year of the Alumni Plaza, which features the names, images and biographies of four noteworthy E&H alumni. With the support of another E&H alumnus, Gene Bane (’63), Emory & Henry commissioned the creation of statues of Patrick Henry and John Emory, which were installed in March.
“Through these construction projects, we are not only meeting current needs, but we are laying the groundwork for significant future growth,” said President Reichard, who, during her five years at the College, has presided over the largest share, some $35.6 million, of major construction. “Through this construction, we have sought to preserve a 175-year-old campus while making its facilities relevant to educational demands in the future.”
The construction of Elm Hall, a 116-bed facility, and the anticipated construction of Hickory Hall continue a trend at the College toward high-quality living conditions that are compatible with the College’s reputation for excellence and rigorous academic standards.
Students currently living in Elm Hall boast of the facility’s comfort and attractiveness as well as its ability to enhance a sense of community, which is the hallmark of E&H campus life. They express support for the construction of similar facilities that will allow more students the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic advances being made in E&H student housing.
Olivia Bailey, an E&H student living in Elm Hall, enjoys having her own bathroom as well as the comfortable common areas provided by the building. “Students value attractive, accessible residence halls,” she said. “When students walk into Elm and see the beauty of the dorm, it feels like home.”
Another Elm Hall resident, Daron Vaught, praises the residential facility for its “study friendly” environment. “If I need to be isolated, my room provides that isolation. If I am in need of some interaction or help in my studies, the lobbies and conference room offer a great way to achieve that,” Vaught said. “I think more dorms like Elm would enhance the academic progress of students. There are several students in the lobbies every evening, and I believe it creates a more laid-back atmosphere for studying.”
As was the case with Elm Hall and other recent E&H construction projects, Hickory Hall will be constructed with the intention of obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. In addition, Hickory Hall will seek to become the nation’s first major residence hall to be constructed with certified passive house energy design.
Emory & Henry has become the leader in Southwest Virginia in LEED certification for major construction projects. Since their renovations, Byars Hall and Wiley Hall have obtained LEED certification, while the James H. Brooks Field House is being constructed with the intent of obtaining similar designation.
While new residence halls have enhanced living conditions on campus, new academic structures have added significantly to the classroom experience. McGlothlin-Street Hall provides up-to-date laboratory and classroom space for the sciences, which continue to boast some of the most popular majors on campus.
The expansion of Byars Hall, which added some 18,000 square feet to the historic building, has significantly enhanced the opportunities for enrollment growth as well as professional achievement for students of the arts, according to Dr. Lisa Withers, the head of the E&H Division of Visual and Performing Arts.
“It is hard to quantify the transformative effect that the Byars renovation has had on teaching and learning in the Division of Visual and Performing Arts,” Withers said. “Choral, vocal and brass students can now rehearse in rooms that are acoustically suited to give them immediate aural feedback. The painting and printmaking students have studios that are equipped with all of the appropriate safety equipment and are filled with natural light from skylights. And theatre students have a classroom that is designed to provide a space for lighting and staging rehearsals.”
New facilities are expected to significantly enhance the athletic experience for E&H students. Already the $1.5 million in improvements to the Fred Selfe Stadium—which include new artificial turf, a game-day operations center, a new digital scoreboard, and perimeter fencing—have increased crowd sizes at E&H football games and soccer matches.
The new field house, which is expected to be completed this summer, memorializes James H. Brooks, a longtime supporter of E&H athletics. The new field house will free up space in existing E&H athletic facilities for other sports. “This facility will be a catalyst that will help all of our teams gain traction,” said Myra Sims, E&H athletic director.
The new construction has transformed the campus, according to Dawson. “It’s created momentum and has been part of a progression that is meeting some really big needs for the College.”
Moving forward, Dawson would like to see the College finally complete construction on the much-anticipated Woodrow W. McGlothlin Center for the Arts, which would be named for the late member of the E&H Class of 1937 and a much beloved member of the Board of Visitors.
“That is the real empty spot for our academic and co-curricular program right now,” Dawson said. “We have an extraordinarily good Division of Visual and Performing Arts which does not have an adequate facility to showcase its talents.”
While new buildings enhance the E&H learning experience, the construction projects that often appeals most to E&H alumni have been those that have highlighted the College’s reputation and history. The Alumni Plaza, which was completed last year, and the recently dedicated statues of John Emory and Patrick Henry have significantly contributed to the College’s timeless quality, Dawson said.
“These were important investments to make as they are a matter for alumni of pride, so that people who visit the campus can understand both why we are named what we are and the excellence that we have produced.”
During the 175th anniversary year of its founding, Emory & Henry is enjoying a construction boom that positively affects every aspect of the E&H experience, according to President Reichard. “Increasingly, Emory & Henry students not only enjoy a high-quality education, but also excellent living conditions, all on a campus known for its beauty and history,” Reichard said.