Construction crews completed five major Hillsdale College building projects this summer worth more than $40.6 million.
In planning for the construction of new buildings, the college’s operations department endeavors to raise the operating endowment so that there is not an added fixed cost for incoming students, according to Vice President for Administration and Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé.
“The activity of the college is teaching the good and serving it; this is enhanced by facilities to a large extent,” Péwé said, “So when there’s a reason to add or renovate a facility or change something to better serve the mission, we try to do that.”
The largest of the recent projects is Christ Chapel, which had its cornerstone laid in November 2017. Over the summer, crews worked overtime to meet the Oct. 3 dedication ceremony deadline but hope to have it finished by Oct. 1. The roughly $31 million project has required skilled architects, electricians, masons, and other laborers to make the chapel meet 21st century needs.
The second most expensive project was the complete renovation of the Phillips Auditorium, now called the Plaster Free Enterprise Auditorium. After crews gutted the entire interior of the former auditorium in August 2018, they began expanding the room to accommodate more seating and a much larger stage.
“The once 320-seat auditorium was great for its time and served the college very well, but we kind of outgrew it,”Péwé said.
Now, at 700 seats, the new auditorium features a 45-foot stage that also has three retractable screens.
“It’ll be really good for jazz ensembles, student gatherings, and larger gatherings,” Péwé said. “Acoustically, it’s great for the spoken word and will really enhance our outreach.”
Péwé said the auditorium will boost the school’s visitor capacity, and in conjunction with the 750-seat capacity of the Searle Center, it will aid in big events such as CCAs.
Just east of the chapel stands the newly-renovated Galloway Residence. The once 88-bed dorm was closed for the 2018 – 2019 school year for extensive renovations. Major aesthetic and structural changes were made, and Galloway can now hold 94 male students. Besides the streamlined hallways, new study spaces, and extra rooms, the renovations also included a kitchen and dormwide air conditioning.
Head RA senior Christian Betz said he remembers past days of Galloway.
“There was no central air conditioning in the dorm except in the house mom’s room, and the showers were really bad because you couldn’t control the temperature,” Betz said. “Also, three to four times a semester, the sewage would backflush and come through the drains. This really made Galloway smell.”
Of the 92 men in the dorm, four of their RAs previously lived in Galloway before the renovations, and they have brought with them some of the traditions from back then, hoping to instill in the new generation of Galloway residents the spirit and camaraderie of the old dorm.
Benzing Residence was the other dormitory to receive alterations over the summer.
With the supervision and consultation of Assistant Dean of Women Rebekah Dell, the interior of the women’s dorm Benzing was heavily renovated with an emphasis on making the dorm more homey.
“I think it’s great that the deans are so intentional about renovating our living spaces, and we as a dorm are so appreciative of that,” Benzing Head RA junior Jolene Estruth said.
Estruth and her team of RAs invested time in rearranging and purchasing new furniture to brighten to dorm and make the central lobby a “place where people are happy to be.”