The Plaster Free Enter­prise Audi­torium. Austin Gergens | Col­legian

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.”