As of this writing, the Friends of the Historic East Campus Board of Directors meet in the Ruth and Edward Heinig Emeriti Lounge on the second floor of Walwood Union. That name and location won’t mean anything to most readers but think, Men’s Union, or, in a later reincarnation, the offices of the Western Herald.
The maroon leather chairs and the table tennis, billiard and pool tables are gone but the large granite tile fireplace remains although years have passed since it has seen any flames. When this one, of the Men’s Union two original rooms, was remodeled into the Herald offices, the Alumni Relations Office was relocated in the other room across the corridor. Those offices are now occupied by the Vice President for Research.
The ballroom on the second floor, the site for so many student and alumni dances, high school proms, musical performances and panel discussions, is long gone. For awhile, in the 1960s, drafting and other classes were taught there but the space now is home to The Graduate College and the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board.
When you first enter the Walwood Union Building, through either the West or the North doors, you arrive in the same large lounge area older alumni may remember. However, only the mural painted in 1942 by Kathryn Keillor, showing the early days at Western State Teachers College, and the Honor Roll of World War II faculty, students, staff and alumni remain from the original look of the lounge. Two nice new additions on the west wall are a reconstructed trolley seat from the original trolley and a painting of William Champion, the first conductor of the trolley. Both were gifts from the late beloved theatre professor, Zack York, who painted the portrait while a student and rescued the trolley seat when the cars were sold for scrap in 1951.
The Bertha Davis room (with its own fireplace) has been very tastefully redecorated and still contains a listing of past AWS presidents. However, except for the tile steps to the second floor, not much else on the main floor is the same. The cloak room now holds the offices for the Vice President for Development and his secretary. Across the corridor in the former snack bar are the offices of the Alumni Association where Jamie Jeremy, Executive Director for Alumni Relations, and her staff do their fine work.
As for the cafeteria, with the cash register presided over by the lovely and always friendly Helen York; it, too, is a thing of the past. It is now a maze of modular offices for the Assistant Alumni Director, Alumni Records, Development office staff and the like. The former Van Gogh Room is also office space. That spot in the bay window to the west where the French and Spanish tables used to meet is a small conference room.
Going back through the Walwood Commons to Walwood Hall will lead you to the Medieval Institute which occupies the first floor of the former women’s residence hall. On the second floor is the interesting combination of the Institute of Cistercian Studies and the office of Public Affairs and Administration. On the third floor you now find the Office of University Relations with its communications and graphics and design folks, likewise in a cluster of crowded offices.
Throngs of students no longer hustle through Walwood Union and Hall, just a lot of busy faculty and administrative and professional staff. However, the building, remodeled and re-designed again in 1992, looks better than it did when it was first constructed in 1939. It even has wall to wall carpeting and elevators. We never saw that in our student days. Walwood is, in fact, exhibit #1 in FOHEC’s case that the East Campus can and should be renovated and re-integrated into the active life of Western Michigan University. Walwood Union is a treasured part of WMU’s history and an active part of its future. So, too, can be the East Campus.
Thomas E. Coyne
Original Library Reading Room
Original Science Building
Looking Northward from the Training School (East Hall)
Deconstructing the Porticos
Taking away the columns