Campus visit rekindles a family legacy

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of the family of Paul V. Sangren in front of his portrait.

Hildur Sangren Makielski and her husband, Leon (fifth and sixth from the left), visit Paul V. Sangren's portrait in Sangren Hall with family members.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Her family's name has graced one of Western Michigan University's best-known instructional buildings since 1964.

But it was the accomplishments of her grandson that brought Hildur Sangren Makielski back to campus last month for the first time since a 1990 memorial service was held here for her mother, former WMU First Lady Flossie Sangren.

Hildur and her husband, Donald J. Makielski, visited campus to attend the April 9 trombone recital of their grandson, James Wilson, a music major from the Seattle area.

Wilson decided to attend WMU because of the School of Music's international reputation, not realizing that his great-grandfather, Dr. Paul V. Sangren, had served as WMU's second president from 1936 to 1960. Not wanting to unduly influence his decision, his parents opted not to fill Wilson in on the family legacy until after he had made his college choice.

Old haunts

The two stayed at the Oaklands, which was once the WMU presidential home. Hildur had the opportunity to sleep in her girlhood bedroom and gather on the staircase with her family to capture an image of the place where her bridal party was once photographed.

Photo of Hildur and Leon Makielski in Kanley Chapel.

The Makielskis visit Kanley Chapel, where they were married.

While on campus, Hildur and Don Makielski, along with several close family members, visited various scenes from their past.

The Makielskis also had breakfast with WMU President and Mrs. John M. Dunn, as well as visited Kanley Chapel, the scene of their wedding. Then the couple enjoyed a leisurely tour of the massive new Sangren Hall, which like the old Sangren Hall it replaced in 2012, houses the College of Education and Human Development and is one of the University's most heavily used classroom facilities.

The tour included stops in Flossie's Cafe, which is named for Hildur's mother, and in the lobby, where Paul and Flossie Sangren's ashes are interred near the portrait of Paul that was painted by Leon A. Makielski, Don's father.

In addition, they visited the education library, McGinnis Reading Center and resource-rich spaces that included the TeachLivE Lab, a computer-simulated classroom based in mixed-reality technology that gives students a chance to develop and practice their teaching skills.

The two closed out their stay with lunch in a fourth-floor conference room overlooking the campus and city.

Paul V. Sangren

Photo of Hildur and Leon Makielski in Sangren Hall.

Sangren Hall is one of the University's most heavily used classroom facilities.

Sangren came to WMU in 1923 as a faculty member in the Department of Education and rose through the administrative ranks. He was appointed chair of the education department four years later and to the newly created position of dean of administration in 1934.

The former public school superintendent was elevated to president in 1936, replacing Dr. Dwight B. Waldo, who had guided the institution since its founding in 1903. During Sangren's 24-year presidency, he put his experience and institutional savvy to good use as WMU overcame the limited progress made since 1930 because of the Depression and Waldo's failing vigor.

He is credited with making astute land acquisitions in anticipation of GIs coming home after World War II, as well as overseeing a measured expansion of buildings, academic offerings and the faculty during a time when the student body grew 570 percent. At the dedication of the original Sangren Hall in 1964, Russell Seibert, vice president for academic affairs, said the Sangren administration was highly successful, in part because Sangren made haste slowly.

"He was a man of patience who knew how to move forward steadily but with persistence. He had a clear vision of where he was going and with administrative wisdom and tact, carried his faculty with him," Seibert said. "The changes that took place at Western were evolutionary in character rather than revolutionary, but change was constant and in keeping with the times."

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