KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Acting at its July 8 meeting, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees unanimously approved making Heritage Hall the new official name for the building that will house the WMU Alumni Center.
The building's formal designation will be Western Michigan University's Heritage Hall, the home of the WMU Alumni Center on Prospect Hill, and it is slated to open during WMU's Oct. 23-25 Homecoming celebration. The site, formerly known as East Hall, has been under renovation since mid-2014.
Widely recognized as the birthplace of the University, the 53,000-square-foot building is a tangible example of both Kalamazoo's heritage as a community committed to education and the University's role in that heritage. The building and the 20-acre site on Prospect Hill overlooking the city were offered by the Kalamazoo community to convince the Michigan Legislature in 1903 that Kalamazoo should be the location for the new Western State Normal School. At the time, more than two dozen West Michigan communities were in fierce competition to be chosen as the home for the new school.
Campus and community connection
"Planning, cooperation, investment, diligence, perseverance and, yes, a little luck all played a role in creating what has grown to be Western Michigan University," said Jim Thomas, WMU vice president for development, in making the recommendation to the board. "It has been our intention to transform the University's birthplace into a facility that serves both the Kalamazoo and campus communities and showcases the strong relationship between the two."
Great care has been taken not only to preserve the building's historic character, Thomas notes, but also to renovate the facility in a way that will make it usable and reflective of the values those communities continue to share.
"I am delighted with the choice of the name Heritage Hall and the spirit of community partnership it conveys," says Jennifer Lentner, president of the WMU Alumni Association and director of marketing communications for Stryker Instruments Division. "As an alum and a member of this community, I think this is a wonderful acknowledgement of the ties and traditions that bind us all together. Heritage Hall will be a wonderful facility where alumni and the Kalamazoo and campus communities can connect to each other and to the rich history we all share."
About the hall
Heritage Hall began as a single building with a footprint similar to the one it has today. It opened in 1905 as the core building for the Western State Normal School. Over the years, the building was known by a variety of names, such as the Administration Building and the Education Building. By 1967 it was identified on campus maps as East Hall. The building remained in active service as a teaching facility until 1990 and then was home to art studios until about 10 years ago.
Now it will house the Alumni Center and it will be home to WMU's Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Interior features include a main floor library with the fireplace salvaged from nearby North Hall, a ballroom with a seating capacity of 180, historically correct light fixtures, and a lobby and public area that reinforce the building's original axes. The building's interior spaces will be heavily devoted to WMU's history and the story of the campus and community connection.
Earlier this summer, more than 1,600 alumni and friends of WMU acknowledged their commitment to the building renovation and Alumni Center creation by purchasing engraved brick pavers for a patio that will extend the east portico space, as well as engraved plaques for an interior donor wall.
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