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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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Ceremony Celebrates History of Monroe Hall

Ceremony Celebrates History of Monroe Hall

After two years of renovations, Monroe Hall is once again open to students, faculty and staff. To commemorate the event, a rededication ceremony was held on Sept. 16, during which a variety of notable guest speakers paid tribute to the building’s history while outlining its path for the future.

The renovation process was both lengthy and challenging, as described by professor Jeffrey McClurken, the history and American studies department chair, and one of the committee chairs of the process.

Because the last major renovation of Monroe Hall was 30 years ago, there were some definite concerns that needed to be addressed for this specific renovation, including the air conditioning system and lack of outlets for students’ computers.

Additionally, McClurken cited that the redesign presented an opportunity for departments to consider how space could be better used in the building.

According to McClurken, the theme of the renovations rested on the ideas of “what was in the best interests for students and for faculty,” and “creating a building that would be useful not just now,” but for many years to come.

As he spoke at the rededication ceremony, McClurken reiterated this theme, mentioning many of the new additions to the building, including a new lecture hall, student lounge areas, a digital media lab, the expanded wireless network and the entire fourth floor.

McClurken also went into detail about the new active learning classroom on the main floor, which promises to integrate technology with the learning process and serves as a precursor to the Information and Technology Convergence Center, which will be built next to the library within a few years.

Preceding McClurken was William Crawley, emeritus professor of history, who outlined some of the more remarkable parts of Monroe Hall’s history.

Crawley noted that it is “almost 100 years ago to the day” since Monroe Hall first opened on Sept. 26, 1911.

According to Crawley, Monroe Hall has come a long way in the past century, as it was originally surrounded by stables and had only one usable classroom, despite it being recognized as an “engineering triumph” for its time.

Even though the eminence of the building has been scaled down over time, it once housed six academic departments, a basketball court and a swimming pool, Monroe Hall remains, in Crawley’s words, “the academic, as well as the physical center of the college.”

Daniel Steen, rector of the Board of Visitors, spoke about the interest the BOV has had in the renovation process since its inception, as the project “exemplifies what we are trying to do at Mary Washington.”

He also thanked all of the faculty and staff who were involved with the process, stating that all of their hard work, passion, and dedication is, “what’s going to make it great.”

President Rick Hurley concluded the ceremony with closing remarks and the official ribbon cutting.  Hurley emphasized the respect the faculty approached this project with, including their desire to honor the historical elements of Monroe Hall, while at the same time bringing it into the 21st century.

“Monroe Hall will continue to serve as our university’s signature building, and the heart of the Fredericksburg campus,” said Hurley.

Photo by Berkley Schmidt