Alumni Hall: The Ultimate Multi-Purpose

Most main campus buildings have been “multi-purpose” spaces, perhaps none more so than Alumni Hall. From its construction in 1964 until the 1990s, it was a dining hall, student lounge, student store, College Hour venue and performing arts auditorium, requiring continuous rearranging of the space to fit the needs of the moment.

Originally Alumni Hall’s primary purpose was as the cafeteria. But as the college’s roughly 200 students needed only about half the space, a divider in the middle of the room set off a student lounge on the building’s west side until growing enrollment required the entire area. Two additional small rooms on the south side served as a conference room and a student store.

A lot of people lined up in the old cafeteria

The greatest competition for Alumni Hall’s space came from the Chapel/College Hour programs, which took place three times a week at first, and later twice a week. To switch the room from dining hall to auditorium, student workers would, after breakfast, fold up and move tables against the walls and rearrange chairs to face a temporary stage on the south side of the building. After College Hour, that staff would reverse the process to ready the room for lunch.

The juggling became more complicated during drama season. Stages were erected on the west end of Alumni Hall, requiring dining tables to be arranged on the stage for mealtimes. They were removed for rehearsals and performances and put back up for meals the next day. During performances, the rearranging of tables and chairs also took place after dinner so the room could accommodate an audience.

Opening the Special Events Center in 1981 and McDonald Hall in 1992 created new theater spaces and moving College Hour to Butler Church in 1993 effectively ended Alumni Hall’s multi-purpose era. Remodeled as a coffee shop, bookstore and mail center in 2005, today it’s difficult to imagine the many different functions that took place in this space several times each week.