Academic Hall Reopens with Fanfare, Ribbon Cutting

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 25, 2013 – After two years of extensive work, the doors of the newly renovated Academic Hall, the centerpiece of Southeast Missouri State University, opened to the public with about 700 participating in a ribbon cutting and rededication ceremony Thursday evening, Oct. 24.

The re-dedication ceremony of Academic Hall, Southeast’s signature administration building, is the center of Southeast’s Homecoming celebration this week which centers on the theme “Honoring Tradition-Inspiring Success.”

Speaking at the ceremony were David Russell, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education; President Ken Dobbins; former Southeast Presidents Bill Stacy and Kala Stroup; Doyle Privett, president of the Board of Regents; Benny Dorris, president of Student Government; and Dr. Glen Williams, chair of the Department of Communication Studies.

The ceremony was held in Academic Auditorium. Several speakers reflected on academic events and highlights occurring in the building over the years that have shaped the University’s history.

Kiefner Brothers Construction of Cape Girardeau provided general contracting services for the building restoration project, along with 57 local vendors, suppliers and contractors that contributed to the project. The Lawrence Group of St. Louis served as the architectural consultant. All were recognized during Thursday’s rededication ceremony.

A video recounting the history of Academic Hall, produced by Southeast’s Marketing and University Relations, was shown, and the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra performed at the ceremony. Various musicians and ensembles from the Department of Music also performed throughout the building Thursday evening as a part of the celebration.

Visitors marveled at the renovations as they toured the restored facility.

“We are very pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration, while reflecting on the building’s reopening.

Academic Hall has been closed for the past two years while undergoing a $23.9 million major refurbishment and restoration project. During that time, the building’s iconic dome has been restored with a new copper surface, and extensive work has been done to restore the structure’s exterior. Two hundred single glazed windows along with the slate roof have been replaced. Exterior stone walls have been cleaned and waterproofed, and new entrance doors have been installed.

The building’s historic corridors and stairwells have been refurbished. Modern engineering systems have been threaded around the structure’s historic spaces, thus preserving and enhancing their architectural integrity. The project also has included full replacement of the building’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems.

A major element of the renovation work is the implementation of a centralized student services area on the building’s lower level. This area brings together Student Financial Services, including Financial Aid and Student Accounts, with the Cashier’s Office adjacent to it. When students arrive at this area, they swipe their student ID in a card reader and are placed into a queue that can be viewed on three flat screen television monitors. At the east end of the hall is a reception desk for the services of the Registrar’s Office, Career Services and Academic Advising. Academic advising for students in the liberal arts, health and human services, University Studies, general studies and exploratory majors will emanate from this area. Southeast’s Human Resources office also will be located on the lower level’s west end.

Located on the first floor is the President’s Office, Provost’s Office, the University’s vice presidents, Office of Admissions and the Board of Regents Room. The Board met in the room for the first time Thursday afternoon. The Board of Regents Room features four columns previously buried in walls and restored with a decorative touch. A spacious tour room for prospective students and their families, located just inside the main front doors of the building, provides a welcoming space to students considering Southeast. An adjacent Admissions room features a display of photos recounting the University’s history over the years.

Academic Hall Auditorium on the first floor of the building, where Thursday’s rededication ceremony was held, has been reopened and is available for classroom use; competitions; speakers; and entertainment, special, student organization, public, and faculty and staff events. Curtains previously covering windows in the auditorium have been removed, allowing abundant natural light to fill this area.

The building’s second floor features the Budget Office, offices of the controller and accounts payable, group study areas, classrooms upgraded with the latest technology and Southeast’s Department of Communication Studies offices.

Offices relocated from Academic Hall during the building’s renovation will begin returning next week. The relocation process will continue through January, Mangels said. Classes in the Department of Communication Studies will be held in Academic Hall classrooms beginning with the spring 2014 semester in January.

Visitors Thursday evening admired the 1,950-square-foot mezzanine, offering a campus special event meeting place, built within the footprint of the dome, placing it between the building’s second floor and the dome. The mezzanine’s ceiling consists of a glass skylight offering a complete view of the dome’s interior and the historic chalked signatures added to the dome’s wooden structure. Julie Grueneberg, assistant registrar, served as a guide in this area, explaining historic elements of the dome and its chalked signatures, as well as other intriguing facts uncovered during the restoration process. The mezzanine also features a small kitchen area and restrooms. Restricted access to the mezzanine is available via stairs and an elevator from the second floor. A spiral staircase is built upward from the mezzanine to a ringed walkway encircling the perimeter of the dome, offering views through the dome’s porthole-type windows.

Inaugurated on May 22, 1906, Academic Hall has stood at the center of the Southeast Missouri State campus for more than 100 years. The building has become the icon of the University and the architectural centerpiece of the historic campus. Until now, surprisingly few major architectural changes occurred to the building. While the historic elements of the original design were mostly maintained, the building infrastructure, in recent years, began showing signs of age. The original 1906 windows leaked air, contained lead paint and contributed to energy loss in the building. Pipes burst and leaked, causing disruption to the building occupants and physical damage to the building. The slate roof reached the end of its life, and its continued deterioration was impacting other building components such as the gutters. The original copper dome leaked and began to fail, despite valiant efforts to patch and repair it over the years. In September 2010, Academic Hall Auditorium was closed due to structural concerns with its aging structure. Structural connections in the balcony of the auditorium were stressed, prompting the Lawrence Group to close it as a precautionary measure.

With the completed renovations and restorations, University officials say the fabric of the original building has been preserved and the newly renovated Academic Hall will serve as a backdrop for modern program needs for many years to come.