USAO Receives the Keys; Stevens House Now Open
After three years of hard work and more than $320,000 raised, a committee of alumni friends turned over the keys to the Stevens Alumni House to USAO President John Feaver in December. Alumni offices moved into the house just before Christmas.
In all, 294 alumni gave to the project. Gifts ranged from $20 to $50,000, but every contribution comes with a story, says USAO Alumni Director Julie Bohannon. “There’s so much love in this project. I heard from alums who remember great moments in the classroom, in the dormitories and in the community.”
Among them are Jane Adams Gapenski of Florida, class of ‘63, who gave more than $60,000, along with her husband, Lou, in tribute to Jane’s campus mentor, the late Virginia Embree. Austin real estate expert Mo Anderson, a former student in 1955-56, salutes alumni friendships with her gifts to the project exceeding $50,000. College friends from the 1950s and ‘60s pooled $30,000 for a room honoring their legacy.
Longtime Alumni Director Myrtle Stevens, who served on the faculty and graduated from the college twice – 1959 in home economics and 1987 in art – made her own significant gift to the project which bears her name.
Music alumna Johnanna Jones McLaughlin, class of ’74, issued a $5,000 gift to honor her favorite voice instructor, Virginia Anderson, as well as fine arts faculty members Derald Swineford and Clark Bailey.
The Opel Thorpe estate provided $50,000 and the room named in her honor will hold her paintings and pieces of her art collection she donated to the USAO Art Gallery.
The USAO Alumni Association’s brick paver program to raise funds for the house will be ongoing. Inscribed bricks may be purchased through the alumni office for $125 with the pavers installed in the courtyard/outdoor terrace of the alumni house prior the November alumni reunion.
“This project was both exciting and challenging,” said Angie Burruss, class of 1993, who led the renovations committee. “It took three years, a million phone calls and lots of meetings as we worked through design and construction issues, but ultimately, this was an immensely satisfying and worthy endeavor. We hope alums, students, faculty and campus visitors will enjoy this beautiful facility for generations to come.”
Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement, applauds alumni determination and commitment to this project.
“We are gratified when alumni get behind something they really care about,” Nealeigh said. “Our thanks go to the fundraising committee, who worked diligently for three years, but also and especially to each alumni or friend of the college who made a contribution, whether their gift was cash, services or furniture.”
Besides offices for the USAO Alumni Association, the house will provide office space for the USAO Office of Alumni Development. To serve both concerns, Julie Bohannon wears two hats as executive director of the association and director of alumni development for USAO.
“We’re delighted to be moving in,” Bohannon said. “What alums have done to resurrect this historic structure is remarkable – not only through monetary contributions, but gifts of energy, love, sweat and furniture too!”
The restoration and renaming of the classic 1930 Home Management House to become the Stevens Alumni House is chronicled in a weblog that Bohannon updates frequently. “We tell the whole story of the Stevens House: it’s colorful history, why it was chosen, what alumni and friends accomplished to see it through, and how it will be used in the future. The first entry is from fall 2006, when the idea emerged and alumni accepted the challenge, to our moving in party just before the holidays in 2009.”
The alumni house blog in online at www.usao.edu/alumni.
In addition to office space, the Stevens House provides much needed meeting space, social and recreation space and overnight accommodations for alumni and university guests.
Built as a home economics laboratory during the Great Depression, college students in the 1930s lived and cared for an infant as they practiced what they learned in domestic arts and sciences courses. Built in the style of a large home – interior design by students and faculty – it was intended for use by eight senior students at a time. Considered a model home for training at the time, other colleges requested copies of its architectural plans, according to college archives. Local architect E. H. Eads designed its exterior in Spanish Eclectic style.
The new Stevens Alumni House will be a campus destination, a welcome center for the entire university and its guests, and the hub of alumni activities, says Alumni President Judy Ford of Shawnee. “The alumni house will elevate the presence of the Alumni Association on campus and encourage membership. It will be a home away from home for visiting alumni.”
“Home economics was one of the founding academic options of OCW’s ‘industrial institute’ beginnings,” says President John Feaver. “Along with secretarial training, or ‘commercial sciences,’ both were considered proper spheres of technical and vocational training for women. While home economics remained a very important program throughout the OCW period, it is significant to note its early commingling with the college’s broader liberal arts purposes… While the vocational content of domestic arts and sciences aimed to produce ‘wise and happy queenship in the kingdom of the home,’ a 1910 catalog proclaimed, it was never separated from the rigors of a curriculum that offered education ‘so liberal and comprehensive, so modern and practical, as to satisfy the demands of our young women, whatever their ambitions …’”
A granite marker telling the history of the Home Management House was installed on the front lawn as part of a series on the OCW National Historic District.