Ohio Wesleyan University welcomed back an old friend from 1873 as well as the class of 2019 during its convocation on Thursday.
Merrick Hall reopened its doors after being closed for 30 years, thanks to an $8 million donation from an anonymous alumni couple. Following a year-long renovation and a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the public got its first glimpse of the new interior of the 142-year-old, 19,684-square-foot building.
The three-story building, made of blue limestone from Delaware, originally cost $40,000 to build. Named after past OWU president Frederick Merrick, it was one of the first college buildings in the country devoted to science. Among the many students educated there was F. Sherwood Rowland, who won a Nobel Prize for linking chlorofluorocarbons with the depletion of ozone.
Merrick was also known for housing a museum of natural history specimens on its third floor.
While the rededicated building is no longer science-specific, OWU President Rock Jones told faculty, freshmen and families at the convocation that Merrick Hall will still be cutting-edge.
“In this building, you will map out your future,” Jones told the freshmen.
The first floor will house what the university calls “The OWU Connection,” which Jones has said is “a faculty-led initiative designed to help students connect classroom theory with real-world experience, understand important issues from multiple academic perspectives and prepare to become moral leaders in the global society.” Three touchscreens offer information on some previous OWU Connection experiences. Staff in two offices will be able to help students access theory-to-practice grants, travel-learning courses and interdisciplinary courses.
The second floor consists of classrooms, with one room that has flat screens on each wall. Faculty can use a wireless control pad to present on each screen simultaneously, and students can display their content on the screens as well. This setup creates “an ‘active learning’ environment that supports the hallmarks of a liberal arts education: creative thinking, effective collaboration, and clear communication,” Jones said.
Merrick Hall’s third floor is now an event space that boasts a 22-foot-high ceiling, Gothic arches and large windows.
“Besides serving the needs of campus,” Jones said, “this beautiful venue will be available to the community for weddings, catered receptions and other celebrations.”
“I urge you to visit this building often,” trustee Kara Trott told the freshmen.
Classes for the new school year start Monday.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.