From IWU Magazine, Winter 2008-09
A Lasting First Impression
Designed to reflect the quality of a Wesleyan education, the new
Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center gets a positive reception.
Story by AMELIA BENNER ’09
Photos by MARC FEATHERLY
The facade of the Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center (above) features round windows and
arches mirroring those of Presser Hall, which stands across the street.
For years, one of the first glimpses that prospective students got of Illinois Wesleyan
was the institutional, grey-carpeted lobby of the Admissions offices in Holmes Hall.
It was a tranquil but slightly impersonal setting — one that didn’t exactly bring
the word “welcoming” to mind.
But now, future Titans will await their first campus tour in the high-ceilinged, light-filled
atrium of the new Minor Myers, jr. Welcome Center, which opened its doors this fall.
The serene colors and graceful lines of the walls and windows lend a refined look
to the building, and visitors can watch a slide show about the University on a flat-screen,
LCD monitor. Outside, they can see current students passing in front of Evelyn Chapel
and glimpse the tree-lined expanse of the Eckley Quad through the gateway in front
of Presser Hall.
“I think it’s the warmest and most welcoming building we’ve built on campus over the
past decade or so,” says Associate Vice President for Advancement Ben Rhodes ’69.
A portrait of the building’s namesake hangs in the lobby. Former University President
Myers, book in hand, peers over the top of his glasses at prospective students, as
if to ask his oft-quoted question: “What’s your passion?”
Dean of Admissions Tony Bankston ’91 is pleased with the opportunity to give visitors
a favorable first impression of the University. “When we were still in Holmes Hall,”
he says, “we might have wondered, ‘How different could a new building be?’ Now that
we’re here, we see the difference.”
“All future alumni classes will remember coming to the Welcome Center the very first
time they visited campus,” Rhodes says. “Instead of going to one office in one building,
they’ll go to a place that’s just for them.”
Trustee Emeritus Davis Merwin and his wife Sharon look at the portrait of Myers that
hangs in the lobby.
The building’s student focus continues on the second floor, where the Hart Career
Center has been relocated, with offices, a resource center and conference rooms where
employers can hold interviews with students.
“By housing these two student-centered offices in the same building, we hope to convey
the importance we place on serving our students’ needs throughout their association
with the University,” says Illinois Wesleyan President Richard F. Wilson. “In effect,
the building is dedicated to two key transitions in the life of a student.”
Among the new facility’s features is the Alumni Auditorium where Admissions and career
counselors can give presentations to prospective or current students. (Each auditorium
chair bears the nameplate of a notable Wesleyan graduate.) It’s a significant improvement,
says Bankston, from the days when tour guides led groups of 40 to 50 high school students
and their families from Holmes Hall to The Ames Library’s Beckman Auditorium for similar
Lacking a conference room in Holmes, the Admissions staff used to review stacks of
student applications in Ames as well. Now they can use an ample room in the Welcome
Center’s lower level, which also includes areas for the office’s student employees.
In spring 2007, workers broke ground for the $6-million facility on the site of the
former United Methodist Conference Center, next to the President’s House. Planning
for the center began soon after the death of Myers in July 2003, and was inspired
not only as a way to honor the former president’s “visionary leadership” but in response
to assessments showing that “new construction would be a far better alternative to
renovating the existing structure,” says Wilson. The center also frees up needed space
in Holmes Hall, which will continue to house most administrative functions.
Kent Wallace ’62 and his wife, Sue, provided a $500,000 challenge “to stimulate other
alumni to express their respect and admiration for the late Minor Myers,” says Rhodes,
who adds that the new center has been entirely funded by alumni donations, leaving
no burden of debt on the University.
One major fundraising effort was the Alumni Walk, a pathway of engraved bricks leading
up to the door of the center. Each of the 1,023 brick bears the name of a Wesleyan
graduate and his or her year of graduation. Any alumnus could sponsor a brick for
himself, a friend or relative at a cost of $250.
“We wanted our new students to know that the alumni built Illinois Wesleyan,” Rhodes
The response to the call for bricks was, as Rhodes puts it, “overwhelming.”
“Boom! We got sponsorships for a thousand bricks right away,” he says. “We filled
up all the space we had.”
The lobby of the new building features comfortable seating for visitors.
One of the University’s priorities, says Bud Jorgenson, director of the University
Physical Plant, was making the new building “look like it fit” with the rest of campus.
“Trying to get that ‘traditional’ look was very much a priority,” he says, gesturing
at the round windows that echo those of Presser Hall across the street.
Jorgenson was especially involved with efforts to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design (LEED) certification for the building. Among other “green” elements, the new
Welcome Center features a geothermal heating system, the latest in efficient fluorescent
lighting and a traction elevator with a small motor instead of a hydraulic pump.
The mechanical room in the bowels of the building is noticeably less crowded with
pipes and equipment than one would expect. “The size of the room was set before we
decided to go with the geothermal system,” Jorgenson says, pointing out the futuristic-looking
reclamation unit that helps reduce heat loss in the building and the computer that
operates the elevator. “This takes up considerably less space than a conventional
Jorgenson estimates that the University will save 35 to 50 percent on energy costs
for the building due to the geothermal system — although, he adds, it will probably
take about seven years to recoup the cost of the equipment and break even. But it’s
an investment that is well worth it, Jorgenson says, as he shows off one of the 18
small, quiet heat pumps that circulate the earth’s heat throughout the building.
The sustainability efforts have caused the building’s new residents “to rethink the
little things we do,” Bankston says, adding that the Admissions Department purchased
hundreds of reusable ceramic mugs to replace the Styrofoam cups they once used to
serve coffee. “That seems like such a small detail, but it means something to students.
It shows that we’re committed to sustainability.”
Hart Career Center worker Heidi Adams ‘09 films Amanda Pilgrim ’10 using video equipment
that helps students prepare for job and internship interviews.
Career Center Director Warren Kistner calls it “a dramatic move” and it’s hard to
disagree. Once occupying the dimly-lit, low-ceilinged basement of Gulick Hall, the
Hart Career Center’s new home on the Welcome Center’s second floor is a spacious,
comfortable and highly functional space.
“One of the issues we had in the past was visibility for students,” he says, “and
the issue of what we were presenting to employers, graduate school representatives
Now, the center — named after former Board of Trustees Chair Craig Hart — has plenty
of space for their library of job-search materials, as well as conference rooms where
students can practice their interview skills and meet prospective employers.
Kistner hopes the new facility will help his staff drive home the point that “career
development is a four-year process and beyond.”
“I think that was something that was missing before,” he says. “Now, prospective students
will come in and the seed will be planted that this office is here and is something
they should use.”
Bankston says that he’s heard “a lot of positive reaction” to the facility from visitors.
“We want them to come into an inviting area that gives them an idea of the history
and culture of the institution,” he says.
Rhodes says that alumni who have seen the finished building “all love it.”
“They love the building and they love the setting,” he says. “It’s a cozy, welcoming,
warm environment — just like Illinois Wesleyan.”
Click here to visit the online home of IWU Admissions.
Click here to view the Web site for the Hart Career Center.