Building for the Future,
Preserving the Past

by Janese Heavin
photos by Kaci Smart

There’s a four-foot wide slice of wood on the first floor of Brouder Science Center. It’s from a chinkapin oak tree, and its growth rings date it back to 1784. For more than two centuries, it stood as the city and Columbia College grew up around it.

The tree was cut down in 2006 during construction of the Atkins-Holman Student Commons, but it continues to have life on campus. In addition to the sliced memorial, wood from the tree now adorns the doorway of Dorsey Chapel. Its lumber was also used to create a bench that sits outside of the president’s office and a table in a Launer Hall conference room.

Perhaps its greatest purpose is to serve as a timeless reminder of the college’s stewardship of resources. Even as the college grows and evolves to meet student needs, administrators have been cautious caretakers of campus history. 

Slice of Chinkapin Oak in Brouder Science Center

“There has been a concerted effort to preserve the exteriors of our historic buildings while making the interiors functional for a 21st Century campus,” Cliff Jarvis, executive director of plant and facilities, said.

With one eye on the college’s history and the other on the future, Jarvis and his team are currently overseeing construction of a new Academic and Residence Hall. The mixed-use, four-story building will be tucked behind Brown Hall, creating a new northern gateway to campus. The first floor will house the school of business, four classrooms, innovation stations and an events center, while the top three floors will house 150 students in a residential setting.

It's been a lofty undertaking, Jarvis said. Technical considerations and changes in city regulations required two years of planning and smaller, behind-the-scenes projects. Storm drains have been improved. A geothermal well relocated. Parking expanded.

The most visible off-shoot project has been the renovation of the dining hall in Dulany Hall, necessary to make space for the increased number of students who will be living and eating on campus. The dining hall enveloped an adjoining event room, and food stations were reconfigured to shorten lines and reduce wait times.

Opening a new school of business also required historical consideration. Business classes are currently located in Williams Hall, the college’s first building. Constructed in 1849 and part of Columbia College since 1851, it is the oldest college building west of the Mississippi to be in continual academic use. That won’t change, Jarvis said, although it’s too soon to say how Williams will be repurposed. 


“We planted an oak in the middle to replace the one we lost.
We’re thinking of our history and 150 years in the future.”

— Brent Schneider, director of facilities

The heart of campus was dramatically changed with the 2016 completion of the Quad, with Alumni Fountain, and its bricks representing the college's 89,000 alumni and its 35 locations nationwide, serving as its centerpiece.

The Academic and Residence Hall is bordered to the west by the aforementioned Brouder Science Center, a 53,000-square-foot building that opened in 2013. The science center houses nursing, forensic science, biology and chemistry programs. At one point, Jarvis considered also using it for eSports.

Finding a place where students could play video games between classes was one of the first tasks Jarvis was assigned when he took his position in 2015. The eSports team was just being formed, and President Scott Dalrymple had asked him to find a space where gamers could play comfortably.

At the time, R. Marvin Owens Field had just been renovated with new turf and locker rooms, making it a multi-purpose athletic field. That change prompted the men’s soccer team to vacate its former locker room building across the street.

The Game Hut is the home of the Columbia College eSports team.

Bob Klausmeyer, director of campus safety, was the one who first noticed the building’s potential: An intimate, stand-alone structure next to the athletic complex would be a perfect den for video game play.

After being gutted, reimagined for gamers and remodeled accordingly, the Game Hut is now a model for colleges around the country. It’s the first building on a campus to be solely dedicated to eSports. President Dalrymple was so impressed with the final product, he created the Midwest Campus Clash, showcasing the college’s commitment to eSports to teams from across the region.

“Everything seems to have a domino effect,” Jarvis said. “Just as we consider history, we have to envision how projects will affect us in five to 10 years—making sure whatever we do doesn’t cause problems years from now.” 

College leaders have also noticed the effects of the Quad project completed in 2016. The project created a new campus centerpiece with the Alumni Fountain, the Whitcraft-Schiffman Memorial Amphitheater and an outdoor dining area. The fountain doubles as a compass of sorts, as it is surrounded by bricks recognizing Columbia College’s nationwide venues placed with geographical relevance and the college’s 89,000 alumni worldwide. 

“Before the fountain, there was a parking lot in the middle of campus with space for 11 cars,” Jarvis said. “Students had to walk around it, and there was no clear path through the heart of campus.”

The Hulett Family Campus Safety office was relocated as well during that project, with offices moving from buildings on the edge of campus to a new addition construction off of St. Clair Hall. It’s had a tremendous impact, Klausmeyer said.

“Having a more centralized location has changed Campus Safety dramatically,” he said. “Before, we rarely saw students unless they had a parking ticket or concern. Now, they constantly stop in to say ‘hi.’ We interact with visitors, we’re more visible and our interactions with students are positive.” 

Hulett Family Campus Safety office
A white oak tree, donated by Dale Coe Simons '65 in memory of her mother, Helen "Miss Boo" Cates Neary '37, stands in the middle of a garden created in 2016 to honor the college's founding as Christian College. It replaces a chinkapin oak that was removed in 2006 during the construction of Atkins-Holman Student Commons. Like its predecessor, it is expected to guard over campus for centuries.

The 2016 project also included creation of a garden that pays homage to Christian College for Women. It includes a timeline of the college from its beginnings through 1970, when it became the four-year, co-ed Columbia College.

In the center of the garden stands another nod to yesterday and tomorrow. The college planted a white oak tree similar to the one that was removed more than a decade ago. It’s a white swamp oak, just a bit hardier than the chinkapin, and it’s expected to stand watch as the college moves into its next two centuries.

“We planted an oak in the middle to replace the one we lost,” said Brent Schneider, director of facilities. “We’re thinking of our history and 150 years in the future.” 

Jim Innes

Jim Innes is set to retire after nearly 22 years at Columbia College. Read more about his work making the main campus beautiful here.

Grounds Supervisor Jim Innis, Director of Campus Safety Bob Klausmeyer, Executive Director of Plant and Facilities Cliff Jarvis, and Director of Facilities Brent Schneider
Grounds Supervisor Jim Innes, Director of Campus Safety Bob Klausmeyer, Executive Director of Plant and Facilities Cliff Jarvis, and Director of Facilities Brent Schneider

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