Augustana rededicates its heart

Originally Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2013, 10:49 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 11, 2013, 10:57 pm
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By Kevin Smith,

ROCK ISLAND — Augustana College's signature building was begging for repairs after serving as a central learning hub for five generations of students.

On Friday night, the school held a rededication for the historic Old Main at 3600 7th Ave. to highlight the building's newly renovated interior, dome and two-story stained glass window.

About 300 alumni, faculty and students gathered on the lawn of the 124-year old building for the ceremony and a glimpse of its new look. Emceeing the event was Dean Pareena Lawrence, who said she was glad to finally bid farewell to the "old" Old Main.

The aging structure caused a stir for students and faculty because of its poor ability to regulate heat, Ms. Lawrence said. She joked that, while many windows were permanently jammed shut, the building's one open window was impossible to close.

Board members discussed the need to update the building's interior for 20 years, said Steve Bahls, Augustana's president. Millions of dollars in contributions from alumni, parents, friends and corporate sponsors have now modernized the building while maintaining its historic feel, he said.

In 1975, Augustana's Old Main was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its design marries Swedish and American architecture, featuring a soaring dome that is illuminated at night, he noted.

Dorothy Parkander, a retired Augustana English professor, praised the newly renovated building during Friday's ceremony. She taught more than 40,000 students in Old Main during her tenure, spanning nearly a half century.

Ms. Parkander said Old Main's improvements were "designed to meet the strenuous demands of the 21st century."

Ms. Lawrence said the new design also tastefully melds the addition of technological improvements, such as Smartboards and wireless devices, to the building's interior. Walnut paneling serves as a buffer for the new technology while adding to the building's overall grandeur, she said.

The improvements were completed in late August, she said, just in time for the beginning of classes.

Students welcomed the project's completion, especially since many had found their classes last year relocated for construction, she said. The reaction of alumni has been equally positive, Ms. Lawrence said, with many reporting feelings of nostalgia upon returning to the iconic building.

"This is the heart of Augustana," she said. "This is the place where everyone has had a class."


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