By Lora Scripps
Those who drive near the campus of Athens State University are bound to notice the institution is abuzz with a number of construction and renovation projects.
The university was built more than 190 years ago and although it seems to be aging well, Athens State is working to ensure it remains that way for years to come.
ASU President Dr. Robert Glenn said having an historic campus is a double-edged sword. “It’s a wonderful thing and I love being in this fabulous historic building, but all of our buildings — being historic — require tender loving care,” he said.
Work on McCandless Hall, which should be completed in about a year’s time, is now underway. Renovations at McCandless, which was constructed in 1912, are estimated to cost $4.5 million. School officials said funds for the work would come from a combination of a 2007 bond issue and school funds originating from tuition and fees.
Glenn said the renovations would allow the university to hold music and drama productions.
“People will actually be able to sit in the balcony again,” he said. “They have gone back through and gone back down to the superstructure and are rebuilding it. We are very excited about its potential.” He said they are also looking forward to putting the “gorgeous” pipe organ — a 1982 tracker pipe organ — back in place and having concerts that feature the “extraordinary” instrument at some point in time.
After completing McCandless Hall, the university hopes to focus on Brown Hall. “It hasn’t received renovations in a number of years and we will need to do some work to ensure its future,” he said.
Another repurposed building on campus is Chasteen Hall.
Chasteen is being used as part of the school’s Adult Degree Completion Program, which will offer baccalaureate degrees designed for working adults age 25 and older who have at least five years of full-time work experience. The program targets students who have not yet completed a college degree and need the opportunity to complete their educational goals.
Funding for the projects, like other educational institutions, comes from the Education Trust Fund. Glenn said Athens State receives roughly $11.1 million out of its total budget of $42 million. “The majority of our revenue is from tuition and other sources,” he said. In the past four years, the allotment has decreased $4 million. Glenn said he doesn’t anticipate returning to the same funding Athens State once had.
Glenn said those who drive down Beaty Street might also see that the Beaty-Mason home is under Phase I construction. The home was built in 1826 and is in need of repairs including: stabilizing the brick foundation, exterior walls and roof; repaving driveways; repairing sidewalks; and installing new electrical wiring and HVAC systems. Officials estimated the repair work to cost about $1.8 million.
“We still have a very large amount of money to raise externally,” he said. University monies are not being put into the Beaty-Mason home, according to Glenn. “”We are raising the monies through private sources to make it possible for us to be able to accomplish those renovations,” he said. “We do that because we think this is a historic facility — it was built in 1826 by original founders of Athens.”
Glenn believes Athenians have been made stewards of the historical home and that therein lays a responsibility to make it a viable structure and bring it back to life. “Yes it’s expensive, but I would argue that in the long run it would be worth it to the community and to the University,” he said.
“We are entering into and will be announcing in the near future a capital campaign,” he said, adding they hope to raise between $2- to $3-million to be able to do a variety of things to improve the institution.