Do you know the rich history of WIU? If you do, then you know how important it is to preserve all that we can on this beautiful campus. If you don’t, I encourage you to learn about WIU’s history to better understand why it is so important to preserve it. At the January Alumni Council meeting that I attended, Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter discussed the need to preserve the murals in the auditorium on the 3rd floor of Sherman Hall. To further understand why Bainter wanted to pursue this idea, I went to Sherman Hall and spoke with him.
Bainter has been around WIU for quite some time. He not only completed his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at WIU, but has also worked at WIU since completing his master’s degree in ’83. It is safe to say he knows WIU’s history. “I think that Western has a very unique and interesting history,” Bainter said.
The vice president explained that the area around Sherman Hall, Simpkins Hall and Lake Ruth is the oldest part of campus, and a lot has already escaped us. For instance, Morgan Gymnasium, one of the first buildings on campus burned down in 1970 and Monroe Hall, the first residence hall on campus, no longer stands. “I think we have to keep what we have left still, that’s part of our history and it’s important that we have it,” Bainter said.
If you have been to the auditorium on the third floor of Sherman Hall, then you have most likely seen the murals. Those murals are more than 110 years old Bainter explained, and they need some restoration so the colors in the paintings are vibrant and not the faded colors you see today. Bainter also has a list of items/buildings he would like to see restored or rejuvenated on campus. That list includes the other artwork in Sherman Hall, the outside amphitheater and continuing to keep Lake Ruth in good shape. Bainter believes WIU has a great history and he wishes to keep it preserved; he couldn’t stress that enough.
(The right side has been restored)
Unfortunately, the world isn’t made of money which is why the idea of preserving WIU isn’t moving as quickly as some would hope. All of these ideas need a nice chunk of money to support them. WIU is working to educate alumni, faculty, staff, community members and friends about this preservation so everyone can see what needs to be done, and hopefully that will generate more interest and eventually donations. “People are going there (the Sherman Hall auditorium) that have never been there; they are amazed that we have that type of facility in this building,” Bainter said. He also told me the importance the auditorium once held for WIU. “Very famous politicians have spoken there, Hollywood celebrities… Amelia Earhart gave a lecture there before she left. (Football player and coach) Knute Rockne was there and gave a lecture,” Bainter explained. Decades ago, the auditorium served as a classroom for many WIU students, when it was one of the only buildings on campus. As you can see, that auditorium is very special to WIU and Bainter would love to see it get the attention it deserves.
Another preservation obstacle is the lack of passion or enthusiasm for the work that needs to be completed. “Some don’t know the history, don’t want to know or don’t care,” Bainter said. Luckily, that isn’t the majority of people. Bainter told me that there are a lot of people who want to see campus areas restored. “I think if you talk to more and more people about the history and tell them what it’s about, they become more interested,” he said.
To help generate more enthusiasm, Bainter has a plan. “One of the things we hope to do in the auditorium is have “Brown Bag” luncheons there. People bring a lunch, we’ll provide some water and there will be some entertainment from the (College of) Fine Arts (and Communication) on the stage. Just sit back, relax and enjoy,” Bainter said. This will definitely draw more people in to see our beautiful history in Sherman Hall as well as get them involved in it. It’s like Bainter said, the more people learn and see our history, the more they will be interested in seeing it preserved.
Just from this brief meeting, I learned more about WIU’s history from Bainter than I ever knew. I am taking it upon myself to get more invested in Western and learn even more about our University’s history. If you would like to do the same, I found the perfect spot to start. Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=upUC7cOdBdk to see an overview of the history of WIU, from the time it opened more than a century ago.
The idea of preserving WIU is important because it “can remind them (alumni) when they come to campus what it was like and so future students can come and see that there is a great history to the University,” Bainter said. If you would like more information or want to help with WIU’s preservation, you can email Bainter at BL-Bainter@wiu.edu.
(Sherman Hall’s 3rd Floor Auditorium)