Building for the Future

$6 million renovation will create state-of-the-art facility.

Hal Craddock is no stranger to Randolph College. His mother, Martha Helen Cleveland Craddock ’41, and grandmother, Anna Atkinson Craddock, Class of 1913, were both Randolph-Macon Woman’s College graduates, and Craddock himself attended the Nursery School. When his architectural firm began designing the College’s Student Center renovation, he knew he had to find a way to merge Randolph’s history with the needs of current and future students.

“I used to walk past here every day on my way to Garland-Rhodes Elementary,” remembered Craddock, who is now a principal architect with Craddock-Cunningham. “Being able to work on a campus that has been a part of your whole life is an exquisite opportunity.”

Randolph College’s $6 million renovation of the Student Center, which is being completely funded by five alumnae donors and was announced by President John E. Klein in January, will turn the College’s current Student Center into a state-of-the-art facility designed to enhance students’ experiences.

Student Center Exterior - Click to Enlarge
Exterior view of Student Center with front porch

“We are renovating our facilities for the benefit of the Randolph College community, especially existing and future students,” Klein said. “It is exciting to embark on this major renovation of the Student Center, which is so important to the College because of its functions and location. It is the center of campus, and the entire College community will enjoy it.”

The alumnae supporting the project include Sadie “Puff” Gravely Hampson ’41, Byrd and Alice Hilseweck Ball ’61, Tom and Sally Maier Rowe ’67, and two alumnae who wished to remain anonymous. The commitment of these alumnae and other supporters signals strong confidence in the future of the College, Klein said.

“Thanks to the wonderful support of our alumnae, we are going to be able to enhance and expand a space that will bring significant improvement to life on campus,” he added. “We are extremely grateful for the support and commitment of the donors to this transformational project.”

The renovation project, which includes a facelift to Main Hall’s rear exterior, also incorporates treasured elements of the campus’ current architecture, such as spiral stairs (“curlies”), the Skeller, and the stained glass window and organ pipes currently in the facility. “I love to see all the traditions brought forward in a very complementary way,” Craddock said.

Construction will begin this summer and is expected to take about 18 months. Administrators are working with students to lessen the impact of construction on student life.

“It is fantastic that we are able to add a modern, beautiful facility to a cherished, historic building and provide additional value for our students,” said Lucy Williams Hooper ’73, chair of the Board of Trustees. “We’re excited and pleased to be able to do this for our students, and we’re happy we can continue to add features that will attract more students. Fully funding this project with donor support shows we will be able to tackle future projects successfully.”

Striking a balance between preservation and renovation was Craddock’s challenge. “Renovating the current building not only saves money, but is a more sustainable practice,” Craddock said. “It’s a fabulous space and structurally sound. We are going to open it up and make it a place that draws people in. It will be more visually appealing and fun.”

The area of Main Hall that is now the Student Center has served many uses during the College’s history, including as the chapel and a dining hall. The renovation transforms the current space into a three-and-a-half-story building with generous social spaces for students and stunning views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. A three-story entry vestibule with floor-to-ceiling windows will be filled with light and will contain a spiral staircase from the first floor to the second floor. The first floor, which is connected to the Main Hall lobby, will feature The Street, which runs through the Student Center and will have a dramatic open gathering space on one side and an improved Skeller on the other. The Skeller will be expanded to offer more menu choices and more student-friendly hours. An outside deck will provide spaces for meeting and eating outdoors.

The second floor will serve as an entertainment floor, with pool tables, ping-pong, foosball, and other activities available. Also included on this floor will be the glass-enclosed studio of the student radio station, WWRM. The deejay booth will overlook the gathering space below through a large opening in the floor. This level will also house student government and publications offices.

The focal point of the third floor will be a fitness area with a mezzanine floor, featuring a cardio room with large glass windows offering a view of the mountains and spaces for yoga, Pilates, and dance. The third floor will also include a 90-seat theatre along with reception and conference rooms that retain the current, vaulted-ceiling beams. The performance space will be used for movies, speakers, meetings, and conferences.

The renovation keeps energy efficiency and sustainability in mind with low-energy lighting, energy- efficient mechanical systems, double- and triple-glazed windows, and low-VOC carpet, paint, and cabinetry. “The absolute greenest thing you can do is save existing buildings and useable space,” Craddock said. “We’re starting with the current building and bringing it back to life. The challenge for any college is how to keep up with student preferences and needs. You have to entice young people out of their dorm rooms and into the community.”

The thought process for the Student Center renovation began several years ago, when administrators began studying similar facilities at other schools. The Facilities Master Plan set the Student Center and library as top priorities for the College. During the spring of 2010, meetings were held with members of the community to discuss what they wanted to see in the Student Center. “That input, especially the ideas from students, has been critical to this project,” said Chris Burnley, vice president for finance and administration.

Carl Coffey ’11, president of Student Government and a psychology major, was impressed by how the design committee and architects worked to make the project fit Randolph’s community and its needs.After students talked to the architects about the stairs currently in the Student Center and how they were used for traditions like the Skeller Sings, an architect came to see the tradition in action. “They came so they could see why these stairs played such an instrumental role to us. It was admirable that they went above and beyond to make sure they could incorporate things into the design to serve a bigger purpose,” Coffey said. “Throughout the whole process they really listened to us. Students have been a focal point of this project from the beginning, and that’s important.”

“It’s a sign of change,” Coffey added. “It’s a sign we’re moving forward. People are excited to see this College progress. I’m excited to come back in a few years when it’s done and just be able to walk up and down the stairs and play ping-pong and eat in the Skeller. I can’t wait to see how this is going to become an integral part of campus.”

Student Center Lobby - Click to Enlarge
Concept drawing showing the atrium portion of the new Student Center and its set of “curlies”

Student Center Fitness and Cardio Room - Click to Enlarge
Concept drawing featuring the two-level cardio room in the Student Center renovation

Student Center Lobby - Click to Enlarge
Concept drawing of 90-seat performance space in the new Student Center

Student Center Skeller and The Street - Click to Enlarge
Concept drawing showing The Street, which will connect gathering spaces and the new Skeller