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Dignitaries gather for Gilbert ribbon-cutting

September 20, 2013
NIU President Doug Baker cuts the ribbon Thursday at Gilbert Hall while Board of Trustees Chair John Butler (center) and former chair Marc Strauss (right) look on.

NIU President Doug Baker cuts the ribbon Thursday at Gilbert Hall while Board of Trustees Chair John Butler (center) and former chair Marc Strauss (right) look on.

Now it’s official.

Newly renovated Gilbert Hall was “properly opened” with a ribbon-cutting ceremony following the Sept. 19 business meeting of the NIU Board of Trustees.

“As a student at NIU, I was fortunate to experience all that on-campus living had to offer,” said board chair John Butler, recalling the many interactions he had and friendships gained while noting the commitment by university leaders – including then-chair Marc Strauss – to push forward with campus enhancements during financially challenging times.  “How fortunate our students are to have such an amazing facility to live in.”

NIU President Doug Baker called the event a momentous occasion going beyond bricks and mortar in that it represents transformation. The first major renovation since the facility was constructed in 1951 included a complete refurbishment of each of the 187 residential rooms.

“As this beautifully renovated residence hall opens its doors again, it reflects the signs of our time,” Baker said, noting that it brings student housing back to the east side of campus. “With students back on the east side of campus, there is a new level of activity at the core of campus; a coming together in new ways – an enhanced sense of community.”

Each residential floor has four lounges, including a fireplace lounge, TV lounge and two quiet lounges. The ground floor includes a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, a game room, laundry facility a meeting and study space for student use, plus a conference room and offices for hall staff and student organizations.

Maria Wojnicki

Maria Wojnicki

“This is not just about a building; this is about the building blocks to student life at NIU,” said Residence Hall Association President Maria Wojnicki. “These upgrades to the residence halls demonstrate how NIU is committed to building a quality student experience. As students, we are fortunate to be at a university that is fully invested in our success.”

Associate vice president Jeff Daurer remembered spending much of his time as an undergrad in Gilbert Hall and noted the strong sense of community when recalling the building that provided “few amenities but maintained endless character.”

“We have replaced the windows, added air-conditioning and created amenities that didn’t exist before,” he noted. “But more importantly, we have done this while successfully maintaining many of the historic elements – the slate roof, the entry columns and the rod iron railings just to name a few. We have restored Gilbert Hall, bringing back to life its character and community.”

The Gilbert Hall project restored approximately 75,000 gross square feet, resulting in a residence hall that meets the demands of today’s students, including privacy, easy access to technology, comfortable and contemporary décor and social gathering spaces that include a grab-and-go-style cyber café.

“We are proud of this milestone, a tangible example of support for the mission and vision of this university,” said Eric Weldy, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

“Gilbert, with all of its adaptations, now reflects our NIU,” Baker added, “a student-centered university focused on engaged learning, utilizing the latest technology, building new partnerships and a renewed sense of community and Huskie pride.”

Gilbert Hall will be open to the public during NIU’s Huskie Pride Weekend, from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Join NIU Housing & Dining staff and residents for a tour of this remarkable facility. Light refreshments will be served.