Renovated dorm welcomes students

PLAINVIEW - Malissa Johnston was pleasantly surprised when she moved back into Owen Hall in preparation for the fall semester at Wayland Baptist University that officially begins Wednesday.

"It's amazing," she said.

Owen Hall underwent renovation this summer, the first such improvements on the building in its 42-year history. The 94-bed dormitory, affectionately termed "The Hospital" for its hospital-like lighting and appearance, opened in 1961 and is expected to be filled to capacity this term.

"We just gave it a good general overhaul," said Dean of Students Emmitt Tipton, who oversaw the project. "It needed some repair. It wasn't falling down by any means, but it needed some repair."

Johnston, a junior education major from Portales, N.M., is serving as a Resident Assistant in Owen Hall this year, her third in the dorm. She said the improvements will definitely make a difference among the student population.

"When you walked into your room, the halls, everything was like a hospital and nobody liked it," Johnston said. "We had a bad reputation.

"(The renovation) makes a huge difference in the appearance and it makes it more homey and attractive. I think the freshmen will really appreciate it as well as the returning students."

Each room has been carpeted and will have new beds as well as new lighting. Gone are the fluorescent bulbs jutting out from the walls just above the beds, similar to what you find in a hospital room, and new lighting has been installed in the ceilings.

The furniture in each room was also overhauled. As opposed to purchasing entirely new furniture for the dorm, the old furniture was taken out and repaired by students. Chairs and desks were sanded, stained, glued, nailed and renewed.

A major part of the repair involved the bathrooms and showers. The metal door frames near the showers were showing signs of damage and rust from 42 years of usage. The frames have been replaced and the bathrooms have been re-vented to keep moisture from accumulating at the top of the ceiling.

Not only did the summer work address repair needs, but the university looked at safety issues as well. All of the asbestos tiling has been replaced and a new fire sprinkler system was installed.

Johnston hopes the improvements will make the residents feel more at home.

"I know a lot of freshmen get homesick and maybe this will help them feel more comfortable and at ease," she said. "When it looks good, you can fill the place with excitement, too."