Fund-raising effort to save ISU's Morrill Hall reaches goal

AMES, Iowa - One of the largest grassroots fund-raising efforts in Iowa State University history has raised the necessary funding for the renovation of Morrill Hall. Contributions from more than 2,700 private donors account for the majority of the $9 million needed to give new life to the 114-year-old building on central campus.

While the project has appealed to a broad base of the university's alumni, friends and students, two recent gifts - a joint contribution from the Iowa State University Alumni Association and MBNA Corporation, and an increased commitment from the initiative's co-chairs, Lyle and Nancy Campbell - have helped the initiative reach its goal.

At its most recent meeting, the board of directors for the alumni association approved a $200,000 gift to this project. $125,000 of the gift is coming from revenues the association's MBNA credit card generated, with an additional gift of $75,000 coming directly from MBNA.

"When our alumni come back to campus, they really enjoy seeing the campus landmarks they knew as students," said Alumni Association President Jeff Johnson. "We couldn't imagine central campus without Morrill Hall, and the board wanted to assist the university with keeping those memories alive for past, present and future generations of Iowa Staters."

The effort to provide funds to save Morrill Hall began and ended with Lyle and Nancy Campbell. The Campbells started the initiative with an announced commitment of $1 million in January 2003. They recently increased their gift by $200,000, which completes the effort.

"We owe a great deal to Lyle and Nancy Campbell," said Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy. "Without their leadership and financial commitment, an important Iowa State landmark may have been lost forever."

The Campbells, along with President Geoffroy and his wife Kathy, have chaired the Morrill Hall leadership committee.

"Nancy and I are proud to be able to help secure a bright future for this important part of Iowa State's past," said Lyle, a 1966 agricultural business graduate. "And we are extremely grateful to President Geoffroy, whose leadership and vision have saved this jewel from the wrecking ball."

Of the $9 million necessary to renovate Morrill Hall, $7.4 million was raised through private support from the university's friends and alumni. The Iowa legislature directed $850,000 to the project specifically for two general use classrooms, and the university is directing $750,000 in building repair funds to the project.

In his fall convocation address in September, President Geoffroy announced he authorized the university to move forward with the reconstruction effort. Demolition of the current interior spaces could begin as early as February 2005, but university officials will first have to remove existing hazardous materials from the building. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2006.

While the project goal has been met, donations to the building are still being accepted. Further donations could be used to cover unexpected expenses that often accompany large scale renovation projects, or used to establish an endowed fund to assist with ongoing building maintenance.

Three programs devoted to student learning will be housed in the reconstructed Morrill Hall. University Museums' Christian Petersen Art Museum, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and a new Center for Visual Learning in Textiles and Clothing will occupy the newly remodeled building when completed. Built in 1890, Morrill Hall occupies a prominent location on central campus. The building has never had any major remodeling or upgrading. It contains 24,890 gross square feet on four levels. Unoccupied since 1998, its interior and exterior conditions have deteriorated substantially. Morrill Hall has been used for many purposes over the years, including library, museum, chapel, music studios, photo studios and a variety of administrative offices.

All of the gifts supporting the Morrill Hall project were made through the ISU Foundation - a private, non-profit organization dedicated to securing and managing private gift support for Iowa's land-grant university.