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A student in Kim Hall.
A student in Kim Hall.

Home at Haverford

By Mara Miller

Each August, the freshmen roll in. Some come in cars stuffed to the sunroof with futons and extra-long sheets and economy-size boxes of Q-tips. Some get to Haverford by train, others by plane.

But no matter how they arrive on campus, as they hand that last desk lamp over to the Customs Group assembly line for setup, something changes. The freshmen have found a new home.

This fall, that home could be Tritton Hall, born from a challenge gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation (of Steven M. Jaharis ’82) and named for former College President Tom Tritton. Some upperclassmen have also found a brand new home next door in Kim Hall, named for the father of lead donor Michael B. Kim ’85 and made possible by his MBK Educational Foundation. Both sit across from Whitehead Campus Center on the old Orchard Lot.

The dorms, each with 80 single rooms, have freed up common spaces in other buildings, shifted some first-year students away from the Haverford College Apartments and up to the heart of campus, and granted a lucky bunch of newcomers pristine digs. If the changes shake things up at Haverford, it wouldn't be the first time.

Until the late 1800s, the College consisted of a single building, the iconic edifice we now call Founders Hall. The young men in attendance, about 70 altogether, ate, slept and learned in close quarters in this building. But when Thomas Chase accepted the College presidency in 1875, he announced that he wanted to expand the student body. That, he said, would require a new dormitory.

Barclay Hall opened its doors in 1877. It appeared much as it does today, save for a large central tower that later fell victim to fire. Professor Rufus Jones called Barclay “the last word in grandeur” at the time, noting that its “ornamentation” made some of the more conservative stakeholders a little sweaty around the collar.

And some administrators, according to an 1891 alumnus who later published a history of the College’s early days, feared the new dorm would be a place “where it was impossible for an officer to observe whether[students]were properly employing their hours, or were playing games, or idling their time in gossip, or wasting it in reading novels, or worse.”

They weren’t far off. Fords enjoyed an unprecedented amount of freedom, and shenanigans escalated. Jones mentions an incident involving donkeys set loose in Barclay’s hallways. The original glass partitions between halls were shattered so often that they were removed. And in 1904, a massive freshmen vs. sophomores fracas in the hallways was recalled in that year’s Record as a facsimile of the ancient Greek battle of Thermopylae. President Isaac Sharpless called the Barclay of the late 19th century “the storm center.”

But the chaos gave way to progress. Students’ independence set the stage for a student-run Honor System to take root—a system that would develop into the Honor Code and, in many ways, come to define the College. With Barclay’s opening, wrote Jones, “the grub at length hatched and found its wings.”

 

While Barclay and the College came of age, another dormitory, Lloyd Hall, rose up piece by piece. The first two sections, Logan and Norris, were completed in 1899, with the remaining portions added over the next 27 years. A thorough renovation took place in 1968. Today, some Lloyd dwellers still have vestigial fireplaces, filled with bricks where embers once burned.

Leeds came next, modeled after Lloyd with its small pods of single rooms and shared common spaces. This dorm opened in1955, part of a postwar growth goal that President Gilbert White had set. And Gummere came soon on Leeds’ heels; builders broke ground in 1960 and the dormitory, known for its hallways’ zigs and zags, opened in 1964.

Some students, disgruntled by the thought of reckless expansion (and unsightly cinderblock),took to their yearbook to vent in 1967. They wrote that while Leeds had been described as “a Howard Johnson’s” by earlier students, it was gorgeous compared to the “antiseptic corridors” of Gummere.

And the then-in-progress North Dorms, they said, threatened to heighten a separation among students that had already developed, thanks to two faraway “complexes” where underclassmen (Barclay and Lloyd) and upperclassmen (Gummere and Leeds) tended to segregate themselves. The same ’67 year book editorial called the North Dorms “toadlike.”

But any amphibian impressions of that up-campus trio (originally planned as a quartet; the fourth was scrapped) belied the dorms’ generous specs and considerable expense. All rooms were singles, and the floor plans granted students much more space than a standard  college dorm. The nearly identical buildings bore matching stone exteriors, which added to the approximately $2 million price tag.

Richard Lyon ’68, who transferred to Haverford in 1966, lived in Lloyd and Leeds but remembers an abundance of construction on other buildings during his years at the College, both on the Dining Center, which would open after his departure, and on the North Dorms.

“They were talked about as being state of the art,” he says.

At the time, Haverford was rare among colleges in its abundance of single rooms, Lyon says. “It was, number one, great—and number two, a luxury,” he says. “Not many of my friends at other schools had that luxury even as a senior.” Today, some students still make it all four years without having to share a room.

After the North Dorms, the College’s next major addition came via acquisition. The Haverford College Apartments (HCA),then called Haverford Park Apartments, were purchased in 1974, and the walkway connecting them to campus was finished a year later. The apartments, though technically on campus, offer freer spirited students—or just those who would prefer a kitchen to the Dining Center—a happy medium of dorm life.

Another shift in housing would come thanks not to new buildings, but to a new contingent of Fords. The College enrolled its first class of women in 1980 after years of hosting female transfer and exchange students. Their first year at the College, the women of the class of ’84 lived in all the same dorms as the men.

Jenny Kehne Lipman ’84 first lived in Gummere, in a suite with the three other women in her Customs group. She says students often handled the situation better than their parents: “I heard from people in the North Dorms that some floors put ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ signs on the bathroom doors, even though they lead to the same bathroom, to appease the parents who were nervous about the co-ed living thing,” says Lipman.

Lipman also recalls that one of her freshman suitemates would get a concerned phone call from her mother every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. This mom was “kind of freaked out” about the idea of men sharing a hallway with her daughter. Though the suite’s shared phone (rented from Bell Telephone Company in Ardmore) was usually stowed in a common vestibule, Lipman and her suitemates handed it off to their friend each Friday night in preparation for the parental check-in.

Protective families aside, from Haverford’s point of view, women in the dormitories were nothing new. At the time, it was common for Bryn Mawr and Haverford students to live on opposite campuses.

Mark Schechter’80, who graduated just as the co-ed transition was ramping up, guesses that half of each school’s junior and senior classes lived on the other’s campus, including Schechter himself and his future wife, Risa Weinrit BMC’80. “I lived in Erdman and Radnor [at Bryn Mawr], Risa in Comfort and Lloyd [at Haverford],” he says.

When Haverford went co-ed that relationship changed dramatically. Once Haverford had its own women, so to speak, the ratio of students swapping campuses dwindled. Today, it is the rare Ford who lives amongst Mawrters and vice versa.

In the early ’00s, the co-ed question resurfaced as Haverford became one of the first colleges to allow men and women to share not just a hallway, but a bedroom. News outlets, from The Philadelphia Inquirer to CNN, wondered if this liberal move would spell trouble, while college newspaper op-ed columnists around the country took up the pen to debate it.

But the public discussion may have blown any real changes out of proportion. The co-ed room-share movement at Haverford was backed by students who wished to live with opposite-sex platonic friends, and also by members of the gay community who felt the old rules ignored their circumstances. It was not the licentious scheme outsiders seem to have imagined. “National media reacts to nonissue at Haverford,” a 2000 Bi-College News headline read.

Karl Hagnauer ’13, current co-chair of the Residential Life Committee, says the intra-room, co-ed option still isn’t very popular. “HCA sees the most applications for co-ed housing,” he says, “but even there the numbers remain low.”

Today, it’s difficult to pinpoint which groups of students live where, or even which are the most desirable dorms, says Hagnauer: “Preferences seem to change every year.” But that doesn’t mean the dorms lack distinguishing curiosities.

Some have character on purpose, like La Casa Hispanica or the Ira DeA. Reid House, which serve as hubs for the College’s Spanish-speaking and African American students, respectively.  There’s also Cadbury House for those who want a quiet, substance-free haven in which to sleep and study.

Other buildings grow into their personalities. Housing options such as the HCA’s Apartment 19 and Drinker House are claimed each year by some members of sports teams (traditionally men’s lacrosse and baseball, respectively).  E-Haus offers an environmentally friendly community within the HCA world.

Almost 100 percent of students live on campus at Haverford, in one of the dorms or apartments. Most schools don’t come close to that figure; the nearby University of Pennsylvania, for example, cites a figure under 60 percent. Even among small liberal arts colleges, Haverford is exceptional, with just a few students each year(perhaps none, some years)ditching the dorms.  Though freshmen at many schools are encouraged or required to live on campus, here the warm welcome lasts. Older students are not encouraged to pack up and get out of the way. The sense of community fostered by such a concentration of campus dwellers is palpable.

“It’s certainly at the heart of the experience,” says Dean of Student Life Steve Watter. The close proximity of students, he says, is integral to the Honor Code’s success. “It affects how students can govern themselves, with the Code as a really central thing.”

Professor of Religion Kenneth Koltun-Fromm ’88 said the closeness “affirms our intellectual vibrancy and cultural richness.” Koltun-Fromm has a singular perspective on campus life—he  lived in Gummere and the Haverford College Apartments as a student, and moved back to campus 15 years ago as a faculty member to a place on Duck Pond Lane. He now lives in a big house on College Lane with his wife, Naomi Koltun-Fromm, also a member of the Religion faculty.

The Koltun-Fromms are not an anomaly; about 60 percent of Haverford faculty members live on campus. The College maintains 71 faculty housing units (though nine are technically off-campus, but nearby).Cadbury House and La Casa, primarily student housing, each have a faculty apartment, too.  Living and working so close to students facilitates relationships that would be impossible to develop otherwise.  For example, Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature Deborah Roberts has hosted her “Translating the Classics” seminar in her living room. Associate Professor of Political Science Anita Isaacs has done the same for her “Transitional Justice” course. Across the College’s departments, from physics to history to chemistry, many professors regularly welcome students for academic discussions or just for dinner.

When he was President of the College, Stephen G. Emerson ’74 hosted his senior biology students at 1 College Circle, traditional home to the President, where he lived with his wife, Professor of Biology Jenni Punt. At Haverford, you are likely to bump into a professor, or the President, at the Dining Center, a sporting event, or at his other own kitchen table. It’s all in the name of community.

Dean Watter says the same sentiment is behind the changes brought about by the new dorms. Rather than admit more students, the College has chosen to spread the benefits among the same small number. “All the rooms [in other dorms]that were designed as common spaces and converted to bedrooms years ago are back to common spaces,” he said. “Those are community building spaces. That’s important.”

It’s a decision that will help make Haverford homier for a new generation— and one those disgruntled ’67 forecasters would have been proud of.

 

Mara Miller is a freelance writer and an associate editor at Women's Health magazine.  She studied classics at Haverford

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Haverford magazine.

The Strawbridge Observatory at Haverford College houses 12-inch and 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes which are actively used by students in Haverford astronomy classes.

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