I recently had the opportunity to check out Champlain’s archives, which is our physical collection of pictures and papers documenting our past as a school. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but checking out old pictures and seeing how all of these familiar places have changed really interests me. Champlain College has been constantly growing and changing over time, and we have some amazing photographic evidence to show that.
Let’s start close to home for me. This is Perry Hall, the current home of Admissions (as well as several other departments). Champlain’s history with the building is a little odd. Dave Mona, a Champlain Accounting professor who has been here since 1985, recalls our women’s basketball team doing yard work and raking the lawn for the previous owner autumn after autumn, year after year. In 2005, the hard work paid off, and the building was sold to us. We renovated Perry Hall from the home it was previously into gorgeous office space starting in 2009.
Perry has become a symbol for Champlain’s dedication to sustainability. If you come to visit campus, one of the first things you’ll hear is that Perry is LEED Platinum certified–no small feat. One of the many things we did to achieve this certification was to repurpose the original building. Perry quite clearly used to be a historic home—in fact, it was originally one of only 11 houses total in the South Willard Historic District (Champlain’s location in Burlington) that predates the Civil War. Reusing this, rather than tearing it down and building from scratch, is what I like to refer to as “Champlain-style extreme recycling.”
The barn behind Perry used to be in very poor condition, with broken windows and a graffitied side. After finishing renovation on Perry Hall, we cleaned and repurposed the barn as well. Unlike the main house, which was turned into administrative space, Perry Barn has been turned into a computer lab that’s open 24/7 largely for various CCM majors, with free color and black and white printing.
Across the street from Perry Hall used to stand Hamrick Hall, our original dining hall. By the time it was replaced by the IDX Student Life Center in 2005, some of Hamrick’s quirks had become a tad outdated. Dave Mona tells of how the only cutlery available to diners was made of plastic, and so he would often grab two forks as he would usually break one before the end of his meal.
Sue Chamberlain, Champlain’s Admissions Visit Coordinator, has been a part of our campus community since 1983. When she first came to Champlain, she was a substitute head resident, or “House Mother” as they were often called. She says many of the things we changed when moving to IDX demonstrate Champlain’s ability to keep up with the times. Sue recalls standing in line for trays of food in Hamrick, getting into the dining hall with a punch card (before we used ID cards to swipe in), and how you could only get into the dining hall once per mealtime.
One of the many unique features about Champlain is that our first year students stay in converted Victorian mansions. Pearl Hall, pictured above, is our largest first-year residence hall. Like many buildings on campus, it has changed dramatically over time. Sue remembers that when she first came to Champlain, all of our residence halls were single-sex. “I remember the rules,” she says. “No guys above the first floor!”
“Of course, we didn’t have the card scanners to do laundry,” Sue recalls, “So the House Mothers had rolls of quarters for the washers and dryers. And dimes for the pay phone that everyone used!” I also learned about the process with which Champlain installed internet connections in all of the residential rooms. First, there was a single port in the common room. Then, slowly, ports were added to all of the individual rooms. “And now we just have free Wifi all over campus!” she says with a laugh. “It’s amazing how fast things have changed.”
Sue and Dave agree, however, that some of the most important features of Champlain are the things that haven’t changed. “We still have a level of collegiality between students and faculty that is hard to find in a lot of places,” Dave says. Sue concurs, “We have incredible, approachable faculty who have really grown to be invested in the students. With our growth over the years, it could’ve slipped the other way. But we’ve always maintained those relationships.”
Still, our ability to adapt is a major part of who we are. “Young or old, we are so used to change at Champlain,” Dave tells me. “It’s expected. It’s part of our culture.” That culture of innovation is one of the things that makes Champlain so unique. In fact, we were recently named the #1 Most Innovative College in the North by US News. “I’ll hear about something that the college is doing and say to myself, ‘We’re doing what?’” Dave says. “Then two years later I’ll be saying, ‘Wow, who had that vision? How did they know?’”
The general hope of the Champlain community is that we will continue to have a reputation as an agile, adaptable school that is always asking itself, “What works best?” Despite our entire campus being held in two city blocks, it always feels like we’re expanding. We have a willingness to try new things that is rare in higher education. Our active culture is just one way in which Champlain’s actions embody our motto: Audeamus—Let Us Dare!
James Keats is a sophomore Student Ambassador studying Game Programming.