Ohio Historical Marker to Highlight 'Marble Hall — Built by Students'

Ceremony Saturday to Feature Many Close to the Project 65 Years Ago

April 22, 2013

Students work on the building's foundation on the ninth day of Marble Hall's construction in April 1948.

Students work on the building's foundation on the ninth day of Marble Hall's construction in April 1948.

Sixty-five years ago this month, Wilmington College students grabbed picks and shovels, and began building a student dormitory that is still in use today.

WC’s 12th president, Samuel D. Marble, inspired a legion of students to volunteer their time and effort, and others to donate materials in what has been recognized as one of the greatest self-help projects in American higher education.

This watershed moment in Wilmington College history will be recognized with the unveiling of an Ohio Historical Marker at Marble Hall Saturday (April 27) at 10:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The program will feature persons associated with the building project, which was begun in 1948, as well as officials from the College and Ohio Historical Society. Marble’s widow, Rebecca Marble Bonnell, and a daughter also are expected.

The College is holding the dedication in conjunction with the 20th annual Quake day of community service for which students will volunteer throughout the community.

WC students often log as many as 20,000 hours on service projects each year and the College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll annually since that national recognition was launched in 2006.

Wilmington College experienced an influx of male students in the years immediately following World War II. Fueled by the educational opportunities afforded by the G.I. Bill, enrollment ballooned to the point at which there was a serious shortage of lodging facilities at the College.

Men were living in attics of local residents, war-surplus Quonset huts on campus and even a section of the gymnasium was partitioned and outfitted with 200 Navy surplus bunks.

Marble arrived at WC in fall 1947 as, at 32 years old, the youngest college president in the nation. The following spring, April 13, he called a campus convocation at which the impassioned president unveiled an artist’s rendition of a dormitory and boldly announced it would be built by voluntary student labor.

Roy Joe Stuckey, now 86 years old and living with his wife, Ruth, in Sabina, was a senior that spring. He vividly recalls Marble rallying the troops.

“Sam spoke of the impossible situation of the young men who had returned from the struggle to save the country and how we could build a dormitory,” he recalled.

“He said, How many will pledge a day’s work?’ Everyone stood up. ‘How many will pledge two day’s work?’ Again everyone responded. Then, Bill Hilgeman, leader of a fraternity comprised mainly of veterans, shouted, ‘Tau Kappa Beta pledges one month!

“With that, Sam jumped up on the podium and said, ‘Good, we’ve just built the first unit — let’s get to work!’”

(LEFT) President Sam Marble (center) leads students in the groundbreaking for what would become Marble Hall.

Marble led the students to the nearby building site were 150 shovels awaited them.

Before and after classes, on holidays and weekends, a significant core of students pitched in whenever possible. The names of nearly 200 students, faculty and staff members that contributed at least 25 hours are inscribed on a plaque in Marble Hall.

Many of them worked for several hundred hours during the two-plus years of construction.

Upon completion in 1950, the building was conservatively valued at $200,000 and, on a contract basis, it would have required as much as $140,000 in professional labor. The College built Marble Hall for $23,000 out-of-pocket cash, the bulk of which paid for plumbers, masons and other professional tradesmen.

Wilmington College’s remarkable story of a dormitory built by students captured the imagination of persons around the world as it was featured in media ranging from the British Broadcasting Corp. to Reader’s Digest and the New York Times.

The College received messages of praise from the likes of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, industrialist Henry Ford II, explorer Adm. Richard E. Byrd and inventor Charles F. Kettering. Former President Herbert Hoover also spoke of WC’s “revolutionary idea of self-help.”

Ohio Historical Marker Unveiling to Highlight 'Marble Hall — Built by Students'

Time: 10:30 AM until 11:30 AM
Date: Saturday, April 27, 2013
Location: Outside Marble Hall

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