For 60 years, Gardner Hall has been a beloved and sentimental place to the many women who have called it home. Former “Gardner Girls” lament the demolition of the place where they made their first ACU memories.
Past residents recall memories of ghost stories, late night adventures of sneaking out past curfew, blossoming freshman year romances, the beginnings of lifelong friendships and countless other tales hidden within the dorm’s mildewed walls.
“This is heartbreaking,” commented alumna Kayla Freede-Agan on the Optimist Facebook post. “My mom lived there, then I did, and I was hoping my kids would too!”
After the initial Optimist story published last spring about the university’s plans for Gardner, the Facebook post received over 75 comments from alumni and current students who were once residents of this beloved dorm.
“It was so ugly, but this is still sad. The end of an era,” commented alumna Sommerly Simser.
Indeed, though it is beloved, none can deny the fact that Gardner does not match the aesthetics of the rest of the buildings on campus. Although the brown exterior might be an upgrade from the blue and green multicolored paint that adorned the hall in previous years, not much can be done to resolve the peeling film over the giant windows or the early 1960s layout showcased as a capital “H” from an arial view.
Alumna Sharla Smalling (’90) says although it is sad to see the hall where she holds fond memories be torn down, it is nice to see the university’s able to update its facilities and move onto bigger and better things for its students.
Emma Stringer, senior graphic design major from Richardson said it will be a different campus without the dorm.
“But I guess we have to modernize eventually,” Stringer said.
Abby Jameson, sophomore education major from Mansfield, said she and her friends also hold conflicted feelings regarding the destruction. She said although Gardner was a fun place to live, it is special to be among the last people who got to live there.
Elaine (Mickey) Prothro (’62) recalls being one of the first residents to ever live in Gardner, right when it was being built in 1961.
“When we got there the dorm wasn’t quite finished. There were still workers working during the day, and there were very few of us there,” said Prothro. “We just loved being there because everything was new.”
Just this week, Prothro’s granddaughter, Megan Denton, a freshman music education major from Ft. Worth, moved into the brand new Bullock Hall, continuing her family’s legacy of being among the first residents in ACU’s newest dorms.
Shannon Kaczmarek, director of ResLife and student advocacy, lived in Gardner as a freshman and has served both as an RA and the RD of the dorm over the years. She recalls memories of women holding late night “Lunge Club,” gathering residents to do lunges down the halls at 11 p.m. to combat the notorious “Freshman 15,” women trying to find ways up to the roof, throwing hilarious themed parties in their room that are “completely innocent and just ridiculous,” creating knitting clubs, and many other similar stories.
“Gardner just takes on the life of the residents,” said Kaczmarek. “Because it’s a large community and has a large staff, it just feels like you are a part of something big, bigger than yourself.”
Some students, such as Bonnie Wilkinson, junior speech pathology major from Sweetwater, have jokingly commented their want to protest the demolition by chaining themselves to Gardner in hopes of keeping the residence hall on campus.
“I will physically chain myself to that building,” said Wilkinson, “They can’t tear it down. I won’t let them!”