by Mulan Novilla
photography by Claudia Ceja
“There’s something special about an older residence hall because of the history; if the walls could talk, they would tell decades’ worth of stories. And every one of those stories are special because those memories were made here at La Verne,” says Devorah Lieberman, University of La Verne president.
For La Verne students, the Studebaker-Hanawalt Hall was more than just a dorm. From the worn carpet to the aged red brick exterior, every single room holds the stories of students who have made the building their second home. Stu-Han, a residence hall that presently houses 120 students, was named after significant figures in University of La Verne history: Dr. Ellis M. Studebaker, who served as president from 1923 to 1938, and the Hanawalt family, who have a line of presidents and donors who served the school. Initially, the residence hall, two red brick structures built along Bonita Avenue in 1957, was just named Studebaker Hall. Nevertheless, groundbreaking work on Hanawalt Hall began one year later, adding two more brick structures with a long hall connecting the four together.
Marlin Heckman, ULV professor and librarian emeritus, says that in the 1950s having 320 students in campus housing out of about 400 attending La Verne College was an obstacle. Many students were forced to share a small room with many other residents. Male students resided in Woody Hall, while women occupied Miller Hall. The basement of Miller Hall was the dining room where everyone ate their meals together. Into this mix came Studebaker Hall, built as a women’s residence hall, housing approximately 54 students with rooms containing their own bath, study room and closet.
The building also included laundry facilities, a lobby, a sun deck and a lounge with a snack bar and a fireplace. The addition of Hanawalt Hall allowed 66 more women to live on campus, which fostered a strong sense of community. Margaret “Peggy” Redman, professor emerita of education, was one of the lucky freshmen who got to live in the brand new Studebaker Hall her first two years at La Verne College. She later moved into the Hanawalt wing when it was added. During the late 1950s, living in Stu-Han required following more rules than one would think. All the women had curfews of 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. There was also a dorm mother, hired to supervise the residents and to ensure their smooth transition to college life. “Our dorm parent was Mom Heiny,” Redman says. “She was very good, but she was always a little annoying to the students because she had to be really strict.” She recalls having to check out with Mom Heiny before leaving the dorm to go somewhere, providing a detailed summary of where she was going, and what time she was going to get back. “It was pretty controlled in that respect, but, honestly, it wasn’t too bad. You’re better off if you’re not out running around in the middle of the night.”
The women were pretty well-behaved; however, there were a few adventurous souls who would sneak out in the middle of the night through their windows. Redman herself admits to sneaking out of her dorm with her friend to borrow some notes from the guys they were dating in Woody Hall. Thankfully, they made it back without getting caught in the clutches of the watchful Cornelia Ortmayer, dorm mother in the male residence hall. “The girls knew that if you were going to sneak out to talk to some boy in Woody Hall, you would have to go all the way across that grass lawn,” she says. “And if Corni was at the window, we would get caught for sure.”
Coach Roland Ortmayer and Cornelia watched over the men who lived in Woody Hall (named after a beloved maintenance worker). The La Verne College men did not have the same tight restrictions the women had, and they definitely took advantage of that. They would stand by the Stu-Han windows and serenade the girls in the sweetest way possible, but they would also conduct routine “panty raids” that drove the girls (and administrators) mad.
Dwight Hanawalt, dean of students, would often come late at night to Stu-Han to bring the boys under control during their “attacks” on the girls. His wife Imogene shares her memories of an incident where Dwight was mistaken for one of the male students caught taking part in a panty raid. “So he got down there, and the fellows were running through the dorm, and he was chasing them,” Imogene says. “The girls were fighting them off and throwing things, and they were getting him too,” she says laughing jovially. “They were too busy to pay attention to who it really was!”
The trouble didn’t stop there. There was a “money problem” during Redman’s time at Stu-Han: a case where residents would find their cash disappearing. The police were involved in the investigation, and they came up with a unique way to catch the culprit. “The police came, and they had put some kind of something on the cash so that the girl that was taking the money had it on her fingers,” she explains. “It wouldn’t show up unless you shined an ultraviolet light on it, so they asked us to come out to the great room and checked our hands. It was all very dramatic.” Despite the crazy events that occurred, Redman says she very much enjoyed her experience in Stu-Han. Though she has grown to enjoy her independence and personal time as an adult, she still loved to be involved in the dorm community.
Because the dorm was closed at the end of the night, the girls could hang out in their pajamas without having to worry about anyone else being there. “There was definitely a huge sense of community, and that’s why we’re all still friends here at Hillcrest,” she says. Redman says that after all these years, it is like she is in college again, eating and living together with the same people at Hillcrest Homes.
Having a residence hall named after a relative is not as fabulous as one would think. “I definitely got teased for being a Hanawalt once everyone found out what my last name was,” says Ann Alonso, whose maiden name is Hanawalt. Alonso lived in the dorm from 1970-1973. Several other Hanawalts were attending the University with Alonso, and none of them got any special favors—no matter how much everyone teased them about it. One of Alonso’s defining Stu-Han experiences was when she adopted the role of secretary for her whole dorm. Her room was located near the pay phone booth, so she (or her roommate) would pick up the phone and shout for whomever the call was for. “I got to know everyone in the dorm through that job,” she jokes. “I had a fun time, and we were all really close; we still see each other now.” Alonso also remembers the buzzer system that identified visitors in the lobby, as men were told to stay there until escorted by a female resident. Each girl had a specific code, and everyone would memorize each other’s code so they knew whom the visitor was calling for. Alonso says that somehow the men managed to bypass the dorm mom security system and pulled many pranks. The girls fell victim to saran wrap over the toilets and Vaseline jelly on the doorknobs. As Alonso tells stories of the fun memories she had in her second home, she also acknowledges the reason for its demolition. “I understand the need for change; obviously the building is old and not as nice as it was during my time,” she says. “But it’s like the end of an era, and I get a melancholy feeling about it.”
Michael Ryan, adjunct professor of music, was one of the first male resident assistants in Stu-Han. The University converted Woody Hall, a men’s hall, into offices in 1974, and opened up two wings on the bottom floor of Stu-Han for the men. He recalls that there was twice the number of women in comparison to men, and that the men received much attention during the first few weeks. The co-ed residents got along well, and Ryan did not have any problems with them as an RA. “The guys were like brothers to the girls, and they created a sense of family in a building where people lived away from home.”
Nancy Newman, international student adviser at the University, lived in Stu Han for four years, starting in 1985. She says she loved the sense of community and friendships. “My roommates became my best friends, and to this day are still my friends,” she says. Some of her fondest memories involve pulling lots of practical jokes on her roommates, from moving room furniture out into the hallway to short-sheeting (folding the bedsheet in half so one could not slide her feet all the way in). Newman and her peers were known for the bedsheet races they conducted, where one girl would sit on a bedsheet and another would pull her down the hallway. “That hallway is carpeted now, probably because of us,” she chuckles. “But it used to be tiled, so it was smooth and slippery—perfect for bedsheet racing.” Her roommate, Bianca Romero, senior adviser in the office of advancement, recalls witnessing the messiest initiation ritual ever: the unforgiving condiment attack. After attending freshman camp in Pilgrim Pines, the bus with the new students dropped them off in front of Stu-Han. The moment the first student exited the bus, an army of upperclassmen began their attack. Their weapon of choice: water guns filled with ketchup and mustard. “I managed to avoid getting hit and ran up to the roof with my friends to watch everyone else get hit,” Romero says. “They were also throwing water balloons and somehow got peanut butter in people’s hair too!”
Students no longer pull as many mischievous pranks, but the sense of community is still prevalent. Sophia “Frankie” Antillon, sophomore chemistry major, lives on the second floor of the all-female wing. This is her first year living in Stu-Han, and she says she really enjoys living in the residence hall. “I love how I can get my privacy because my room is far enough from the main area, but I also get the choice to interact with people if I just step into the lounge,” she says.
She often walks down to the common room during study breaks to hang out with her friends, who are usually there to watch movies or to play pool. Antillon has also experienced her fair share of Stu-Han dorm disappointments: suffering in the sweltering heat due to the lack of air conditioning, using the facilities in a dimly lit bathroom due to a busted light, and overhearing conversations and blasting music from residents in the next wing due to a window that would not close completely. In general, she says she has experienced loud neighbors. “Like clockwork, every morning at 8 a.m. the boys across our window would blast their music and talk super loud,” she says, giving the window the evil eye. Upon hearing the news about the upcoming demolition of her dorm, Antillon’s demeanor switched from playful to lonely. “Despite the weird-smelling hallways and the creepy bathroom lighting, I feel sad because I kind of like it here,” she says, gloomily looking around her room as if it were going to fade away any second.
As time passed, and more students made Stu-Han their home, the structure itself began to wear down. Long-time La Verne facilities manager Scott Forsyth has maintained Stu-Han for years, seeing the place age before his eyes. He lists its ailments, like a doctor diagnosing a terminal illness: a faulty heating system, lack of air conditioning, old windows that do not completely close, ceiling tiles that haphazardly fall down and bad plumbing. “The students definitely had some great times in Stu-Han,” he says, “But its time has come.” The pending demolition of Stu-Han and the renovation of Brandt Hall into a spiritual center will result in residents having no residential buildings on the north side of campus. Stu-Han’s footprint will temporarily be reduced to a new parking lot. However, the new residence hall (Citrus Hall) across from Vista La Verne will house five floors’ worth of students, making up for the lost living space.
President Lieberman remembers her first experience in Stu-Han when she first became University president in 2011. It was move-in day for freshmen, and she helped them settle into the dorm. She remembers meeting students from a foster program in Pasadena. They said La Verne was highly recommended to them because of its nurturing community. “That day was when I knew I absolutely made the right decision coming here because I fell in love with the students’ excitement and appreciation for higher education.” Nevertheless, President Lieberman is excited for the new change, confident that it will bring the La Verne community even closer. “Having the residence halls in a long row will bring a new sense of energy to campus,” she says. “The students will be closer geographically and closer together as a community.” ■