When students at Ouachita Baptist University return to campus this fall, they will be greeted with two major renovation projects in Lile Hall and Evans Student Center, including the debut of Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse.
The upgrades to the two campus buildings, part of the university’s landmark megastructure, include remodeled classrooms and offices as well as new computer labs and studio facilities. Student center updates will feature an open floor plan with expanded food options, seating and stage area. Evans Student Center, built in 1973, previously was remodeled in 1998 with the addition of Chick-fil-A.
A dedication service to celebrate the renovation of Lile Hall is set for Thursday, Sept. 13, at 11:30 a.m. in conjunction with Ouachita’s fall Board of Trustees meeting. Donors, trustees, guests and the campus community will be invited to participate in the outdoor ceremony in front of the main Lile Hall entrance.
Dr. Brett Powell, vice president for administrative services, noted that the $2 million renovation projects got under way in the spring. “Primarily, the objective of each project was to transform existing areas to make them more student-friendly and to meet the expectations for academic and student life facilities in today’s environment.” He said both renovation projects “have been underwritten by generous financial support” from university donors.
Powell said the dedication service will provide an opportunity “to celebrate the completion of the renovation project, thank the donors who made the project possible and give our special guests an opportunity to see the results of the work that has been completed.” Several major donors will be recognized with various labs, classrooms and offices named in their honor.
Citing key features of the overall renovation efforts, Powell said, “Evans Student Center has undergone a significant renovation to open up the main level and create a more inviting and usable student gathering place. This has been accomplished by removing several walls that divided the space.
“The food court has been completely updated to give a new face to the Chick-fil-A and Tiger Grill outlets as well as add a new dining option, Sandella’s Flatbread Café,” Powell explained. “The coffee shop has also been moved to Evans as part of the new Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse, where concerts, movies and other events will be held. With the new dining options, extended hours and entertainment events planned, I expect this to be a primary destination for students over the coming years.”
Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse, one of the centerpieces of the student center renovation, will feature Starbucks coffee. The new coffeehouse replaces a smaller Starbucks outlet previously located between Riley-Hickingbotham Library and the Ouachita Commons.
Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse is named after Ouachita’s founding president, Dr. John W. “Jack” Conger. The name was selected following a campus-wide contest to name the new facility. Erin Ellis, a 2009 Ouachita graduate who previously worked in OBU’s Campus Activities office, suggested the winning name. Ferris Williams, assistant professor of visual arts, designed the Dr. Jack’s Coffeehouse logo.
Highlighting the Lile Hall renovations, Powell said the classroom and office facility “has updated finishes and classroom furniture to make the environment more appealing for students. More importantly, technology has been added to all classrooms, two computer labs were added, while an updated and enlarged video production studio and other spaces will give students improved opportunities to apply what they are learning in the classroom.
“In addition, office areas have been renovated to house all of the School of Humanities under one roof as well as relocate the Office of Communications, TRIO offices and Academic Success Center. The result should be an exciting new hub for academic work on campus.”
With the university’s School of Humanities, Office of Communications and Rogers Department of Communications moving out of Mabee Fine Arts Center, Powell said the available areas on Mabee’s first floor will be converted into expanded space for the School of Fine Arts.
According to Dr. Jeff Root, dean of the School of Humanities, “While the renovation of Lile Hall will benefit all students through the various academic programs and offices housed in the building, the School of Humanities will usher in a new era. Combining the departments of English and modern foreign languages will bring us new perspectives, while the Rogers Department of Communications will see a tremendous upgrade in facilities.
“Communications students will benefit from a larger and better equipped video production studio, a large newsroom for campus and internet publications, two Mac computer labs, a photography studio, an audio recording room, a collaborative learning classroom and several other new classrooms,” he said. “We have had a strong communications program with outstanding students for many years. Lile Hall will offer updated tools and an enhanced learning atmosphere to inspire students’ best work.
“We are profoundly grateful to the donors who made the renovation possible and to everyone who worked to put us in position to start the fall semester in Lile,” Root added. “We also are pleased to be in the heart of campus, connecting the newly remodeled Evans Student Center with Hickingbotham Hall, home to the Hickingbotham School of Business.”
Both Evans Student Center and Lile Hall originally were dedicated in 1973. Evans was named in honor of the L.V. Evans family in recognition of their generous financial support and Lile Hall was named in honor of J.G. Lile, a longtime professor and staff member at Ouachita. R.A. Lile Hall, dedicated in 1989, was named in honor of his son, a 1927 Ouachita graduate and former trustee. According to OBU Chancellor Ben Elrod, “The J.G. Lile Hall and R.A. Lile Hall are possibly the only father-son buildings standing side-by-side on a college campus.”
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications