Buildings have a story, too

Bryce Grammer

Their names are on class schedules, campus brochures, and spoken by students every day. It’s where Washburn students collect diplomas and memories. But, how much do you know about the buildings where you spend countless hours every semester? Who were these people, and why were these buildings named after them?

The oldest building on campus was opened as Carnegie Library in 1905. This building was made possible because of a generous contribution by the steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, who began funding the construction of libraries around the United States. Eventually, the library was moved and the name was changed to Carnegie Hall.

Otis L. Benton, who attended Washburn in the 1880’s, donated a large sum of money to make the construction of the second oldest building on campus a reality. Finished in 1923, Benton Hall was initially used as an all women’s dormitory and later as co-ed student housing. In 1992, Benton Hall was converted into offices, ending over 65 years as a home away from home for students.

The Mulvane Art Museum was dedicated in 1924 and was the result of a generous gift by Joab Mulvane, a fondly remembered businessman and philanthropist in the Topeka area. Interestingly, Morgan Hall is actually named for Joab Mulvane’s Daughter—Margret Mulvane Morgan. After a donation from her husband Harrison Morgan, it was decided that he would name the building that was opened in 1955, for his wife.

When it opened in 1928, the structure now known as Whiting Field house did not have a name. A few years later the building was named in honor of Albe Burge Whiting, a board of trustees member who had died the same year the Field House opened.

One of the more obvious naming decisions by WU is the Memorial Student Union, which opened in 1952. The Union is named in honor of those from Washburn and Shawnee County who lost their lives in World Wars I and II as well as the Korean War.

Henderson Learning Center, finished in 1971, was unnamed until 1976 when it was renamed in honor of WU President John L, Henderson, who was heralded as the president responsible for the reconstruction of the University after the 1966 tornado.

The structure, which is now home to many WU athletic teams and academic programs, was opened in 1984 and was named for Kelsey H, and Edna B, Petro who had given many years of support to the University. Named after Bob, and Salle Lee, Lee Arena sits inside “Petro.” It was named after the two for their passion for WU athletics. Garrett Natatorium, also located in Petro, is named for Jim, and Bonnie Garrett, who were grand supporters of Washburn. The Garrett’s were also the owners of several McDonald’s restaurant franchises around Topeka, which would explain the golden arches painted on the Natatorium walls.

A number of dynamic people have helped Washburn thrive over the years. This was merely a glimpse of a few of them. At this point, 43 buildings have contributed to Washburn’s story and undoubtedly there will be more in the future.