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Sept. 16, 2014

Then and now: 5 decades of collegiate growth

Evolution into a major urban university campus, 1964-2014

By Melanie Morris

Old student centerCleveland State University’s 50th Anniversary marks a historic moment for a campus that has transformed incredibly. Most of the campus’ current buildings were adopted from Fenn College, a private institution that existed from 1929-64. The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law then merged with the Fenn College of Engineering, now renamed, to create Cleveland State in 1964. Since then, each building has grown and morphed into what we see today.

The size of the campus has increased over the past 50 years. According to William Becker, the University Archivist, the campus simply occupied both sides of East 24th Street between Euclid Avenue and Chester Avenue.

“At that time an airplane taking an aerial photo of the campus would not have needed to fly very high in order to photograph the entire campus,” Becker said, who has worked in Archives at Cleveland State for 39 years.

Today, the 85-acre campus has an enrollment of more than 17,000 students. Eight colleges and more than 200 academic programs make up the new and rejuvenated university. The transformation has been nearly unbelievable to some of the faculty that has worked here for many years.

“If you were here in 1975 and hadn’t returned until today, you’d be lost,” Leo Jeffres said, a professor in the School of Communication. Jeffres has worked at Cleveland State for 39 years and said the campus has changed dramatically.

“It’s a much more pleasant environment than it used to be, with more places for interaction among students and faculty,” he said.

Through the years, Fenn Tower still stands

Fenn College purchased the 22-story building located at Euclid Avenue and East 24th Street in 1937. Formerly known as the National Town and Country Club building, the tower was ultimately renamed in 1939.

Becker believes Fenn Tower has undergone the biggest change over the years. Originally, Fenn Tower held business offices, lounges, handball courts, a swimming pool and many other amenities. However, in 2000, the university closed the tower because it could not afford the repairs the building needed.

“In 2004 it [the university] reached an agreement with American Campus Communities, LLC to renovate Fenn Tower and turn it into dormitories,” Becker said.

Today, the tower houses up to 438 students and will always be seen as the historical monument that Cleveland State was built around.

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

In 1946, the Cleveland Law School, founded in 1897, merged with the John Marshall School of Law—founded in 1916—to become the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. This institution was the first law school in Ohio to admit women and one of the first to admit minorities.

In 2010, the school became the first-ever recipient of the Diversity Matters Award presented by the Law School Admissions Council. Today, the school is succeeding immensely in volunteer hours and technological advancements.

Elizabeth Pugh, who graduated from the school in 1978, said she loved her experience at Cleveland State. She said she worked with great professors and her time spent at the school greatly contributed to her success.

“I learned some really useful and helpful skills that I’ve been able to apply to my career,” said Pugh, who is currently a lawyer in Washington D.C. and has worked with the United States government for 36 years.

Rhodes Tower

Built between 1968-71, the 21-story building now holds offices atop four floors of the Michael Schwartz Library. The building is iconic and representative of Cleveland State, as you can see the large, green “CSU” sign on the side of the tower in the city’s skyline.

However, the tower has experienced many physical and structural complications over time. Problems with the foundation, stemming from the architectural style, have led to multiple issues since being built. Due to the high cost of renovation, the top floor remains closed and other portions are expected to be vacated.

Improvements will still be made to the library and other areas of the tower. An eight-year renovation plan includes the relocation of offices and the cost of improvements.

Recreation Center

The building that used to occupy the space where the current Recreation Center stands was called the Sports Intramural Center. Built in 1971, the dome shaped building was designed as a five-year experimental building. However, circumstances prevented the building from being used.

“Before we could move in, the roof collapsed,” said Annette Chernosky, the Athletics Facilities Manager. “So it wasn’t until 1972 that the athletic department moved into this facility.”

“The Dome” had a main floor that was rubberized and housed two basketball courts. While it was used for many purposes including tennis and track, the facility changed incredibly when the current recreation center was built in 2006.

The brand new building contains many new features -- from cardiovascular fitness rooms to racquetball courts. Since the opening of the new center, attendance has increased considerably. According to Greg Ross, Director of the Recreation Center, the average amount of visits to the center has increased from 500 to 1,500 per day.

Ross believes the availability of the recreation center “enhances the students’ experiences and compliments the CSU academic mission.”

“The Recreation Center is a major component of student life on campus, and I believe it is a significant university recruitment and retention entity,” he said.

Euclid Commons

In 2011, the Euclid Commons dorm complex opened. The community now houses more than 600 students and the development of these apartment-style dormitories contributed to the atmospheric change on campus.

“The project put CSU more clearly on the map as an institution that is seeking students who want to have the full college experience of living, socializing and participating in campus activities,” said Stephanie McHenry, Vice President of Business Affairs and Finance.

Looking forward

Current student centerThe Cleveland State campus is still evolving day by day. The many hours put in to the construction often see around campus will lead to an even more upgraded and renovated university. The resurfacing of roads and renovation of buildings shows that the campus will continue to change for years to come.

“We have already obtained funding for projects that will improve learning spaces around campus, building on the success of our joint project with Playhouse Square to create the Arts and Theatre campus in Cleveland’s theatre district,” McHenry said. “We will continue to pursue development projects that support our primary objective of student success.”

New Health Sciences Building

Viking Hall, a vacant dormitory on Euclid Avenue, was demolished in December 2012 (along with the Wolfe Music building, the Rascal House restaurant and Peabody’s Concert Club) in preparation of Cleveland State’s new health sciences building. The $45 million building will house the College of Sciences and Health Professions, providing expansive classroom space and teaching clinics.