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Woodward Court alums bid farewell to former home

As students across campus slept peacefully on Saturday morning, the University put on a special program for former Woodward Court residents designed to let them reminisce about their time at the soon-to-be-demolished dorm. “Remembering Woodward” consisted of a breakfast, a discussion session, and tours so that alumni could revisit their old haunts before the dorm is closed.

“This was a combination event put on by the Alumni Office, the College, and the Office of Student Housing,” said Cheryl Gutman, director of the University Housing System and associate dean of student services. “We have been planning this event since we received news of Woodward’s decommission. We wanted events for people to remember Woodward.”

Former Woodward residents were invited to return during Homecoming weekend. “Woodward has been a dorm for 35 years, so there were plenty of people who lived here,” Gutman said. “The ‘Remember Woodward’ program will be more intimate, however, because of Homecoming and the IHC tug of war, which means fewer residents in Woodward.”

There were about 20 alumni at the program, which led to active participation in the discussion segment of the program.

Ann Morris, ’74, lived in Woodward Court from 1970 to 1972. “I started out as a first-year in Woodward and moved out in the spring of 1972,” Morris said. “I had a room overlooking [Frank Lloyd Wright's] Robie House, and there is still a special ambiance about this place. I find it a little shocking that Woodward will be demolished.”

The University plans to demolish the Eero Saarinen-designed Woodward Court winter quarter to free the site for the future Graduate School of Business campus.

Current residents will be moved to the completed Max Palevsky Commons. “I have seen Max Palevsky only from the outside,” said Hurtig. “I think it is wonderful to have new dorm space, and I am happy to see new housing. I am a little sad about the destruction of Woodward. Time marches on.”

Some Woodward residents have even gone on to hold faculty positions at the University. “I lived in Woodward for three-and-a-half years of my time at the U of C,” said Liz Hurtig, ’64. “One of my first encounters with the U of C was when I pulled out of my taxi on opening day and I was greeted by Amy Apfel, who later married Professor Leon Kass.”

Fond memories and humorous stories filled the air during the discussion among the alumni. “I enjoyed my four years from 1967 to 1971,” said Dan Heisman, ’71. “We all used to joke that Woodward was a pharmaceutical company. It was a very interesting time at the University and in the nation. I am happy I spent my four years at Woodward.”

A former Rickert House resident head (RH) recalled her own pharmaceutical story from her time at Woodward. “One time an RH in what was then Lower Rickert had an accident and called the police,” said Judi Chernicle, Rickert RH from 1972 to 1979. “When the police arrived, many students quite literally made a mad dash for their rooms, and afterward throughout the entire dorm the sound of many toilets flushing could be heard.”

After housing students for more than three decades, Woodward has its own history, which the program attendees were eager to elaborate. “We had lots of good times, usually one crisis a year, and we all helped each other,” said Chernicle. “When Woodward was constructed, it was known as New Women’s Dorm, but when I arrived it was in a state of transition from all women to co-ed.”

The current residents have the distinction of being the final occupants of Woodward. They will carry memories of Woodward with them to Max Palevsky, and Harper House in the University Housing System will be rename Woodward House in honor of the fallen dorm.

“Max Palevsky is a wonderful dorm, and I’m hoping that we can continue to honor the tradition of Woodward as the four houses from Woodward move there in the winter,” said Bill Michel, ‘92, the deputy dean of students for development of student activities. “Woodward has always been a social dorm.”