Nance Boyer: A map of the future leads to a reflection on the past
Five years ago, Cameron University celebrated its centennial anniversary.
At the time, the university recalled its early beginnings as an agriculture high school to commemorate how far it had come. Departments across campus welcomed back alumni to rejoice and remember the past.
However, this sentiment appears to no longer exist.
Nance-Boyer Hall—the oldest building on campus—is falling apart.
With the holes in its basement walls and mold- covered supply closets, a historical monument to Cameron’s legacy is deteriorating. As a result, the building will be no more in as little as a decade.
According to the Campus Master Plan 2025 Executive Summary, the university plans to demolish Nance- Boyer Hall and Conwill Hall to plant new green spaces.
Author of “Pride of the Wichitas: A History of Cameron University” and Professor of History Dr. Sarah Eppler Janda said Nance- Boyer Hall was constructed in 1929 and officially opened in 1930. Students took part in the development and construction of the building.
“When it was constructed, Cameron was growing and had just become a junior college. There was a need for much more space, a new administration building and auditorium. Students participated in building it,” she said.
“Male students were paid 40 cents an hour if they would give up some of their afternoon time to construct the building.”
In the late 1950s, the buildings converged to create classrooms for a budding student population. Since then, besides the loss of its decorative trim and advent of technology, the hall has remained the same. The second floor houses remnants of the former theater and its machinery resides above many ceiling tiles.
Janda said she is amazed at how Nance- Boyer has thrived and stood the test of time.
“It houses so many office spaces and classrooms that one difficulty of tearing it down would be that there isn’t enough space on campus to put those offices and all of those classrooms while they’re building something else,” she said.
In recent years, the building’s neighbor West Hall was demolished and transformed into the Charles S. Graybill, M.D., Courtyard. For Janda, who spent her first year in the building, she was sad to see it reduced to rumble. “It was historic. It was built during the Great Depression,” Janda said. “I liked it. We were closer to our classrooms which meant students were more likely to see us.”
Professor of English Dr. John Morris would prefer to see his home renovated rather than destroyed.
“I think that something will be lost, and that is a shame,” Morris said.
Since 1988, Morris has taught in Nance- Boyer. He said the building has become his second home.
“I know I can find my way around here in the dark,” Morris said. “I probably dream of it.”
Morris said he enjoys the quirks of the old building including the odd mazes and random doors that appear to lead nowhere.
“I do like the character and history of this building. It adds something to the campus. It is quirky and not pre-fab,” he said. “There’s something antiseptic about the newer buildings.” Since he first arrived, Morris said he has seen many changes to Cameron’s campus. Former President Ross’s beautification projects have created an alluring environment, one bringing more and more community members into the university.
“I remember the first year we had the gardens. When students started having their proms here, they would be hanging out by the pond and taking pictures. I thought, ‘this is really wonderful,’” Morris said. “This is what exactly the Bentleys must have thought and what President Ross envisioned: people being here and being excited about being on campus.”
While Morris said he will support and donate to the new building, he would rather see the 85-year- old building remodeled.
“I understand why they are going where they are going,” Morris said, “but I am disappointed.”
Nance- Boyer, with its odd numbering system and poetry written on its bathroom walls, has come to find its way into the hearts and memories of many. Nance-Boyer, with its odd numbering system and poetry written on its bathroom walls, has come to find its way into the hearts of many. In almost 10 years, the memories of those that have laughed, loved and lived in this building will be no more.
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