Alumni and heritage center gains visibility, promises engagement

Emma Finkbeiner

A cultural center has developed on campus with the nearly finished construction of the new Beaumier Alumni Welcome and U.P. Heritage Center.

The center, which was actualized after another generous donation from NMU alumnus John Beaumier, ‘53, rounds off an area of campus that also includes Forest Roberts Theater, Reynolds Recital Hall and the DeVos Art Museum.re-DSC_0337 2

Derek Hall, assistant vice president of university marketing and communications, said moving the Beaumier center to this location was important to the layout of campus itself.

“In meetings with the campus beautification committee, it was important to have that center where there is a lot going on and a gathering place,” Hall said.

But as one side of Gries Hall is renovated to accommodate a shift in campus office locations, another will eventually be demolished.

The left wing had expensive HVAC issues, according to Hall, and other factors in the decision included finding the necessary manpower to clean and maintain the space as well as the cost of heat and electricity. The demolition will require the university to locate new spaces for several offices. Hall said the Health Center will likely move to the second floor of Cohodas, and the history and philosophy departments will move closer to the academic mall.

Creating the joint Beaumier Alumni Welcome and U.P. Heritage Center began as an idea nearly 10 years ago, according to Dan Truckey, director of the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center. Plans originally made for the renovation of Lee Hall fell through after adequate funding was not secured. With Dr. Beaumier’s first donation, the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center originated as a gallery in the Superior Dome before it moved to Cohodas in 2008.

Truckey said the move will create more visibility for the heritage and alumni center, which is crucial for engaging alumni and community members. The center’s new location will allow for more student engagement as well.

“We do get students involved, especially those who work for us,” Truckey said. “Many of our exhibits are created by students ,or research is done by students. But when we put on exhibits and we do programming, frankly students are not one of our biggest attendees, and it’s a challenge for us. So for us, getting a higher profile by being here is going to help hopefully getting more students to come and see the exhibits and to come to other events on campus.”

The center employs students from a variety of departments. Student assistants include Ryan DuBay, a senior history major completing a research internship, Elizabeth Fust, a sophomore English writing major is the programming assistant and Riley Crawford, a junior graphic design major who does promotional and exhibit design work.

From poster design to newsletter writing to research for specific exhibits, these students are adding value to their education through their work with the Beaumier, they said.

“The research has given me an idea and shown me that it takes a lot to go through the process of gathering information to compile an exhibit,” DuBay said.

Fust said she was glad to find an on-campus job that allowed her to directly apply skills she was learning in the classroom.

“It’s a little out of my comfort zone, but it’s allowed me to extend my skills into different kinds of writing,” Fust said.

The student assistants were glad to be in the new offices in Gries Hall and see the Beaumier make the move, where they will have more storage and gallery space.

“It’s awesome to have a new space,” Crawford said. “There is a lot more opportunity for the Beaumier in the new gallery.”

Robyn Stille, executive director of alumni relations and annual giving, has worked closely with Truckey on the move. The new center also prompted the move of the alumni relations offices from the sixth floor of Cohodas to Gries Hall. Stille hopes this will be more welcoming for alumni who return to campus in addition to attracting more students to the office.

“There is a lot of Northern memorabilia that Dan has in his collections that alumni will like to see when they come back to campus, take the nostalgic walk down memory lane if you will,” Stille said. “But it’s also a good way to enhance our student programming now in this new
location. We’ll have the seminar space, and from a student programming perspective we’d like to engage students and host events in those rooms along with alumni activities.”

NMU President Fritz Erickson said a question he receives often from alumni is how they can help students. The new center will provide a link between students and alumni, Erickson said.

“We have so many alums that are interested in serving as mentors, providing internships, supporting career placements and helping our students succeed that we needed a place to create a one-stop shop for supporting engaged alumni and engaged students,” Erickson said.

Truckey, Stille and Erickson hope alumni and community members will enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and that students will visit and engage more with the past, present and future of NMU and the U.P.

“My hope is that this center will be a place where we not only engage with our alumni, faculty, staff and students,” Erickson said, “but a place to celebrate our Upper Peninsula heritage.”