Save Historic Grim Hall

This petition made change with 453 supporters!

To whom it may concern:

It has come to the attention of the students of Truman State University that Ezra C. Grim Hall has been discontinued as a residence hall due to structural issues that make it, in the words of the tentative agenda for the April 11 meeting of the Board of Governors, too costly to renovate.  It is our understanding that the fate of Grim Hall has not yet been decided, but that one possibility is demolition.  On behalf of a group of concerned students and alumni, we the Committee to Save Historic Grim Hall urge you as a policy-maker of the University to take action to repair and preserve this historic building and memorial to one of the school’s great leaders.  In addition, we urge you to retain Ezra C. Grim Hall as a residence hall in order to preserve the community and cultural institutions which can exist only in such a building.  Despite the many issues with the integrity of the building and the high cost of repairing it, we believe that an investment in this piece of the University’s past is an investment in the University’s future.      

The residents of Grim Hall are and have always been welcoming to students of all backgrounds, creating not only a home, but a family.  This family dynamic is unique and has yet to be replicated in any other campus community.  The small size of the building provides an intimate alternative on-campus housing option for students who wish to avoid the crowds of conventional residence halls.  As a cultural institution, Grim is home to one of the most prominent ghost stories on campus and contains scrapbooks and quilts that document and commemorate its tradition and history.  Both current and past students have expressed displeasure upon hearing of Grim Hall’s closure.  Although its current community plans to keep in touch after it is dispersed across campus, the Grim family cannot survive without Grim Hall.  However, the loss of this home and community would not be the only negative result of permanent closure or demolition.  There is also a deep and valuable history in the building itself. 

Grim Hall is the fourth oldest building on campus, exceeded in age only by the Physical Plant, Kirk Building, and Ophelia Parish.  It was constructed in 1923 as housing for the nurses training program and incorporated into the campus in 1955 when it was purchased to be a girls’ dormitory.  Grim Hall has also been used as housing for athletes and most recently as a co-ed residence hall for the general population.  The building has stood during the administration of twelve of Truman’s sixteen presidents and helped house ninety-two graduating classes.   The building’s namesake Ezra C Grim was himself was a longtime and prominent feature of campus.  He graduated from this school in 1895 as valedictorian, served on the board of regents from 1909 to 1915, established a nursing program on campus in 1923, and was a faculty member and administrator from 1923 to 1931.  In addition, Dr. Grim served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, American Expeditionary Forces, in World War I from 1917 to 1919.  Given the contributions that Dr. Ezra C. Grim made to this school, we believe that preserving the only building on campus to bear his name is desirable and necessary not only for the sake of the building’s history, but as a monument to the man.  In the words of President Emeritus Walter H. Ryle, “The School that fails to render honor to its benefactors will have few benefactors to honor.”

The historical and cultural significance of Grim Hall is of special value to Truman State University as it participates in the traditions established by its great leaders and boldly pursues excellence as a liberal arts university.  The University has held six different names throughout its history, and on average the school has changed names every 25.8 years.  In the University’s 139 years it has been both a private and a public school, a teachers’ college and later a state college, and finally a highly selective liberal arts university.  Through these changes in name and identity Truman has grown, matured, and become the fine institution it is today, but its grasp on tradition and history has suffered.  As we move forward into the twenty-first century as a modern university, it is essential that we do not forget our past.  Historic buildings such as Grim Hall are a direct link to and reminder of this rich past.

Old buildings such as Grim Hall are not merely sentimental reminders of the past.  Rather, the presence of historic buildings on campus offers prestige, a valuable commodity in the world of higher education.  Truman State University has willingly accepted the epithet “Harvard of the Midwest.”  Indeed, the inscription on the gates of campus, “Enter to grow in wisdom.  Depart to better serve your country and thy kind,” is also inscribed on a gate at Harvard.  Truman, however, is not Harvard.  What Truman lacks that Harvard possesses is the prestige that comes with a deep history.  Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the United States, and it has honored its history and tradition in many ways, including preserving architecture.  The oldest building on its campus was constructed in 1720.  If Truman is to obtain the historic prestige of institutions like Harvard, it must preserve and value its own rich history.  To do so, it must preserve historic architecture such as Grim Hall.

In light of the expenses necessary to restore the building, we would like to recommend non-tuition sources of funding that we hope you will explore before making a decision.  Dr. Grim was himself an alumnus of First District Normal School, graduating as valedictorian of the class of 1895.  Thus, the Northeast Missouri Alumni Chapter, his posthumous alumni chapter, might be willing to contribute funds to renovate his building.  In addition, Dr. Grim was a founding member of the Kirksville Kiwanis Club and the first Commander of the MacDougall-Lowell Post of the American Legion.  The Masons, of which Grim was a member, are another potential source of financial assistance.  Besides these organizations with which Dr. Grim was associated, other Kirksville organizations such as the Rotary Club and the Knights of Columbus might be willing to contribute to the restoration.  We hope to work with you in exploring all potential sources of funding before a decision is made regarding the fate of Grim Hall.

In conclusion, we the Committee to Save Historic Grim Hall with the undersigned students, alumni, and staff of the University recommend first that Ezra C. Grim Hall be preserved and repaired rather than demolished.  We secondly recommend that if possible the building be retained as a residence hall in order to preserve its valuable community and culture.  We finally recommend that the University, with the Committee to Save Historic Grim Hall, work to designate Ezra C. Grim Hall a historic landmark so that it can be preserved indefinitely and for posterity.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

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