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The New Smith Hall

The New Smith Hall

When Doane students return to campus in late August, they might do a doubletake at the sight of Smith Hall.

Among many other improvements in its $5 million renovation, the historic building now has a new fourth floor.

The construction that began over commencement weekend is wrapping up and scheduled to be completed before students return to campus. The project renovated both outdoor and indoor spaces at Smith, designed to extend the range of spaces for student life activities. On the south end of the building, a large stone patio courtyard will be constructed, complete with seating, an outdoor grill and fireplace.

The newly renovated Smith also will feature a gaming room, club lounge and a kitchen, all housed on the ground floor. A new business center, lounge, study room, as well as new flooring, paint, furniture and bathrooms are all on the agenda as well.  

Smith Hall - often called "Men's Hall" for its long tradition as Doane's male-only dormitory - was built in 1929. The three-story building is similar to Frees Hall in design, and the two buildings were purposely positioned as north and south anchors in the campus master plan of that era. After the reconstruction, the hall will be coed, and its new fourth floor will add 12 new rooms and a lounge area.

Ed Fye, Doane's head track coach and a 1982 graduate, was a four-year resident of Smith and says his best memories were of the bonds and friendships he made while living in Smith.

"We made our own traditions," Fye said. "Each year during the first snowfall we would make a big snow sculpture in front of the building. The best memory was "D Day", the day we would steal the ducks and swans from the Sheldon pond and bring them to Smith. We filled one of the showers with water and kept them there until the people from Sheldon would come and get them."

According to Kim Jacobs, Vice President for Student Leadership, the decision to change Smith from an all-male dorm to a co-ed hall was in part due to the fact that male-only residence halls experience more damages than co-ed halls, which are more flexible and more popular with students.

When Fye first saw the planned changes "it was kind of tough because it was the oldest building that hadn't had things done to it," Fye said. "However, I like the 4th floor extension. And things outside will help build bonds among the students."

Formally known as Men's Hall, Smith Hall was renamed in 1977 to honor Charles C. Smith, a successful Nebraska businessman who had given an anonymous donation in 1929 to ensure that the building be completed. Smith, an 1887 graduate of Doane, was a chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time Men's Hall was constructed in the late 1920's. He served on the board for a record 53 years. Smith was also known as the inventor of the index tab.

Throughout his lifetime, Smith preferred that his generosity be kept private. Upon his death, the Board of Trustees decided to publicly honor him with the renaming of the building.