From Harstad Hall to the Morken Center, donors have built the academy
In October 1891 the cornerstone of “Old Main” was laid on the rocky woodlands of Parkland. It was the first step in the construction of the first building at PLU. It’s now known as Harstad Hall, named for Bjug Harstad, the first president. Funding Old Main was a monumental struggle. As dollars came in, the building went up. It wasn’t until 1949 that the top floors were made habitable for the first time. It was a dream realized on the small donations of local Scandinavian immigrants. Almost 111 years later in May 2002, construction began with a groundbreaking for the first phase of the Morken Center for Learning and Technology, named for the Morken family and Don Morken ’60, alumnus and regent. The newest building on campus, it was dedicated in 2006 and was part of PLU’s most successful capital campaign in history.
More than a century apart in construction and worlds apart in amenities, the buildings nevertheless sprang from similar generous hearts. Both Harstad Hall and the Morken Center – and all of the academic buildings constructed on campus – were made possible only through the contributions of alumni and friends of the university.
“At PLU, as at most independent colleges and universities, we are able to fund the construction of new and renovated academic facilities only through the generosity of donors,” said Sheri Tonn, vice president for finance and operations.
Each year the university’s operating budget funds smaller capital improvements for roofs, plumbing improvements, limited classroom enhancements and office renovations. Bond funding is used to construct and renovate facilities that generate revenue such as residence halls and the University Center.
The Morken Center and Xavier Hall are two recent examples of the profound effect that donors can have on the life of the university, now and for generations to come.
“The Morken Center has made huge improvements in the space available for student-faculty research and student-faculty collaboration,” Tonn said. “We just didn’t have that kind of space before.”
It provides for academic programs that require a higher level of technology such as mathematics, computer science and business, which previously had limited technology available to them.
The renovation of Xavier Hall did the same thing for social science programs: improved teaching space, collaborative space and improved infrastructure and technology. The building was completely gutted and rebuilt to meet modern program needs.
“I can’t emphasize enough that a fully renovated building is often a better investment than a new building, in that renovation gives us updated programmatic space for a lower cost than new,” Tonn said.
Tonn said that donors have the satisfaction of immediately seeing positive outcomes for students when they help fund academic facilities.
“Donors who want to make a big difference in the lives of students can of course fund endowments for student scholarships,” she said. “But gifts to fund the construction or renovation of academic facilities are a type of endowment in their own right.
“It makes a terrific difference to the academic program. It makes PLU a stronger place. It is really good for students. The donors I’ve talked to believe this and that’s why they support PLU.”
According to the university’s facilities master plan, the next major academic facility renovations are scheduled for Eastvold Hall, Rieke Science Center and portions of the Olson athletic and recreation complex.
To learn more about investment options and ensuring the legacy of PLU, please contact the Office of Advancement at 253-535-7177 or visit https://www.plu.edu/advancement/ and click on “Make a Gift.”