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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Murdock Hall: "Temple of Learning"

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, October 21, 2006

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, MCLA President Mary K. Grant and MCLA Board of Trustees Student representative Benjamin Lamb, Class of 07, during a formal Oct. 20 Murdock Hall reopening ceremony.
North Adams - State senatorial candidate Ben Downing may have put the period on an Oct. 20 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Murdock Hall reopening celebration.

"A Real Superstar"

"It's a temple of learning," Downing said during an interview inside the fully renovated space. "It's what all [state college buildings] should be."

Democratic candidate Downing is seeking the senate seat being vacated by state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.. He is being challenged by Republican candidate Matthew Kinnaman.

Downing was not a lone voice of support for the college and its' leader, MCLA President Mary K. Grant. One after another, state and city elected officials praised the about $8 million, two-year Murdock renovation project and Grant's leadership.

"Mary Grant has been a real superstar in our public college system," said college alumni state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley D-North Adams.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli D-Lenox lauded Grant for her dedication to the college and the community: "I learned that whatever Mary wants, Mary gets, and that she is totally committed to this region."


Debra Johnson, Class of '75
North Adams Mayor John Barrett III noted several campus buildings that were celebrated during past college presidencies and said that Murdock Hall was just the beginning of his expectations for Grant's tenure.

Murdock Is Not Enough

"We expect to have the Science Center for this president," he said, speaking to the state legislators in attendance and referring to a goal of a new Science facility at the campus.

Barrett earned two degrees at the college and was also awarded an honorary doctorate. He recalled his first moments inside the over 100-year-old Murdock Hall. The year was 1969, and Barrett said that he had arrived - late - for a history class.

During the decades since his college students days, the college and the city have changed, he said. MCLA, like the city, has managed to maintain prominent links to its' proud past while moving forward with an improved image, he said.

The Murdock Hall renovations are the epitome of the efforts, he said.

"We have tried to link our past with our future," Barrett said. "We have added a touch of class to this campus."

He equated the renovations at Murdock with the creation of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art at a Marshall Street former Sprague Electric complex and spoke about the pride of past generations and those who passed through Murdock's halls and Sprague workspaces.

And as for the hoped-for Science Center, which requires considerable state revenue support, Barrett said "We're not going to go away without that Science building either; in fact, I'm not going to leave office until it's done."

The speaker roster included Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, state Rep. Christopher Speranzo D-Pittsfield, state Division of Capital Asset Management Commissioner David Perini, state Board of Higher Education Chancellor Patricia Plummer, former North Adams Mayor and MCLA Board of Trustees Chairman Richard C. Lamb, and MCLA Board of Trustees Student Representative Benjamin Lamb.

"Look At The Customers"

Ruberto delivered praise to the college and Grant, whom he termed a "superb leader."

"All of us can take advantage of the educational excellence offered here," he said. "These buildings are for our kids. Look at the customers. These buildings encourage our kids to dream dreams they never thought possible."

The renovation project brought the four-story building back to its' original purpose. Murdock Hall was erected in 1894 as an academic site and was the first building constructed on the campus. The renovated interior includes state-of-the-art classrooms, computer labs, conference and meeting spaces, and offices for the computer science, sociology, and business departments.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley


"The Most Majestic Place On Campus"

The speaking portion of the ceremony unfolded on the second floor and followed a first-floor ribbon-cutting ceremony. With Grant and Barrett at his side, Benjamin Lamb sliced through a thick blue strand to spectator applause.

He spoke during the remarks portion of the ceremony and termed the renovated site "the most majestic place on campus."

"[Students] appreciate every little detail that's been put into this building," he said."These renovations have brought a whole new sense of school spirit. I came here to thank you for all you have done, all you are doing and all you will do to make this the best institution it can be."

Berkshire Visitor's Bureau Director of Advertising Debra Johnson was among the about 60 people who attended the ceremony. Johnson graduated from the college in 1975.

Bid Adieu To "Mount Murdock"

"This is beautiful, very high-tech," Johnson said of the renovated structure.

She recalled a Shakespeare class taught by Mary Margaret Toole.

"The class was taught on the third floor and the book weighed about 40 pounds," Johnson said. "Needless to say, I was always tired by the time I got [to class.]"

Jennifer Smith Huberdeau is a member of the college Class of 2000. Now a North Adams Transcript newspaper reporter, she remembered the building as the site of the college newspaper, radio, and television studio offices, English classrooms, and an interdisciplinary studies office.

She also remembered the stairs and a steep stairway grade. The renovations eased the stair grade considerably and a new elevator was included as part of the renovations.

"I like the stairs," Huberdeau said. "There was that steep grade; we called it 'Mount Murdock' and that name was handed down to us. As an English major, it makes me kind of sad to know that English isn't coming back [to the building]. This is quite impressive. I really like it."

Faculty members are expected to return to the building beginning on Oct. 27 and Murdock Hall is expected to host classes starting during early November.


Grant and state Rep. Christopher Speranzo
Murdock Hall Information

*The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Foundation raised and contributed $950,000 toward the renovation project. The state funded the remaining $7.1 million in renovation costs.

*The building was named for Frank Fuller Murdock, the school's first principal.

*Art is a key part of the renovated building's decor; a Norman Rockwell print, Danny O art, and a "Mr. Goodbody" sculpture crafted by artist Richard Criddle from old Murdock Hall desks are featured inside the building.

*The renovations covered about 46,000-square-feet. Grant termed the project "recycling on a very, very, grand scale."

*The project general contractor was Souliere and Zepka.

Memorable Moments

DCAM Commissioner David Perini: "The thing that has struck me about Mary [Grant] is that aspect of leadership - and if you really don't have it, you really don't get there- persistence."

MCLA President Mary K. Grant, during a subsequent response: "David, I'm glad you like persistence because I'm not done with you yet."

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III: "We're like a bad smell here in North Adams, we don't go away. We're not going to go away without that Science building either; in fact, I'm not going to leave office until it's done."

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, during his remarks,: "[State legislators] will push through the Science building. It's at the end of Corinth Street [Barrett's address], right next to the new parking garage."

MCLA History Briefs

*Established by state legislature as the "State Normal School at North Adams" in 1894

*School construction was completed in 1897. The original building is now Murdock Hall.

*The building was named for Frank Fuller Murdock in 1922.

*The campus became the North Adams State Teacher's College in 1932.

*Became the State College At North Adams in 1960

*Became North Adams State College in 1967

*Became the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 1997

Additional information about MCLA is available at a www.mcla.mass.edu Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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