BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan College will undergo a series of upgrades on campus over the next five years, starting with McCuskey Residence Hall.
Interim President of the College Dr. James Moore said the top-to-bottom upgrade to McCuskey will take place during the 2022-2023 year, and the hall will be closed during this time.
“We had the opportunity because of a partnership with the Reeves foundation out of New Jersey. They’ve been good to the college for many years and do a two-to-one match, so we met the challenge the Reeves Foundation put forward for us,” Moore said. “That coupled with some of the funds the board [of trustees] has authorized us to invest, we’re going to be able to do a total renovation.”
He said the residence hall has been around for a long time and while Wesleyan’s campus is beautiful, some of the buildings need to meet modern standards. The full upgrade to McCuskey will jump-start a series of other upgrades across campus.
“I have to say the decision to choose that one was made by my predecessor, and I think it was the right one,” Moore said. “It’s a multi-use space; it houses the art department on the bottom floor, and it was upgraded through a Title 3 grant that we got from the federal government, that we had for a number of years.”
“It seemed like a logical choice for us to invest in and since there’s already been improvements to the teaching spaces in the bottom, we should work to bring the rest of the building up to that same level of standard,” he added.
Some of the upgrades will include a new roof and an upgrade to the electrical system.
“That might not sound super flashy, but it’s an older building and the electrical in there isn’t able to meet all of our students’ needs,” Moore said. “They’re coming with more and more things that need to be plugged in — all of us are — so students will feel that improvement, big time.”
This new electrical system will also include new window-heating and cooling units.
“This isn’t your traditional window air conditioner; these are newer units that are both heating and cooling and it helps us too because all buildings have boilers for heat, so we’ll have some redundancy in there with those winter units being heating and cooling.”
This project was funded through the McCuskey Challenge, which was put forth by the Reeves Foundation, which agreed to a two-to-one match or to match every $2 the college raised with $1. They challenged the college to raise $434,815; Wesleyan managed to accumulate $486,824.96 and the foundation submitted about $216,000.
“We really saw an outpouring of support from donors, most of whom are alumni,” Moore said. “There were quite a few first-time donors, but it was also really great to see people that hadn’t given to the college in a while, but they were inspired by this challenge and gave to the college, so we’re really grateful to everybody that supported it.”
“We’re especially grateful to those donors who hadn’t given in a while, that felt compelled to do so again after a year more, so the challenge that we had with the Reeves Foundation was not only great from the standpoint of helping to have an impact on the residence hall but helping us to just re-engage with some donors,” he continued.
The college is taking bids for the project now, and a timeline for upgrades to other facilities will come later.
“Those are going to happen over the course of a number of years, some of them are also related to residence halls, but we also are going to be upgrading a lot of cosmetic things on campus to improve the beauty aesthetically outside,” Moore said. “There are some structural issues in some of the older buildings that we’re going to have to tackle, and we have been hearing from students over the last year to make sure we’re improving areas where they feel that improvements are needed.”
“Students want more flexible spaces, they want 24-hour study spaces, they want what is called in higher education ‘third spaces’ that they can utilize for various needs, so we’re going to be taking a big swing at those kinds of things this year and beyond.”
The only facility that will shut down in its entirety in the 2022-2023 year will be McCuskey Hall.
“A lot of the repairs that we’re going to be doing can be worked around right students being here, so this is just the first step, and I want to make sure people understand that we’re excited to take this first step, but we have a plan over the next five years to really, really improve not only the aesthetic beauty of the campus but also to deal with some structural issues that we’ve wanted to address here for a little bit of time,” Moore said.
Moore said the Board of Trustees gave him a two-year period to serve as interim president.
“I have complete trust in whatever they decide to do, I think everybody around here has been very patient during this time of transition,” Moore said. “I’ve been here for 15 years and this is my home, so for me, it’s been really inspiring and humbling to move into this leadership role and I’ve just felt nothing but supported by people here on campus, and by the Board of Trustees, so it’s been a really a rewarding challenge.”