Alumni eNewsletter: Peikoff Alumni House renovation project complete (Archives)

Photo: Outside the Ole Jim
Photo: Bobbie Boswell and Wendy Armstrong
Rebecca "Bobbie" Boswell and Wendy Armstrong smile in front of new walls, wooden floors, and stairs at Bobbie's retirement party in the Peikoff Alumni House.

At last, the long-awaited moment has arrived! After almost two years of painstaking labor, the dust and debris have settled to reveal Gallaudet’s much beloved Peikoff Alumni House ("Ole Jim") restored to pristine condition, inside and out.

This is "Ole Jim," first renovation since 1982. It proved to be a major undertaking—far more involved than constructing a new building, but it was worth it, considering the special place the structure holds in the hearts of alumni. The project entailed major improvements such as reinforcing the entire foundation of the 126-year-old landmark and updating the heating/air conditioning and electrical systems. Cosmetic improvements such as like cleaning and refitting stained glass windows and painting the building with its original exterior colors.

The $6 million project, funded by the University and the Gallaudet University Alumni Association’s (GUAA) Alumni House Maintenance Fund, was not without its difficulties and unexpected turns--all internal and external wood siding as well as structural beams supporting the roof had to be replaced, which delayed completion of the project, and new building codes required that the stairway from the first to the second floor had to be rebuilt. But alumni who return to their alma mater will not be disappointed with the finished product.

This assessment can be verified by those who use "Ole Jim" on a daily basis—the staff in the Office of Alumni Relations. The staff will start moving into their refurbished offices on July 24 after working in temporary quarters in the EMG Building during the renovation. Their first opportunity to take a close look at the interior renovations came on June 1 at a retirement party for Rebecca ("Bobbie") Boswell-a fitting tribute to the longtime administrative secretary for Alumni Relations who spent her entire career working in "Ole Jim." Party attendees were awed by the makeovers at this special occasion.

"The finished product gave me goose bumps as I went inside and saw the GUAA logo on the carpet and the beautiful wooden stairs," recalled Daphne Cox, ’82, associate director of Alumni Relations. She feels that alumni and others who use the building will benefit from the improved lighting, the conference room-which will seat twice as many people as the previous room, and the addition of new technology that will enhance meetings and workshops. She also anticipates that alumni will get a big thrill out of seeing the three-foot by three-foot glassed in area on the first floor showcasing a section of "Ole Jim’s" famous swimming pool, unearthed by a construction crew during excavation work for the foundation repairs.

Sherry Duhon, ’77, assistant director of Alumni Relations, believes alumni who return to their alma mater and drop by "Ole Jim" will be so thrilled by what they see, especially the look of upper level." For those who may be afraid that the second floor has changed too much, Duhon added that they will be "relieved to see the ‘chimney’ with names is still there."

"`Ole Jim’ is B E A U T I F U L !! WOW!," wrote Dr. Richard Meisegeier, G-’67. The alumni house was named in honor of Meisegeier’s wife, Joyce's, parents, David and Pauline "Polly" Peikoff, for their decades of indefatigable work on behalf of alumni—the most notable being the driving force behind the fund raising effort for the 1982 renovation of "Ole Jim." "This will be a fantastic place to hold our Saturday evening dinner for the M.A. graduate level Classes of 1967 and 1968 members in August," said Meisegeier. Loraine DiPietro (‘68) who is assisting him with the reunion added, There is something special about having [the event] on campus and getting to use the Alumni House. When we were students, ‘Ole Jim’ wasn't a place you wanted to be in!"

Alumni and other members of the Gallaudet community will have the opportunity to celebrate this meticulous facelift to a cherished icon of Gallaudet culture and tradition at a grand re-opening that will take place during this year’s Homecoming weekend.

Sam Sonnenstrahl, ’79 & G-’84, Alumni Relations director and GUAA executive director, credited the success of the project to the many people on campus who collaborated to give their time, energy, and talent. He gave a special note of thanks to Mickey Fields, Director of Facilities and University Architect, for the work he did for the project. "Often, I wonder what would have happened to the building if it was not for the renovation," Sonnenstrahl mused. If the renovation had not taken place, he said, "We would have seen the effects of the structure’s deterioration within a few years. Now, we can say it is structurally sound and will be this way for many more years."

Sonnenstrahl also praised Patner Construction, Inc. for hiring deaf workers for the project. He noted, "It is probably the first major renovation project on campus which had the commitment from the general contractor in hiring deaf people."

Posted: 17 Jul 2007

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