Photo courtesy of University of the South Flickr
By Tess Steele
To honor the countless contributions of former Vice-Chancellor Bob Ayres (C’49, H’74) and his wife Pat (H’98), the Board of Regents have named the new dormitory on Alabama Avenue Ayres Hall.
Ayres exemplified exceptional leadership during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor from 1977 to 1988, especially in the midst of Sewanee’s monetary crisis of the late 1970s. While Vice-Chancellor, Ayres tripled the school’s endowment, and his active role as a supporter of the University of the South earned him the unofficial title of being a “modern founder” of the school. “It’s hard to overstate how important Bob Ayres has been in the recent history of the university. He’s an alumnus, a parent, has been a trustee, a regent, a board chair, the VC, a fundraiser, a donor, and all-around supporter,” shared Laurie Saxton, the university’s media relations contact.
A combination of an increase in student enrollment and a preexisting need for additional housing served as a driving force for the construction of Ayres Hall. Saxon spoke of the university’s plans for additional housing, stating that, “In 2011, the university planned for both increased enrollment and new residence halls. The university‘s 2011 Strategic Plan called for steady growth until we reach an undergraduate student body of about 1,750. The 2011 Campus Master Plan envisioned the need for two new residence halls: first Smith Hall, opened in 2013, followed by a second residence hall, Ayres Hall.”
The construction of Ayres began in June of 2015 following the demolition of the Van Ness building. The university anticipates that construction will finish in July, housing both freshmen and upperclassmen for the upcoming advent semester.
Kate Reed (C’08), the Director of Residential Life, hopes that Ayres Hall will increase activity on central campus, helping to increase a strong residential presence in an area that is often viewed as primarily academic. “I am excited to see more students moving towards that direction of campus. Ayres is close to academic buildings, McClurg. and DuPont Library. It is an area of campus that has a lot of function, and I expect that having people live there will bring life to the area.” The dorm will house between 100 and 120 students, consisting of some doubles and predominately singles.
Reed anticipates that Ayres will have “a cozy feel, with lots of attention to details. There are plenty of study nooks and outlets, providing secluded studying spots.” The hall was designed by the same team that renovated Cannon Hall, so it is likely to have a similar feel to Cannon. Students can expect a living environment with soothing colors, a first floor fireplace, a two story balcony, and a beautiful TV room upstairs. “My favorite thing is the view from the TV room. I love Sewanee sunsets and our beautiful towers, and it will be lovely to have a view of the sunset behind the quad from third floor,” shared Reed. The fireplace exemplifies the thoughtful detail put into Ayres Hall, as it is made from salvaged stones from the Van Ness building, serving as both a nod to the past and a celebration of the ever evolving campus.