History & Overview Frequently Asked Questions Alumni Stories

History and Overview

The existing Administration Building is actually three connected sections. The central portion was erected in 1920, combining the original Bumgerdner Hall on the east side and the 1895 Bible School on the west side. In Bumgerdner’s early years, faculty taught their students in early morning and evening by the light of coal oil lamps. All three sections were built for a different time – when buildings were heated differently and not cooled at all, when electricity was cutting-edge technology, and when today’s technology was inconceivable.

Manchester has explored options for the Administration Building, literally, for years. The building’s functionality has decreased gradually through aging, lack of accessibility and inadequate heating and cooling systems.


Looking Back at the Administrative BuildingLooking Back at Meetings in the Administrative Building

Razing the building and replacing it with a new, smaller and more functional Administration Building was one of the main initiatives of the Students First! campaign, approved by the board in 2009.

As we moved through the campaign and considered how best to serve our students, we decided to use a $5.4 million gift from the late Herb Chinworth ’42c to construct the Lockie and Augustus Chinworth Center, rather than build a new Administration Building. The Chinworth Center, which honors Herb’s parents, is connected to the Jo Young Switzer Center (former Union), and it opened in 2019. It houses the Arthur L. Gilbert College of Business and offices that directly serve students. Placing it next to the Switzer Center and Academic Center put it in a more central campus location.

In 2012, Manchester completed renovation of the former Holl-Kintner Hall of Science into a new Academic Center with modern classrooms, study areas, faculty offices, Sisters Café and the Office of Admissions. That emptied the second and third floors of the Administration Building, leaving about 40 administrative employees working on the first floor and in the basement.


The administration building is scheduled to be razed in 2022 and construction will begin on a new addition to the MU campus. A new bell tower will be celebrated during Homecoming in 2022 in recognition of 100 years of MU

In 2019, those administrative employees were moved after bricks started falling from the façade and a major leak was discovered in the roof, in addition to other concerns such as radon levels and mold. We found office space in other campus buildings for those employees.

In August 2021, the bells were removed from the old Chime Tower for restoration. We will construct a new Chime Tower on the mall with elements that honor the historic significance of the Administration Building. The bells will be reinstalled next summer, and we will dedicate the Manchester icon’s 100th year at Homecoming 2022.



Why are we razing the Administration Building?

In exploring options to try to save the Administration Building, contractors estimated renovation costs to be over $7.5 million – well beyond the resources we have available to invest in the building. If we had moved forward with that option, those costs ultimately would have been borne by current and future students, which the Board of Trustees and administration did not feel right in doing, especially given our other needs and responsibilities to keep Manchester affordable for our students, investing in student learning, and being good stewards of Manchester’s financial sustainability for future generations.



What options were considered for saving the building?

The administration conducted an exhaustive review of alternatives over the past 18 months. Just since June 2020, at least five engineering firms or developers have looked at the building and estimated what it would take to restore it. We explored gutting the interior to create student-only housing, and mixed-use housing within the shell. We explored working with an outside developer experienced in restoring historic buildings, developers experienced in affordable community housing, and undertaking the project ourselves.

Each option had significant, long-term financial impacts, including increased housing costs for students, increased debt and debt service, and increased operating expenses. Those financial impacts would be borne ultimately by both students and colleagues.

We explored renovating the Administration Building for student housing, and found it would have been the most expensive housing option on campus. Most of our students are already hard pressed to pay for on-campus housing, and we believe few would be able or willing to pay the higher price. We are mindful of the sacrifices that they and their families make to attend college.

We found that, if a developer renovated the building for another purpose, revenue from operating the building would go to the developer. If we had pursued tax credits, the credits would have gone to the project’s donors and investors, not Manchester. We still would be responsible for managing and populating the building. In other words, someone else would get the financial benefits, but the University would still have significant physical and financial responsibility for the building.

We also explored other alternatives such as government grants, but those programs typically come with significant use restrictions and are too small to represent much savings for Manchester.



How much would it cost to renovate the building?

The historical organization Indiana Landmarks connected us with Core Development, a redevelopment group with expertise in historic renovations. Core estimated the cost of renovating the building for student housing to be $7.5 million, with $3.5 million coming from Core, $1 million from historic tax credits, and $3 million from Manchester-solicited donations and investments. This estimate did not include renovating Wampler Auditorium or doing significant renovation of the basement.

In this scenario, Manchester would remain liable for operating, populating and maintaining the building. We also explored undertaking the renovations on our own through new debt. With that scenario, current and future MU students would pay for that debt. Specifically, every MU undergraduate student for the next 10 years would need to pay an additional $1,200 in order for Manchester to save the building. Most would never live in the building. It is not fair to put that burden on them. We want their dollars to pay for their education and student experiences.



Can we raise the funds needed to renovate it?

Very unlikely. We study our donors’ financial capacity and have spoken with many of them about their philanthropic interests, and we know that most prioritize supporting Manchester students in their pursuit of a college education. Any funds we might raise for a renovation project would almost certainly reduce what we could raise for other priorities such as student scholarships, investing in academic programs and more pressing capital projects in buildings on the North Manchester campus used by students.



Did the building deteriorate because Manchester didn’t take care of it?

We took care of it as best we could, but many of the problems are structural, stemming from its construction more than a century ago. There is asbestos in the building and lead in old paint. There is no central ventilation system for heating and cooling. We have had issues with mold, the flat roof and radon. Mice, chipmunks and bats were frequent visitors. As one engineer noted, the building has major structural issues that have likely been issues for half a century.



Have you explored razing the middle section and keeping the east and west wings?

We have, and experts in historical restoration tell us that the historical significance of the structure is the building in its entirety. Engineers tell us that because the buildings have been combined for so long that they likely have settled together and cannot be separated without compromising the structural integrity of what remains.

In other words, removing the center could in turn create significant re-engineering costs to preserve the remaining two sections.



Can we mothball the building?

“Mothballing” refers to taking a building out of service but preserving it enough to prevent further deterioration, possibly for future use. The roof would need to be repaired and the façade needs to be secured. We also would need to maintain a certain airflow in the building, which does not have ductwork or a centralized HVAC system. In short, mothballing would be expensive.

Indiana Landmarks indicated interest in covering those costs, and a willingness to fundraise from its donors to cover the costs of mothballing the building. Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to mothball the building was not about cost, but about seeing a realistic future use for the building. Based on the alternatives explored, we didn’t see any viable options over the next five to 10 years and concluded that mothballing would just delay the decision to tear it down at an even higher cost and place that burden on those who follow us.



What will go in its place?

For now, we will plant grass and maintain the area as a green space featuring mature oak trees and the beloved fountain as its focal point. The fountain will be repaired as part of this project. Should future needs arise, the open area could be used to construct another building, as well.



How much will it cost to raze the building?

We have a bid to raze it now for $550,000. Delaying the decision will only make it more expensive down the road.



When is the building coming down?

The exact timing will be determined by the contractor, but almost certainly before the end of summer 2022.



How will Manchester honor the history of the Administration Building, and can we salvage its more historic pieces?

We will celebrate the building and its service in a variety of ways.

Plans are in the works to have an in-person and livestreamed memorial event to celebrate our memories of the building, say farewell and honor its role over the years.

We also invite alumni and others to send their memories about the building to alumnioffice@manchester.edu with the subject line: Administration Building Memories. We intend to share memories on the university's website as another way to honor the history of the building.

We will save what is feasible – including potential ways to incorporate elements of the building or a memorial plaque in the new Chime Tower.



Can alumni purchase bricks when the building is razed?

Our plan is to place bricks at an accessible location on campus so that people can come get them as mementos. For those living further away, we will provide a way to purchase bricks for the cost of shipping. More details regarding this option will be shared in the coming weeks.



Is this one more example of how Manchester is becoming less like the Manchester that we know?

We understand how it might feel that way to some. But, Manchester is not a building or collection of buildings. Manchester is the people – the people who changed our lives and broadened our horizons, the people who remain lifelong friends.

Several people who love the Administration Building recently shared that what they value most about the building were the people who taught and worked there. Manchester has replaced many buildings over the years to better serve students and be good stewards of resources. This decision was made with the same goals in mind.

Manchester presents itself to the world through our mission, our values, and our belief in the infinite worth of every individual. We are reflected through our graduates of ability and conviction and the many ways they make the world a better place. That is our essence, and it endures over time.



Your stories are powerful.

Stories are best told by those who experienced them first hand. It is often said, "If these walls could talk." Your perspective means they can! Now is the time to tell your stories, relive your memories, and share your experiences for everyone to enjoy.

If you have a treasured story, please share it with us. While you're here, we encourage you to visit the Administration Building Photo Gallery.



Order an Administration Building Brick

Bricks will be set aside for those who want a memento. If you want to pick one up, please email alumnioffice@manchester.edu to make sure we save enough. If you don’t live nearby, we can ship one to you at cost. To purchase a brick, please complete the Administration Building Brick form.



Alumni Stories

Junior Mugging
My class was the last to participate in “Junior Mugging” in the Ad Building. This photo is from February 2018, when we were able to go see the Chimes at the top of the building.


Beth Schaefer, Mikayla Patterson, Annika Barce, and Madalyn Minehart - Class of 2019

Shared Photos
Photos shared by Jenny Steele, Manchester University Human Resources.



MU Trivia

I would like to share a couple bits of trivia. My father, Roy J. Gilmer, did a pencil sketch (or pen and ink) of the administration building entrance. This sketch was used for many years on the front of the (I believe it was) bulletin that is sent to alumni (I think it is the alumni bulletin). I might have the name of the newsletter/bulletin wrong but it was a communication that was sent out several times a year. I believe the university stopped using his drawing a few years ago. My father graduated in 1934 (I believe). Another bit of trivia--my uncle, Clarence Y. Gilmer, rang the bell to indicate the beginning and ending of classes. There was a rope that ran from the bell tower to his room in the men's dorm. I hope this information was helpful.

Sincerely, Larry Gilmer (Class of 1958).


The Original Campus Communications System

This black board outside the President’s office was our campus communication center—no cell phones or internet. The left side (which was locked) was for faculty. The reminder was for student body input to announce meetings, deadlines and occasionally editorial comments. John Holl (with cap) is standing at the left and the person on the right is Bill Christopher III. The notice in the right upper corner is a plea for seniors to return their choice of a photo for use in the 1959 Aurora. I was the co-editor with Bob Burt.

Submitted by Harry L. Keffer, M.D.



Four Memories of the Old Administration Building

  1. As a young boy in the early fifties, my parents would bring me to visit my brothers in college. At only 10 years old the ride was 70 miles long (forever) and I would get excited when I could see the bell tower as we were driving down Indiana 13 just a few miles north of campus.
  2. On one of those visits, a student, who played the chimes, took me up to the top of the bell tower and showed me where he played the chimes. As I remember with ropes and levers.
  3. In 1965 the year of my graduation I can remember some very intelligent math students on the third floor of the administration building working in a small room with wires everywhere. Later I realized they were building a ‘computer’ before we knew what a computer was.
  4. On November 22, 1963 during final term exams and sometime in the afternoon, the chimes went ‘bong’, ‘bong’, and ‘bong’ many times to announce and remember President Kennedy’s assassination. Those chime sounds have remained in my memory all my life since.

Glenn Oxender, Class of 1965


November 22, 1963

My most vivid memory of the Ad Bldg. happened on November 22, 1963 as I was standing in line outside the main office to pay my bills for the second quarter that year.

It was approximately 1:40 when a young male student I didn't know rushed in and shouted "The President has been shot!" At first we all laughed, but then we realized he was quite serious. After paying my bill, I headed back my dorm and spent the next 3 1/2 days glued to the television set in the lobby of Oakwood along with most of my fellow dwellers.

It's a day that I can never forget of my four years at Manchester College (then!)

Jennie (Stump) Oberholtzer

Class of 1965