The Last Word
By Samuel Beidleman ’63,
director of athletics

The more things change...

As the College prepared to welcome the Class of 2008 a few weeks ago, I could not help reflecting upon how things have changed since the Class of 1963 arrived on campus. On that day in September 1959, as I walked to my first class as a Muhlenberg student, I could not have imagined I would be spending the next 45 years of my life here as a student, a member of the faculty and an athletics administrator.

Much has changed over those many years. The entire student population could assemble in Egner Chapel, dormitories had one telephone per floor, the male-female student ratio was dramatically different, there were enough parking spaces for every car with spaces left over, and a year’s tuition cost $860. Freshmen no longer need to demonstrate their skills with a hula-hoop or give artificial respiration to a blade of grass at the behest of any upperclassman during freshmen hazing, and a frosh-soph tug-of-war no longer determines when first-year students will be accepted as full members of the College community. But nowhere are the changes more visible than in the College’s physical appearance.

Consider for a moment that in 1959 there were no College facilities south of Chew Street. The only dormitories on campus were Martin Luther, East and Brown. All resident students were fed in what is now Walson Hall. Our student center was a two-story building resembling a barracks left over from the Navy V-12 days. The only buildings on the front circle were the chapel, Ettinger, Haas and Trumbower. A M.I.L.E. house was someone’s personal home a mile from campus. Men’s physical education and athletics programming was conducted in Memorial Hall, while the women were relegated to the basement gymnasium of Brown Hall.

Today, standing in the bell tower looking south one would quickly notice the campus has grown considerably in that direction. Benfer, South and Robertson Halls accommodate the needs of residential students. The Baker Center for the Arts and adjoined Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance support programming in art, music, theater and dance enjoyed by not only the College community but by the larger Allentown community as well. Trexler Library, MacGregor Village and a brand-new tennis complex complete the panorama.

To the east, the College has acquired numerous properties housing students in a Muhlenberg Independent Living Experience program and several offices. To the west the “commons” became Old Commons and then Walson Hall, home to WMUH, MCTV and the communications department. Seegers Union has been expanded and/or renovated many times, Shankweiler has been added to the old science building, which has gotten a few facelifts itself, Prosser and Walz Halls surround the ever-present “Brown,” and Taylor Hall has added additional student residences and classrooms.

My favorite view, of course, is to the north. Over time, Memorial Hall has been encased by a pool, field house, locker rooms, wrestling room, racquetball courts and Pilates Center. Muhlenberg Field (now Frank Marino Field) is now a synthetic turf field surrounded by an 8-lane all-weather track. Men’s and women’s soccer are played in a stadium setting along 26th Street separated from what is now Scotty Wood Stadium by a grass practice field. The sight at night as the lighted facilities bustle with intercollegiate, intra-mural and recreational activities is impressive to say the least. But it is more than impressive when viewed from the upper level of the brand new health and fitness center opened in August, with its entirely glass west wall providing a picture that can truly be best described as spectacular. The 40,000 sq. ft. addition contains three floors of new space that is more than an athletics facility. Although there are locker, training and equipment rooms as well as athletics offices and meeting rooms, it also includes new health and counseling centers, impressive weight and cardio rooms, and even a “Life Sports Center Café.” With renovated classrooms, offices for campus student organizations and a couple of conference rooms this new structure serves as a focal point of life on the campus.

Those of us who look at Muhlenberg through the prism of time might wonder if all these changes were, and are, necessary. Whether change invigorates or troubles us it is both inevitable and necessary. Inevitable to maintain the vitality of the institution. Necessary to protect and preserve the fundamental values and philosophical traditions upon which this institution was founded. Without thoughtful, reasoned change, Muhlenberg would risk its standing among the best undergraduate liberal arts institutions in the nation. Change keeps us competitive and helps us continue to fulfill our time-honored mission. The longer I am here, the more I realize that those of us who see change in any of its many forms and long for days past need to realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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