There wasn’t much fanfare last week, just a simple tweet from our resident librarian/social media extraordinaire - Carrie (Holcomb '99) Phillips, aka @crp4 - alluding to Marbeck Center’s 43rd birthday.
In the years prior to 1968, the campus dining hall was located in the lower floor of what is now known as “Old Ropp.” In the years since that space has been used for many things, a classroom; exercise room; and currently as the new Bluffton Centre for Academic Excellence, a place for honor students to gather.
It was obvious that as the campus community continued to grow (enrollment had jumped the 400 student barrier in 1960) that a larger dining hall was needed to accommodate the larger student body. However President Bob Kreider’s vision was to build a student union.
“When the old Ropp dining hall taxed beyond capacity by mid-decade, an even bigger project would be the construction of a new dining facility. Kreider coaxed the trustees into envisioning a much more ambitious building than a mere cafeteria…It would have a bookstore, post office, snack shop, loft and dining facilities that could accommodate up to 900, with room for future expansion.” (Dancing with the Kobzar pg. 163-164)
What wonderful forethought. Where would we be now without Marbeck? As President Kreider envisioned, Marbeck Center has become a hub of activity for students and alumni alike. Dances, art displays, concerts, receptions and more have been held in the common spaces. Smaller spaces are routinely used for meetings and luncheons.
With the addition of the aptly named Bob’s Place in 2002, Marbeck Commons now provides dining services for nearly 800 residential students. Bob’s also offers additional meeting spaces, a larger place to hang out and a small performance stage that is well-used for coffee-house style concerts, open mic nights, talent shows and more.
It’s obvious that Marbeck Center transformed Bluffton’s campus in 1968, in the same way that Centennial Hall did in 2000 and the new Health and Fitness Education Center will in the future.
Thank you to all who played a role in making Marbeck Center a reality 43 years ago. You’ve done a great thing.