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Getty Foundation grant funds study of IUP’s heritage

by Laura Kingsbury/Editor in Chief
The Penn 

April 25, 2008

Thanks to a $100,000 Campus Heritage grant from the Getty Foundation, IUP’s historic buildings and landscapes are being studied to ensure the preservation of the campus’ rich history.   

Since its creation in 1984, the Getty Foundation has worked toward fulfilling a philanthropic mission of “supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the understanding and preservation of the visual arts locally and throughout the world,” according to its Web site,

“The university was invited to participate in a historic review of our landscape and historic buildings built prior to 1950,” said Bob Marx, IUP’s executive director of facilities operations, engineering and capital planning. “We then had the opportunity to qualify for the Getty project and submitted a proposal and other materials, working in conjunction with the university relations division.” 

In order to begin the historic review, IUP has contracted with the Pittsburgh Landmarks Foundation, which will perform studies on the various buildings and landscapes and then offer suggests for preservation by March. 

In addition, Marx also said the suggestions that result from the study will help IUP’s facilities team move forward with renovations while still keeping consistent with the heritage. 

Recently, PLF has performed similar studies at Grove City College, Allegheny College, Geneva College and Slippery Rock University, said Eugene Matta, PLF’s director of real estate and special developments programs. Currently, studies are in the works at Seton Hill University, Washington and Jefferson and California University of Pennsylvania in addition to IUP, said Eugene Matta.

“It’s important to note that this is not to replace or question any development plan that the university may have,” Matta said. “The two things should and can coexist amicably.” 

In terms of IUP’s buildings, a team of architects and historians are surveying and getting familiar with many structures that are more than 50 years old, said Ellis Schmidlapp, president of Landmarks Design Associates, who will be providing the PLF’s long-term preservation suggestions. 

The buildings currently being reviewed are Breezedale and Fisher Auditorium as well as Clark, Keith, Waller, McElhaney, Sutton, Uhler, Leonard, Whitmyre and Wilson halls.

“An important part of saving old buildings is planning,” Schmidlapp said. “It’s also finding a new use, because a building has to be useful to be preserved.”

An example, he said, could be Waller Hall, which when was originally designed in 1926 to be a gymnasium but is now used for the theater department. 

In addition to finding uses for the buildings and ensuring they are up to modern codes, PLF also focuses on their lighting and overall visual appeal. 

More specifically, Thomas Keffer, PLF’s property and construction manager, takes photographs of campus at night to survey both for beauty and for safety.

In doing this, he said he looks for ways to brighten up the campus by adding more lighting to sculptures, architecture and landscapes.

“You can light the trees, instead of the sidewalks; it’s much more beautiful that way,” said Ron Block, the project’s design consultant and landscape historian. 

For the PLF’s report, Block is also examining IUP’s landscapes, especially those in the Oak Grove.

“If you ask students what their favorite thing about campus is, they will probably say the Oak Grove,” he said. “So we recognize the importance of it, and even if you are running out of space, you don’t want to build anything there. Some of the trees were there before the buildings.” 

However, in order to make these suggestions fit the atmosphere of campus, both IUP and the PLF are stressing the importance of student input.

“Students can give input and articulate what they see as a building’s purpose,” Schmidlapp said. 

Marx agreed that it is important to get students, faculty and staff interested in learning and writing about IUP’s heritage.

To get involved with this project, students are encouraged to contact Marx at or Matta at

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