UI opens renovated, eco-friendly Stuit Hall

BY SARAH BULMER | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Members of the University of Iowa community sliced a yellow ribbon, rededicating the newly renovated Stuit Hall as the campus’ first “green” renovation on Thursday.

The calming atmosphere of the building, located near the intersection of Jefferson and Gilbert Streets, features new windows that allow more sunlight, a rain garden to capture storm water, lighting controlled by occupancy sensors, and new insulation, according to a UI press release.

The hall, which will now serve as an addition to the Department of Clinical Psychology, is a “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified” building, something that benefits the entire campus, officials said.

Regent Robert Downer praised the advantages of the sustainable, “cutting-edge” $3.7 million renovation.

“When buildings can be reused and recycled without expanding upon the campus, it is a great advantage for the institution,” he said.

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The ceremony honored Dewey Stuit, who served as the dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1947 until 1977.

“To my uncle Dewey, this was his family. The University of Iowa was his family,” said Rick Imig, Stuit’s great-nephew.

The facility was originally built as an isolation ward for the UI hospital (now Seashore Hall) in 1915. From 1928 to 1971, the building catered to UI music students, and it was then transformed into studios for art students.

When Linda Maxson, the current dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, came to the UI in 1995 on a tour of the campus, officials introduced the facility to her as one area needing improvement. She described its former dilapidated state Thursday.

“I’ll never forget the tour because this building was indescribable,” Maxson told the crowd. “The painters and graduate students had taken over.”

Maxson said it is fitting Stuit Hall now houses the Clinical Psychology Department, one of the nation’s top-10 programs in the field.

Alan Christensen, a UI professor of psychology, noted the rundown nature of the building after the art students occupied its small rooms. When he first visited the building a couple of years ago, he said, dead birds lay on the ground of the studios.

“[The renovation of Stuit Hall] came about at a time when the department had some critical needs for building, inadequate space, function, and type of space,” Christensen said.

He said the original location of the psychology department’s mental-health clinic was inappropriate, because it was situated in a high-traffic area in the corner of the psychology research laboratory building.

“It really was problematic because those individuals partake in really sensitive work,” Christensen said.

Anne Zhang, a UI graduate and clinical psychology major who gave tours to those attending the rededication, said she was pleased to see this addition to her area of study.

“I certainly think it increases the visibility of our program,” she said.

UI President Sally Mason said she was also happy with the results of the 17-month renovation.

“Talk about turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” she told the crowd.

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