President Leahy to return office to its original home in Weckesser

Austin Loukas

Christine Lee, News Editor

At the start of his term, President Patrick Leahy said that one of his objectives in his first year would be to move his office to Weckesser Hall. This month, that objective is nearly complete. Leahy is scheduled to begin moving his office and the offices of members of his cabinet to Weckesser.

Leahy explained that his main reason for moving into Weckesser was to be a more visible figure on campus.

“It’s much more centrally-located to campus and that’s where I personally want to be and where I think it’s best for our administration to be; right in the middle of things and I think Weckesser provides that opportunity in a way that UCOM does not,” Leahy said.

He said his move to Weckesser will help him become a bigger part of life on campus and to engage with the campus community more easily.

“I think I will run into students more regularly, I’ll run into faculty more regularly; activity will be passing outside my front door on a regular basis and I just will feel much more a part of this campus, which is what I think is appropriate for a president, especially a president like me that likes to be engaged in the life of the university.”

Over the course of the year, Weckesser has been undergoing an extensive renovation of its interior to prepare for the move. Vice President of Finance and General Counsel Loren Prescott said after Leahy made the final decision on the move, architects familiar with campus and the building were consulted on its layout.

“They were able to give us some specific design ideas that helped us to not only about how to use the space on the first few floors of Weckesser Hall but also what to do about the interior design issues,” Prescott said. “So when you see Weckesser Hall you’ll see that there’s a paint scheme that was recommended by the architect and so on,” Prescott said.

Prescott said planning for the move took several months. Renovation work began in late fall and he said it took longer than expected due to unforeseen issues with furniture, and heating and air conditioning.

“Some of the furniture that had to be ordered took longer for us to have delivered and as we were studying the building we realized that the heating and air conditioning system needed to be upgraded,” Prescott said. “So what we decided to do was to accelerate the process of upgrading the heating and air conditioning system before people moved into the building.”

He explained that the contractors decided on improving the heating and air conditioning system as a part of the renovation because upgrading the system while there were people in the building would be an inconvenience. Prescott said the work in Weckesser is nearly complete as the heating and air conditioning system is nearly ready and all furniture has arrived.

The large, castle-like structure that stands at 170 S. Franklin St. was built between 1914 and 1916 as the residence of Frederick and Anna Weckesser. It was given to Wilkes in 1956 after Anna’s death. The office of every Wilkes president with the exception of President Tim Gilmour has been located in the building.

More recently, faculty in the School of Education and the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership have had offices on the upper floors of the building. Although it has been used for faculty offices, Leahy feels the building hasn’t been used very much, particularly the first floor.

“Right now I think it’s a little bit under-utilized,” Leahy said. “There are offices in there on the second and third floor but the first floor, I think, is under-utilized so this (move) will allow us to fully utilize the building.”

The tradition of the president and other administrative figures having their offices in the building is another reason why Leahy decided to move his office there.

“I think that tradition is nice; to continue to house the central administration in the building that for many, many years housed the central administration,” Leahy said. “Continuing the rich heritage that we have of the university presidents here at Wilkes being housed there I think that is something that is very exciting to me.”

Leahy explained the room that will house his office is one that has not been used by a Wilkes president but several rooms in the building have been used by former presidents.

“I’ll feel surrounded by my predecessors in some respect,” he said.

Prescott explained that the faculty in the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership currently occupying the third floor will remain there. The first and second floor will be home to Leahy and the vice presidents in his cabinet.

The first floor will have the offices of Leahy and Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Adams as well as the administrative support staff for the senior administration. A large conference room will be available for use by the administration and other campus functions. The second floor will house the offices of the other vice presidents. The academic deans that serve in the cabinet won’t move into the building.

Prescott said the move-in will be well underway in mid-April to after Easter break and a Board of Trustees.  He likes the idea of being in the same building as the other senior administrators.

“A lot of the work that I do involves interaction with the other vice presidents and with the president,” Prescott said. “So I’m glad to be in the same building as them.”

As for the vacated offices on the second floor of UCOM, Leahy isn’t sure what will happen to them after the move but said a master planning committee composed of students, faculty, staff and administrators will determine their use.

“We have a campus master planning committee that’s gonna work with me,” Leahy said. “They will provide some advice for me as to the best use of this building.”

He explained there are better uses for the office spaces on the second floor of UCOM.

Leahy expressed gratitude with the preparations made to prepare Weckesser for the move of him and the vice presidents.

“In a building that’s that old and that special, it’s taken a lot more care and attention on (the renovation crew’s) part to do it properly and they’ve done a marvelous job and I’m just so appreciative of the care that they’ve done to this project.”

He hopes to invite the community to a reception in the newly renovated Weckesser Hall this month.