Sunlight filtered through newly draped windows and flooded the
freshly painted rooms of the recently renovated Horace H. Rackham
School of Graduate Studies, where students, faculty and staff
celebrated the official opening last week.

Rackham’s roughly $28 million renovation budget, of which
$22 million came from central administration funding, covered
problems in the building’s technology and safety,
infrastructure, layout and interior design.

The project, an eight-year-long task, began as a scrapbook of
pictures and ideas presented to former University President James
Duderstadt in 1996. Planning and construction began soon afterward,
and the renovations unofficially ended in January of this year,
though minor touch-ups to the building continue.

According to those involved in the project, the renovations were
long overdue. “We were at the point where the graduate school
couldn’t function in this space anymore. And it looked
terrible. You’d touch the draperies and they’d
disintegrate in your hands,” Rackham Facilities Manager Tom
Mull said.

The building underwent several technological changes. In
addition to a new fire safety system — the first for some
parts of the building — most study lounges, offices and
conference rooms received wireless Internet.

Rackham’s interiors now sparkle and shine with new light
fixtures, draperies, carpets and wall colorings. Design
coordinators based modifications on themes from existing
architectural features within the building. The east and west study
lounges, formerly women’s and men’s lounges, were
repainted in color schemes designed to appeal to either gender.

“It was easy to come up with the designs — we just
let the building itself dictate that,” Mull said.

Students were already back in Rackham’s study rooms during
last week’s open house, and many said they liked the changes.
Rackham student James Sallee said he’s enjoyed the renovated
study spaces. “My program is housed in Lorch (Hall), so I was
basically stuck studying in the (Shapiro Undergraduate Library).
I’m excited that we have our own nice place to study
now,” Sallee said.

Rackham student Dan Rivas said despite the extensive cost of the
renovation, he is glad to see the University investing in the
preservation of its facilities. “(The University) is
preserving something historical, and to let it decline would be a
terrible loss,” Rivas said.

The building’s open house also attracted large numbers of
alumni, who paced the halls of the nearly century-old building.
Gordon and Marilyn Bigelow, both University alumni and local
residents, said they are pleased to see proof of the
University’s ongoing commitment to the preservation of its
older facilities.

“Many of the buildings that we knew when we were students
here are gone now, so it’s important to us to see the
University preserve the ones we have left,” said Marilyn
Bigelow, who attended the University in the 1950s.

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