Van Meter stones provide link to university’s past

The Van Meter Hall roof cornerstone, with its unique architecture, sits on display Sunday, August 21, 2016 on the front lawn of Van Meter Hall. 

Jack Johnson

As the new school year arrives, new and returning students will walk the campus grounds; droves of backpacked scholars will find themselves passing buildings and monuments long-standing and historical.

Every once in awhile, though, our campus can surprise even the most observant passerby. Recently, two pieces of Western’s history were returned to campus, in the form of cornerstone decorations.

Since early this summer, two stones have sat in front of Van Meter Hall, both adorned by stairs that lead to the fountain overlook.

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The stones originally stood in fours atop Van Meter’s roof, acting as both decoration to hide the gutter system, and also to divert water from bottle-necking at the corners.

After renovation in 2010, two stones from the back of the building were displaced and put into storage. There they sat for years until President Ransdell commissioned Josh Zwardowski, manager of Campus Facilities, to repurpose the stones as decoration in front of the building.

The process began with photo-rendering, and was finalized with Ransdell’s suggestion to place them in similar orientation to their original positions atop Van Meter.

“The particular location selected seemed very logical based on the juxtaposition to the ornamental elements.” Zwardowski said.

This movement to repurpose the stones could be seen as a part of Ransdell’s overarching WKU Master Plan, which was proposed in 2010 as a 20-year plan to renovate, construct, and develop Western’s campus further. In fact, President Ransdell even tweeted about the stones:

The theme of ‘recycling’ old campus assets into new installments and renovations has been a central theme of the plan.

“I’m all about preserving our history and those things that make us distinctive,” Ransdell said.

Hopefully, though, the stones won’t need to have another move-in day.

“Ideally the decorative architectural pieces will remain there as permanent solutions in the landscape,” Zwardowski said.

Now, standing as tributes to WKU’s storied past, the stones will remain for future students to pass by and wonder about why and how these giant stones appeared.

Reporter Jack Johnson can be reached at (270) 745-6011 or at [email protected].