College of Human Ecology commemorates its legacy

The college is closing as part of the University’s realignment plan.

Angela Gray

More than 20,000 alumni and friends of the College of Human Ecology have been invited to celebrate its 106-year legacy with two special events Friday as the college prepares to move its four academic departments into new collegiate homes.

Friday’s events will include a storytellers’ gathering and all-college reunion at the St. Paul Student Center from 3 to 5 p.m. and a gala reception in McNeal Hall from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Catherine Solheim, associate dean for the department of human ecology, said the purpose of the event is to mark the closing of the college.

Solheim said the entire administrative staff within the college has been working on the event.

“We want to have some sense of closure before moving on,” she said.

She said this event is a way to bring people together to reflect and remember what human ecology stands for and help with the transition.

During the storytelling segment of the event alumni will discuss topics such as campus life, fashion of the times, dances and special events, wartime, how they met their spouses at the University and student-teaching, she said.

The core values of the college also will be discussed and students, faculty and staff members will be encouraged to maintain them, Solheim said.

“A beautiful piece of art will be given to each of the four department heads representing those values that they can take with them,” she said.

When it comes to attitudes about the repositioning of the colleges, Solheim said, it is fair to say it goes both ways.

“Some people were pretty sad to lose the school and some are excited for the new possibilities,” she said.

Katharine Witherow, associate to the dean in the department of human ecology, said some of the college administration will cease to exist.

“We’re trying very hard to get them involved with other units,” she said.

It has not been determined which faculty and staff members will leave and who will stay to be repositioned, Witherow said.

“We’re very hopeful all of our staff will have a place within the University,” she said.

She said there has been an evolution in attitudes with some people going through “a cycle of grief, anger and joy” about the changes.

“A lot of people are trying to see the opportunities and focus on them,” she said.

Witherow said the college wants to participate in the University’s goal to be one of the top three research schools in the world and show its loyalty to the University.

She said they are expecting 750 people for the event.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “It really says a lot about the relations we had with these people.”

Linda Mona, a 1967 graduate of the University in home economics and education, is scheduled to attend and speak at the event.

Mona was the alumni president of the College of Human Ecology and has been active in fundraising activities.

She currently is chairwoman of the Buckman Fellows, an organization dedicated to leadership and philanthropy.

“I wanted to be at the event to celebrate all that the college has meant to me,” Mona said. “I loved the college and had many wonderful experiences.”

She said she read about the closing of the college when it first was released to the public.

“I was dismayed with the decision to disband the college,” she said.

However, Mona said, she will continue to support the departments from the college and the University.

“Even if I am not happy about the decision, change does happen,” she said.

Mona said her colleagues will work within the system and try to make the best out of the college’s closing.

“I hope people walk away feeling very good about what was and the education that did take place, and the camaraderie,” she said. “And especially what we’ve meant to the University and the community.”

As part of University realignment, the department of design, housing and apparel will move into a new College of Design with the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

The School of Social Work and the department of family social science will move into the new College of Education and Human Development. The department of Food Science and Nutrition will move into the new College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

The changes are set to happen in June.