Interim president wants to move in on campus
June 16, 2016
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Every class day, innumerable A&M-Commerce students and faculty members walk past the red brick, Georgean revival style house located next to the statue of university founder William Leonidas Mayo, rarely giving it a second thought. The Heritage House (as it is now known), though, was originally built in 1927 to serve as the university president’s residence and did so for 40 years until the construction of the current president’s house in 1968.
Recently appointed Interim President Ray M. Keck III, however, hopes to move into the historic home, which would make him its first full time resident since D. Whitney Halladay.
“I want to move into it, my wife and I, and use it as a mechanism for two things – to do what I can to strengthen and add to the sense of family, warmth and integration in residential life and to connect with alumni,” Keck said. “I want students in and out of that house every single day. If they knock in the middle of the night, I’ll get out of bed and open the door. My dogs will bark. I’ve got two cockers, so they’ll wake up too. But yes, I also think it’ll help me connect to alumni because it’s right next to that beautiful garden, the alumni center and Ferguson [social sciences building]…which is the oldest building on campus, so every single alumnus is gonna remember having had classes there.”
In the 1932 edition of The Locust (the university’s discontinued yearbook), students described the President’s House thusly – “Its doors open to offer unselfish hospitality to all,” and “its cultured interior the scene of delightful gatherings.” While Dr. Keck is certainly willing to bring back some of that familial accessibility, some restorative and renovative work will have to be done to the house in order to bring his idea to fruition.
“I’m really excited about this,” Keck said. “Right this minute, there are only a couple of modifications that need to happen on the second floor. Otherwise, the first floor’s all done. The [1930s style] furniture’s already there. In terms of cost, the cost is minimal, and I think the notion of strengthening the community by having the president living right in the middle of the campus is exactly right, and we have this gorgeous house where that can happen.”