The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

August 24, 2013

Youth gets surprise at Indiana State

Grandma once lived in dorm room

For the Commercial-News
The Commercial-News

---- — WILLIAMSPORT, Ind. — When Peggy Kenworthy left her home in State Line City to enroll at Indiana State University in 1963, she moved into a still shiny one-year-old, women-only residence hall that her older sister had helped christen the year before.

When her grandson Lane Swanson of Williamsport enrolled for the fall semester this year, he found himself assigned to a sparkling co-ed residence hall fresh from a $10 million renovation.

As it turned out, grandmother and grandson were assigned not only to the same building, but to the same room, 50 years apart.

At first, Swanson, a May graduate of Seeger Junior-Senior High School, didn’t realize the significance of being assigned to Erickson Hall, Room 305.

“I just thought it was really cool that I got what amounts to a brand new dorm,” he said.

Swanson’s mom, Franki, said, “When we saw the room assignment, I told my mom and she (Kenworthy) looked at me and said, ‘That was my room.’”

“What a wonderful coincidence,” Kenworthy said of her grandson’s random room assignment.

“I met Lane’s mother during June orientation for new students and by chance, she mentioned the assignment of her son to Room 305, Erickson Hall — where his grandmother had also stayed 50 years earlier,” said John Beacon, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications.

“The odds of this happening were so great that I told the story repeatedly to groups of parents over the remaining orientation sessions. Without exception, people who heard the story were simply amazed that this could happen.”

Though it is still the same building, the Erickson Hall of 2013 is much different from the Erickson Hall Kenworthy called home during her freshman year at what was then Indiana State Teachers College.

“It was still pretty new, bright and spiffy,” she said, “but the rules were a little different. There were no boys allowed and the girls had to be in the dorm by 10 o’clock on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturdays.”

Kenworthy, a retired elementary and special education teacher, recalled that the women of Erickson Hall in 1963 could have male visitors during “open house” from 2-4 p.m. on Sundays, “but the doors were supposed to be open if you had a gentleman friend over and you had to yell ‘Man on floor!’”

Fifty years ago, the building’s bathrooms and showers served an entire floor, while today’s renovated building features restrooms and showers for every five or six rooms.

After visiting her grandson’s room recently, Kenworthy said she thinks that, because of the renovation, it occupies only part of the same area as her room, but there is still “something special” about him being assigned to Room 305.

This year marks the beginning of the third chapter in the life of Erickson. After serving as a residence hall for decades, it was converted in the early 1990s to office and classroom space. One year ago, it began the conversion process back into student housing.

The facility now has a much brighter look to it than it did when it first opened to students in the middle of the 20th century. A large lounge area on the first floor and an open stairway allows sunlight into lower level meeting rooms.

As impressive as Lane found Erickson Hall and other campus facilities, different factors featured in his decision to attend his grandmother’s alma mater.

Lane has regularly traveled to Indiana State every June for Special Olympics Indiana to watch his older brother compete.

“We’ve come to Indiana State ever since I was 8 for the state games and I’ve gotten to know the campus pretty well,” he said.

“I was really pleased that he chose Indiana State,” said Franki, a school speech/pathologist who attended Purdue University. “I felt it was the type of school that would fit him and his personality.”

Lane will be part of the first Indiana State class to spend the first year assigned to University College, which features dedicated academic advisors. He also participated in a two-day New Student Orientation program and in Project Success, a week-long program to help participating students make a smooth transition to college life — both programs that were not offered during his grandmother’s student days.

Lane, who plans to major in criminology and criminal justice, and more than 12,000 other Indiana State students, started classes on Tuesday.

He has Kenworthy’s best wishes for finding the same happiness and success she found at Indiana State five decades ago, but he also has an admonition from Grandma.

“I told Lane, ‘The thing of it is that I graduated, so you’d better graduate, too,’” she said.