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April 14, 2011

Namesakes - Thwing: the man and the building

“The rocks crumble; bricks dissolve; some day another building will stand here in place of this one. But it is pleasant to have one’s little day, to know that this building will bear the name of my family.”[1]

So spoke Charles Franklin Thwing at the dedication of Thwing Hall on 11/9/1934. Dr. Thwing was the 6th president of Western Reserve University, serving from 1890-1921, the longest term of any CIT, WRU, or CWRU president.

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Charles Thwing, ca. 1930s and Thwing Hall, 1934-1957

Though he retired as president in 1921 he continued to live “on campus” at 11109 Bellflower Road until his death in 1937. He also continued to be involved in campus activities such as athletic events, teas, lectures, and reunions.

Thwing had stated that if a building was ever named for him, he wanted it to be a library. In 1929 WRU purchased the Excelsior Club for $650,000. In 1934 it was converted to a library and dedicated on President Thwing’s 81st birthday. It was the first WRU university-wide library building.

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Thwing Hall library periodical room and reference room, ca. 1935

In his speech at the Thwing Hall dedication, WRU President Winfred Leutner said, “When the question of the naming of this building came up for discussion there was only one possible solution. With a unanimity which speaks the affection in which we hold him, the trustees of both the university and the Case Library, and later the faculty of the university, approved the decision to name it for our loved Dr. Thwing.” [1]

Thwing Hall served as the university’s library until Freiberger Library was built in 1956. At that time the building was converted into a student union and an Open House was held to show off the new space on 2/10/1957.

In 1972 Thwing Hall was named the Charles F. Thwing Student Center, incorporating Thwing Hall and Hitchcock Hall. After remodeling, the addition of an atrium connecting it to Hitchcock Hall, and the addition of a bookstore, the Center was re-dedicated in 1980.

According to CWRU historian C. H. Cramer, Thwing was known as the “last of the great personal presidents....because of an impressive physique, an intense interest in students and their problems, a phenomenal memory, an optimism that was euphoric, and a dramatic quality that sometimes bordered on the euphuistic and the ‘hammy.’” [2] Thwing was committed to making the university a warmer place for students. He knew the names of the students and their families; he was a friend and advisor; and was affectionately known as Prexy long after his retirement. It is fitting that after a library, a student center was housed in Thwing Hall.

[1] “Dr. Thwing sees hall dedicated” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/12/1934
[2] C. H. Cramer, Case Western Reserve. A History of the University, 1826-1976 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976)

Posted by hxy2 at April 14, 2011 03:11 PM

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