August 7, 2000
Volume 52, No. 39
Miller-Ward Alumni House to open soon
By Michael Terrazas
Even bereft of furniture to fill its elegant ballrooms and public spaces, the new Miller-Ward Alumni House, recently occupied by its full-time inhabitants, looks every bit of its $7.5 million price tag.
The stately Tudor-style mansion, which incorporates the old Scholars Press building into its design, lords over Houston Mill Road and more resembles a ski lodge than an academic facility. But then, a "home" for Emory alumni and guests is what the building's progenitors envisioned all along.
"The word I've been using [to describe it] is 'unbelievable,'" said Jake Ward, one of the two University deans of alumni-along with Prentice Miller, who held the post from 1960 to 1985-for whom the house is named. "It is just stunningly beautiful and, of course, so different. It's not a typical academic building."
But it is distinctly Emory. Walking from the soon-to-open visitor's parking lot to the soon-to-open main entrance, visitors pass under a wrought-iron archway that is more than little reminiscent of the University's Haygood-Hopkins Gate. The stairway opens up to the Oxford Porch, a patio complete with a soon-to-gurgle stone fountain that overlooks the building's main gardens. Keeping watch over the porch is an (Emory?) eagle-topped weather vane perched atop the turret that houses the circular main staircase inside.
Rich wood paneling lines the reception area, which soon will be decorated with portraits of the building's dual namesakes. To one direction are the offices of the Association of Emory Alumni, to the other are the house's four ballrooms that can either house individual events of varying sizes or be opened to each other for a single gala.
Furniture for these ballrooms, and for the building's other public areas, is due to arrive this week. Along with AEA, the house will be the new home for the Annual Fund and the Parent Program. Shrink-wrapped office supplies still line the building's hallways, and the sound of hammering is never too far away, but the finishing touches will be done in time for the building's dedication Sept. 16.
Another "grand opening" will be held a week later during Alumni Weekend, and both events will feature a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. But AEA staff have been doing some "cutting" of their own since July 17-as in, cutting open boxes, cutting packing tape, etc.
"We just cut the tags off these chairs yesterday," said Kathy Reed, AEA associate director, referring to the chairs around the association's new conference table. "We've already had several meetings in here, and we called it the 'Minnie Pearl Room.'"
Previously located in a house on North Decatur Road, the AEA is thrilled to finally be in its new home. "It's a wonderful house," said Gerald Lowrey, who along with Allison Dykes is serving as co-interim executive director AEA while a national search is being conducted for a permanent hire.
Jack Gilbert, associate vice president for Institutional Advancement, is chairing that search, just as he spearheaded the drive to raise funds for the house. Twenty-five individuals and two groups of benefactors are honored by having one or another room or section of the house named for them, Gilbert said.
He added that the very fact the facility exists is a testament to the hard work of many people over many years; about 700 donors made the building possible.
"We've worked on this [particular facility] for two or three years, and Emory's been working on it for 30 years," Gilbert said. "So it's been a baby that's been a long time coming, and I'm grateful for everybody who had a part in planning it, supporting it, funding it and honoring those who are honored in it. It's a wonderful confluence of all sorts of energies and memories and expectations for the alumni."