The Gruen Engagement Center at Olivet College has been in the process of being renovated for a little over twoyears now and will be nished withinthe next month. Following completion, the Engagement Center will hold an open house where the community may view the new and improved home, located at 202 Yale St.
In the meantime, the ECHO got a look inside in mid-March.
Walking into the new Gruen Engagement Center, the first thing one notices is how much larger the doorways are than in a typical house, this, and an elevator that leads up to the third floor, installed for people with accessibility issues. Entering the first oor, visitors will come through the back door where there is also basement access. This space was restored and will be used for storage purposes and a small laundry room with one washer and dryer.
Leading up to the second floor, one finds a kitchen with two fridges,two ovens, marble counter tops, and an island with plenty of space for preparing meals. Off of the kitchen area,there is a half-bath and a dining room. Next to this room is a small room that will be called the library. Currently, there are no books or bookshelves in the room; however, there will be a fewleather chairs o ering informal seating. The last room on this oor is the recep- tion area, in place of the living room, where there will be similar informal seating.
On the third oor there are threebedrooms with their own bathrooms. Two of the rooms are
accessible and can be reached via the elevator. These three bedrooms all have their own unique design. In one room is a computer desk and wardrobe combined, built into the wall. Another room is a little larger and has a partial accessible bathroom for someone with slight dis- abilities. The third room is the largest room and has a fully accessible bathroom where the shower is level with the ground and has double doors that open both ways.
The decision to renovate this historical home into an Engagement Center was determined when the college discussed its campus master plan “Charting the Course for Olivet College 2020 and Beyond.” The budget for the Gruen Engagement Center was approximately $725,000, which was spent on the restoration, rebuilding, furniture, a highly equipped kitchen, rooms with accessibility, and more.
In 1915, Fred Gruen, the home’s namesake, was born in Nuernberg-Fuerth, Germany, where he attended grade and high school. During this time, Hitler was enforcing his anti-Jewish ways, which forced Gruen to eeGermany. Gruen then moved to Italy where he started studying chemistry, and shortly after moved to New York, graduating from City College of New York.
The Gruen Engagement Center became home to Fred Gruen his wife Marian Gruen and his two daughters, Carol and Evelyn,in 1951. Fred Gruen was also a chemistry professor here at Olivet College for over 40 years and worked to help students reach their full potential. According to the Olivet College website “Dr.Gruen and his wife Marianloved to host dinner parties,and it was a place where students would drop by for extra help with their homework.”
When Fred Gruen and his wife died, the house was left to Carol and Evelyn and soon after was donated to Olivet College. According to Samantha A. Pearl, director of Stewardship and Donor Engagement, “The college has owned this house for some time now, but it hasn’t been used for much except to house Hurricane Katrina refugees for a short time.”
The house was and will continue to be used to host those in need and will be a place where students and guests can associate outside of the classroom. Nataliya Malaydakh, junior said, “I am excited for Olivet College; campus is expanding, and more places are available for student engagement with professors. I think the Gruen Engagement Center will be a great addition to the family-like atmosphere on campus.”