Built on the site of a Civil War fort on the highest hill in Cape Girardeau, Academic Hall was completed in 1905. It was constructed to replace the Normal School building that was destroyed by fire in 1902. It was originally the primary structure on the campus, containing classrooms, a gymnasium and a library, according to an email from Southeast's news bureau director Ann Hayes.
Kiefner Brothers Construction of Cape Girardeau provided general contracting services, and 57 local vendors, suppliers and contractors contributed to the project. The Lawrence Group of St. Louis was the architectural consultant, according to the university.
The renovation project was funded by a bond issue approved in December 2010 by the board of regents.
In September 2010, Academic Hall auditorium was closed because of structural concerns. Structural connections in the balcony of the auditorium were stressed, prompting the Lawrence Group to close it as a precautionary measure.
The admissions, registrar, executive and provost offices, to name a few, were housed in the building. The first office moved out in July 2011. Lenell Hahn, director of admissions, said her office moved to Memorial Hall in December 2011 and will return to Academic Hall the first week of November.
Offices relocated from Academic Hall during the building's renovation will begin returning later this month, and the process will continue through January, Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration, said in a news release from the university.
Hahn said she and her colleagues are excited about being able to return to Academic Hall.
"We've got a lot of new enhancements ... that will improve the prospective student experience," Hahn said in an email. "... We are all anxiously awaiting to see our newly renovated space on Thursday, Oct. 24th during the grand reopening."
Among the improvements, Hahn said, are the Experience Southeast Room, which will engage campus visitors visually and technologically through interactive elements, and the overall environment will be aesthetically inviting to campus visitors.
"We will have the ability to host larger groups with the capacity of the large tour room increasing from 30 to 48," Hahn said. "We are gaining an additional tour room and will now have a total of four rooms to meet with prospective families."
"Our new space is designed to provide the best customer service experience with an expanded admissions front desk and separate campus visit check-in location," she said.
Gov. Jay Nixon has been invited to speak at the grand reopening and rededication ribbon-cutting ceremony of Academic Hall at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in Academic auditorium. Free tours of Academic Hall will be available from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and students in period costumes will discuss the building's history.
Music will be provided by Southeast's Department of Music.
The building has seen many renovations and restorations, including a new copper surface for the dome and restoration of the structure's exterior.
One of the main elements is a centralized student services area on the lower level, bringing together Student Financial Services, including financial aid and student accounts, with the cashier's office adjacent to it. When students arrive at this area, they will swipe their student ID in a card reader and are placed into a queue that can be viewed on three flat-screen television monitors.
At the east end of the hall is a reception desk for the services of the registrar's office, career services and academic advising for students in the liberal arts, health and human services, University Studies, general studies and exploratory majors. Southeast's human resources office also will be on the lower level's west end.
Academic Hall auditorium on the first floor of the building will be reopened and available for classroom use; competitions; speakers; and entertainment, special, student organization, public, and faculty and staff events. Curtains previously covering windows in the auditorium have been removed, allowing natural light to fill the area.
Classes in the Department of Communication Studies will be held in Academic Hall classrooms beginning in January with the spring 2014 semester.
One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO