Topics: Honors College, Administrative

October 8, 2009

The entryway maintains the character of the original house, which was built in the 1930s.

The new home of Ball State University's Honors College is an idyllic locale for learning — right down to the white picket fence surrounding it.

Students in the college began their studies this year from within the newly renovated Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Honors House. After $1.3 million in renovations, the Colonial-style house offers a new home for the Honors College in the heart of campus at 1707 Riverside Avenue.

The neatly landscaped property is just a short walk across the street from the renovated DeHority Complex. The residence hall complex is the new home of more than 550 students, many of them  in the Honors College. The program has seen a surge in enrollment from about 290 new freshmen to more than 340 new freshmen over the past year. Total enrollment for the Honors College is just over 1,100 students.

"There's no questioning the symbolic value of the relocation of both our academic quarters and student housing," said James Ruebel, Honors College dean. "Being in the center of campus as we are now makes the Honors College a true centerpiece for this university and both the house and the renovated residence hall are powerful recruiting tools for our growing program."

The transition transplanted the Honors College to its new locale from its former quarters in the basement of Carmichael Hall on the far north side of campus.

Ruebel said plans for the two-story house were drawn up for a layout that would create not only classrooms and offices, but communal spaces to foster the kind of atmosphere inviting enough that students would want to spend time in the house outside of their classes.

Indeed, those who step inside will feel far removed from the traditional environment of an academic building. The house's furnishings, renovated fixtures and new wallscapings all lend to an ambience worthy of quarters found on a tour of renovated period homes.

The Ball Honors House was the home of the late Edmund F. Ball, son of one of the original five Ball brothers, and his wife, Virginia B. Ball. Upon Mrs. Ball's death in 2003, the university took possession of the property and the house, which was built in the 1930s.

Renovation crews worked for nearly two years to clear the property's overgrown brush and to transition the house from a residential property into academic quarters that would meet current building codes for commercial space. The existing garage was converted into a classroom, offices were added, electric services were upgraded and the facility was accessible to the disabled. The home's tennis courts and outbuilding also were removed to create a patio and space behind the house that would allow for outdoor activities and receptions. The house also was enhanced technologically and is now a part of the campus-wide wireless network.

Ruebel said he believes the Ball family will be both pleased and proud of the makeover the house has undergone and that its legacy — much like that of its donors — will remained rooted to the cause of furthering students' educational opportunities.

"The Ball Honors House is not only a showpiece for the campus, but a showpiece for the Ball family as well," he said.