Alumni Building renovation

The nearly century-old building gains climate control and improved accessibility

Many construction projects have been in the works over the past few years and will be finished by the fall of 2023. The most recent project being the renovation of the Alumni Building.

Built in 1928, the Alumni Building has undergone several renovations. These include turning the basketball courts into racquetball courts and turning old science classrooms into offices and storage rooms in the 1950s. According to project manager Karen Simmon, this most recent renovation will refresh the interior and keep the exterior’s historical elements intact.

“It’s mostly typical offices and then the front entrance, we’re maintaining the historical elements of it and just doing a little bit of a refresh,” Simmon said. “[The Alumni Building] is getting all new mechanical systems and electrical systems. We are moving our IT department, who’s currently in the West Building, and moving them all into Alumni. [The Alumni Building] is going to have the Staff Center for Training and Development.”

With the Alumni Building being renovated, Simmon says departments can be brought in to maximize its capacity. Older buildings like the West Building will be demolished. The University Archives are returning to the building after being moved to FLITE during construction. Much of the Alumni Building is used as storage for academic records, images and artifacts that date back to the days when Ferris was called the Big Rapids Industrial School.

This Alumni Building will be under construction until the fall of 2023. Photo by: Marissa Russel

“We had some other groups in [the Alumni Building] that we relocated to other buildings on campus so that we could ultimately remove the West Building,” Simmon said. “It is a really old building, and the cost for repairs and updates far exceeds the cost to renovate another building. That’s kind of the driving factor to get employees out of a building that’s not in great shape and get them into a renovated space, a building that probably wasn’t utilized to its maximum capacity.”

Simmon says that the total budget of the Alumni Building renovation is $4.5 million. While the West Building will no longer exist on campus, departments and employees will have a brand new space to efficiently complete their work.

University archivist Melinda Isler is looking forward to being back in the Alumni Building with new accessibility. In January of 2021, the archives moved into the top floor of FLITE, and the move was very easy and smooth because of how accessible the building is.

“It had its quirks,” Isler said. “One of the things I’m looking into in the renovation that I’m very excited about is that they are going to put an elevator in. It was not handicap accessible. I’m not in need of handicap accessibility, but without it, it can make moving the boxes up and down very complicated in the West Building. It’s not good for massive transportation of stuff like an elevator here in [FLITE].”

Since accessibility will be improved, Isler says more students, faculty and past alumni will be more easily able to access the archives. With the demolition of the West Building, more parking will be added as well for those working on the north side of campus.

Isler is also looking forward to having the roof and windows prepared so water can not come in as easily and damage the documents. Alongside keeping the water out, the new Alumni Building will also be able to keep the weather out and give Isler and her team control over the climate inside.

“I am looking forward to the concept of real climate control,” Isler said. “We were in a former gymnasium. This was the climate control for the gymnasium, they said it went from the basement all the way up to the top. It had a vent at the top that circulated, and it was a fan, [so] when it was windy, it blew around. That was it for climate control. It was nothing. It just didn’t exist. So things didn’t get rained on, but they got a little damp. This may not be a state-of-the-art archival climate control condition, but it is a vast improvement over what we had.”

The Alumni Building is only one of the several buildings on campus being built or renovated. Visit for information on other projects, including the Center for Virtual Learning.