“We get to save an old building that is really beautiful,” Kathy Gershman said. “But originally the idea was to find a place on campus that we could dedicate to graduate students to use for quiet study space and collaborating.”
Work is set to begin on the J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center by late fall, according to a press release from the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, and is expected to be finished by May.
The building, formerly known as the Oxford House, was built in 1903 and was home to UND’s fourth president, Webster Merrifield.
The $3 million gift qualified for a state matching grant, which will make for a total of $4.5 million in available funds for the renovation and remodeling of the house.
Kathy Gershman retired in 2015 as professor and former chair of the UND Educational Foundations and Research Department. She had been a member of UND’s faculty since 1984. Hal Gershman, a 1966 UND graduate and 2006 Sioux Award recipient, is a Grand Forks business owner and former president of the Grand Forks City Council.
Both have been active civic and philanthropic leaders in the community.
Hal Gershman said they started the discussion about finding a place for graduate students around 12 years ago. The couple has been looking at the J. Lloyd Stone building for more than a year.
“Just look at (the building), it’s beautiful,” he said. “To paraphrase an old song ‘everything old will be new again.’ Everything’s going to be redone here, so it’ll last many, many more years rather than continue to go into disrepair.”
The top two floors will be used for quiet space for graduate and international students to study in. The basement will also be renovated for more group work and include space for a small kitchen.
On the house’s main floor the Gershmans hope to restore its parlor, music room and dining room to their “original turn-of-the century grace.” The area would be used for small receptions, Kathy Gershman added.
New landscaping and green grass is also planned for the building.
Kathy Gershman said the Memorial Union on campus is beautiful and well used by undergraduates, but sometimes graduate students just need a space to call their own.
“Graduate students need to work together, they do a lot of class projects together,” she said. “That’s where my heart was, that was where my professional life was.”
When graduate students get together, they argue, exchange ideas and learn how to think on their feet and defend themselves, Kathy Gershman said.
DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation said the Gershmans have always been great supports of UND.
“I think this is a very impactful gift that will have a far-reaching impact on our graduate and international students and will create many opportunities for engagement with fellow classmates, the community and of course with the university,” Carlson Zink said.
Carlson Zink worked in the Stone house for more than 20 years with her work at the foundation.
“I have a great affection for the Oxford House or the J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center,” she said. “It’s a beautiful facility that has such great history for this university, and to have two individuals who want to preserve that history and at the same time create a new story as an engagement center is really inspiring.”