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January 28, 1999 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-01-28

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16B The Michigan Daily Weeken agazine - Thursday, January 28, 1999



'U' President's house offers 'social
life center,' life in a 'fishbowl'

By William Nash
Daily Arts Writer
The grandeur of the University's
white house, the President's House,
evokes the same aristocratic sentiments
as the one located on 1600
Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C.
Although University President Lee
bfoiIinger isn't facing rumors of renting
out any of the bedrooms to rich busi-
nessmen, the two houses have a few
common qualities - besides color.
The house on South University
Avenue has a long history; it was built
in 1840 and originally housed incoming
relocated professors.
It first attained its current function
under former University President
Henry Phillip Tappan and as a nearby
plaque states, "(it) has been the
University's chief official resident and
the center of social life on the campus
sjce ..."
But as a consequence of more than a
century and a half of wear and tear, the
building needs renovations quite fre-
"It is important to realize that it was a
150-year-old structure, never designed

as a family home, and its infrastructure
was largely obsolete and difficult to
maintain," said former University
President James Duderstadt - who
lived in the house for almost nine years.

nance and house cleaning employees
who look after the public part of the
building. The upkeep of the private sec-
tion of the building falls on the shoul-
ders of the president and his/her family.

recalled a time
when he went
down to the
basement to
exercise only to
be greeted by a
few feet of water
from a broken
T h e
House employs
a handful of

"The president's
house is an
integral part of
the campus
- Homer Neal
Former interim University
1. /A NI

"pretty much run
their own private
lives," said Chef
Kent Johnston.
"There are
employees who
keep up the public
areas but they
have to clean the
private area just
like you or I."

full-time employees and numerous
part-time workers who contribute to
maintaining the building.
Duderstadt said he made many good
friends at the Plant Department, the
University group in charge of maintain-
ing and repairing the house.
"Many were the hours we spent
working with them to repair and fix up
the house," Duderstadt said.
There are standard variety mainte-

rresident Duderstadt
expressed the dif-
ficulty of keeping the house up to snuff
with all the duties of presidency.
"Because (my wife and I) were
very sensitive to cost implications, we
tried to handle most of the house our-
selves," Duderstadt said. "Needless to
say, having two people taking care of a
14,000 square-foot house was a bit of
a challenge. We were not sorry to
move out."
Johnston dishes up a variety of foods,
each of which Bollinger approves
before they are prepared for the many
functions hosted at the house.
Former interim University President
Homer Neal never formally lived in the
house, but stayed there with his wife
many times throughout his seven-
month term. The Neals took up resi-
dence there when hosting members
from the University Board of Regents
and dignitaries such as Sandra Day
"The President's House is an integral

The University president's house on South University Avenue, constructed in 1840,
has hosted hundreds of visitors, students and university administrators.

part of the campus," Neal said. "But
personally I would rather stay in my
own residence, as most other presidents
would, I'm sure."
Associate Vice-President Chacona
Johnson, who oversees house planning,
said the house is valuable for the many
functions it serves.
"I think (the house) is good for a
number of reasons," she said. "It is a
place to welcome honorary degree
recipients and University alumni. It's
interesting for them to finally see the
inside of the place they passed as a stu-
Johnson also recognized the privacy

concerns created by living in a "social
center." She compared the house to a
Duderstadt described the privacy
question as "very serious:'
"The house had very little privacy or
security for that matter," he said. "We
had our share of strange people at the
Having a designated house for the
president has become increasingly
infrequent among major universities.
Duderstadt said one reason they
have become obsolete is, "the lack
of privacy and security just makes
the president's life that much more


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