Welcome Center moved to legacy house
Bluffton University is moving its Welcome Center to the front door of campus. The Houshower House, a beautiful cottage with a rich campus history, now serves as Bluffton’s first point of contact for campus visitors, including prospective students. The house is located at the corner of College Avenue and Spring Street, just off of the main entrance to campus.
“When alumni talk about their campus experience, they talk about developing relationships and building a family on campus,” said Dr. Jane Wood, president. “The Houshower House is a unique, warm and friendly place, and because it is a legacy home on campus, it is symbolic of the experience students will have at Bluffton right from their first visit.”
Built by H.W. Berky, professor of chemistry, and his family in 1946, the house was donated to Bluffton in 2006 by his daughter Margaret (Berky ’42) and son-in-law Mark Houshower ’42. The house was envisioned as an English cottage by H.W.’s wife, Olga (Kennel ’18) Berky, with a red-tiled roof and a circular stairway at the entry.
Dr. Hans Houshower, vice president for advancement, who carries on a legacy at Bluffton as the third generation in his family to work for the institution, says it was his mother’s dream to have the house serve in this fashion.
"My parents were one of the emeriti faculty couples and friends of the university who were very involved in helping the admissions department by folding all of the direct mail pieces, licking the envelopes and putting on stamps prior to automation,” said Houshower. “One of my mother’s thoughts was that the house would make a great welcome center to introduce students to Bluffton so they could have the kind of transformative experiences that we have all witnessed. If she were living today, she would be thrilled.”
Built following the end of WWII using many recycled materials because of the scarcity of building supplies, the house features a fireplace with a mantelpiece and wood from the original barn on campus, which housed the college’s basketball gymnasium, and from the kitchen in Ropp Hall, where students enjoyed home-style meals. The brick in the fireplace is from Main Street Bluffton and limestone used throughout the house was handpicked by son, Richard Berky ‘48, from the nearby Bluffton Stone Quarry and hauled to the building site in small trailer loads. Many of Professor Berky’s students helped with construction of the home, and H.W. and Olga lived there until 1983.
As well as developing the chemistry program at Bluffton, H.W. Berky is best known for establishing football as Bluffton’s first intercollegiate sport and bringing the Ivy-league idea of an honor code to campus, which is still in place. Dr. Mark Houshower served as academic dean in the late 1960s and early 70s and Margaret served as director of the Reading Center, a support center for students with reading disabilities and study skills needs. Dr. Wood, who will be inaugurated as Bluffton’s 10th president on Sept. 28, was welcomed to the home during her initial visits to campus and immediately found the space to be as inviting as the campus community.
“In an increasingly technological world, where so much of our lives are about going to a website or picking up a phone and pressing one or pressing two, for us to have a legacy home serve as the Welcome Center with people in it to greet and welcome you to campus speaks to the kind of institution we are and want to continue to be in the world,” explained Dr. Wood. “Technology is necessary and has an ever-increasing role in society, but at Bluffton we want to showcase the importance of relationships.”