Iowa Alumni Magazine | September 2016 | Features

Farewell to Quad

By Shelbi Thomas
Opened in 1920 as a men's dormitory. Closed in summer 2016 as a treasured part of the UI's past. Alumni say goodbye to one of Iowa's oldest residence halls. Here are their memories.

Devyn Young peered into her car's rearview mirror, taking a final look at Quad before heading home for the summer. As the aging residence hall grew smaller in the distance, Young knew it would be the last time she'd ever see its vine-covered brick towers, peaceful courtyards, and grand archways.

"Quad is a symbol for people leaving home and being on their own for the first time," says the UI resident assistant and Living Learning Community leader, whose father also once lived in the west side dorm. "There is so much history in each room and hallway."

This past July, Young helped close the doors on her home away from home where generations of coming-of-age stories once unfolded. Countless students have held latenight study sessions in its elegant lounge, filled its trophy case with tales of victorious feats in sports and song, and savored a moment of solitude along the Quad Ravine. After nearly a century of prominence on the UI campus, Quad came down brick by brick over the summer to make room for a new pharmacy building.

Originally constructed during World War I as a military training barracks, Quadrangle Residence Hall wasn't completed until 1920—after the war had ended. The building instead opened as one of the first and largest men's dorms in the Midwest, housing more than 300 UI students. Quad returned to its military roots during World War II, accommodating aviation cadets from the Navy's pre-flight training school, including Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, 40BA, and astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn.

In the 1960s, Quad transitioned into a co-ed dormitory. Attracting residents with its proximity to the Field House and football stadium, it became the center of student life. Undergrads would use it as a point of reference on campus, often telling friends, "I'll meet you at the Quad." The dorm became home to intramural sports teams, a choir and literary society, the first residence hall government, the radio station KWAD, and the best dance floor in Iowa City. From 1956 to 1999, many UI employees and Hawkeye fans visited Quad for the delectable pecan rolls and strawberry pie served in its public cafeteria.

In its last year, some students thought the New York Times was right to declare the outdated Quad one of the worst dorms in the country, while others said they appreciated the character of the Collegiate Gothic building. Green stickers dotted furniture throughout the residence hall to indicate what would be saved and what would be lost to history, and undergrads threw a block party in the courtyard to give the building a proper farewell.

Come what may, Quad will live on in the hearts of the tens of thousands of Hawkeyes who resided there over the course of the past century. Last fall, Iowa Alumni Magazine received an overwhelming response from readers first learning of the hall's fate. Here are some of their stories.

PHOTOS, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, FROM THE FREDERICK W. KENT COLLECTION, IOWA DIGITAL LIBRARY, THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES, IOWA CITY, IOWA, AND THE “LIVING AT IOWA� STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PUBLICATION, 1956.

Cranberry Chill

My dad, H.W. "Dutch" Cassill, 35BA, told us so many wonderful Quad stories. One of my favorites always comes to mind around Thanksgiving: He had little money, but when he could during the winter, he'd buy canned cranberries and put them on his outside windowsill until they were cold!

Ann Cassill Hogan, 69MA
Sebring, Florida


Evening Checkout

In 1943, my father, Robert Jongewaard, 45MD, was in the army and medical school. He was housed in Quadrangle, where there was a nightly military security bed check. He was also a newlywed with a wife who lived in an apartment across town. At night after bed check, he would climb out the window of his room to be with his wife, then return before classes the next day.

Dick Jongewaard, 68BS, 73MD
Sioux Center, Iowa


After the War

I began my residence in Quadrangle Cottage 23 in September 1947. World War II had ended two years before, and the world was ready to be renewed. The campus was crowded with veterans on the G.I. Bill, so temporary cottages were constructed (like Quonset huts, but with peaked roofs). I was 17, but most of my roommates were combat veterans of World War II. A number of them were still fighting the war, but this time the weapons were beer and whiskey. In October 1947, I awakened from my sleep one night and became aware that one of the wild men I was living with had set his bed on fire while smoking in bed. He survived, but the sheets and pillowcases didn't.

Shepard D. Van Gelder, 51BA
Monsey, New York

Students cleaning trophies at Quadrangle Hall, 1953
Home Sweet Home

The Quad was my UI home from 1953 through 1957, as well as for one year of postgraduate study. It had a superior location close to the Field House, where we did physical training, intramural sports, golf and tennis lessons, ROTC classes, and watched the "Fab Five" play basketball. Also, it was just a stroll away from the football stadium, where we watched the Hawkeyes beat Ohio State on Nov. 17, 1956, and win a trip to the Rose Bowl.

The Quad rooms were large, comfortable, and quiet for studying. When time allowed, there was always somebody next door or down the hall ready for a card game or chess. As a freshman, I was in awe of the size of the building. It had more residents than the entire population of my hometown of Calmar in northeast Iowa. I worked in the Quad cafeteria—first behind the counter, then as a meal card checker—so I got to know the new residents.

After classes on the Pentacrest or a study date at the library—especially on a cold winter day walking across the Iowa River bridge—the Quad was a warm welcoming place to come home. Its impact on my college memories will always be with me.

Sylvester Sluka, 57BA
San Diego


Dorm room, 1920s
The Call of the Bagpipe

In 1955-56, I resided in a three-man, second-floor room on the Quadrangle's south side. A next-door neighbor was a free spirit. Nightly, he would make random telephone calls to Currier Hall to women he didn't know and had never met. One evening he is lying in MY bed talking to Priscilla Thomas, 60BA, 60DH, a bagpiper in the Scottish Highlanders. The Scottish Highlanders rehearsed outside my room. I can't stand the sound of bagpipes to this day.

Anyway, while he leaves momentarily for the bathroom, I'm left on the phone with her. The following week Priscilla and I had a blind date at the IMU. We've been married over 58 years.

Stanley Briney, 59BA, 60MS
Bowie, Texas


Prank Wars

It is with considerable nostalgia that I hear the Quad will be going away. I lived there, usually with two other roommates, for three years—one in B98 and two in East Tower when the dorm was for men only.

I recall frequent visits from Tom, our very close friend who lived off campus. He would call up to say he was coming over, then ask if there was anything we would like from the Hamburg Inn. There always was. One night as we anticipated his arrival, we pulled the hinge-pins on our door. When he knocked, we said, "Come in!" He did—and landed with a crash, hamburgers in hand, on top of the door on the floor. In seconds, we got an angry call from the guys downstairs! Tom was a really good sport, thank goodness.

When we moved to East Tower, much to our delight, we found our room had the only removable screens for getting out onto the second-floor roof. Miss [Elizabeth] Englert, 30BA, the dorm housemother, lived on the first floor directly below us. One day, she spotted us as we lay studying and sunning on a blanket on the roof. One of our friends jumped on the phone to alert us that she was on the way. We quickly grabbed our stuff, got into the room, and replaced the screen just a she pounded on the door. She knew we had been out there, but couldn't prove it.

On the fall days, especially the football Saturdays when the trees were turning, it was energizing to feel the cool crisp air and make the trip over to the stadium to anticipate the likes of Kenny Ploen, 58BSCE, Alex Karras, Calvin Jones, Frank Gilliam, 57BA, Randy Duncan, 59BA, Bobby Jeter, and so many others trying to beat up on a Big Ten rival or especially on Notre Dame. I particularly remember our straight-through drive to watch the Hawkeyes play in and win the 1959 Rose Bowl. I still have a Los Angeles paper from the next day (in its wrapper) recounting the Iowa win. There were several excellent teams during my 1955 to 1960 years at Iowa—football, basketball, and wrestling.

Charlie Shank, 60BSEE, and I put in a lot of hours developing and installing the QWAD carriercurrent radio station. The dormitory power lines were used to carry the radio station's signal and limit its distribution to just the Quad. Wiggin's Wax Works was one of the programs that was aired by a resident who wanted to try his hand at broadcasting.

Larry Day, 60BSEE
Marietta, Georgia

On the KWAD

The memories I want to add are about the radio station KWAD. I was able to be a weekly DJ during 1963-64, and that is where I was introduced to Edith Piaf, one of my favorite singers.

There were two turntables. One was going over the air (well, through the electrical wires to Quad and Burge). The other was to cue the next record. At some point in my hour, I would put on the album version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," a long, repetitive but intriguing jazz piece. I chose it because it gave me extra time to test out a few records and decide which I would play next.

Almost always, someone would call up to tell me the record was stuck. It wasn't, but I listened often enough myself to know that it happened. I'd say thanks, make sure it wasn't, and continue on. It got so I was disappointed if no one called.

I also connived to broadcast a Hawkeye ball game. High above the stadium with a tape player to record my commentary to rebroadcast, I got to listen myself and was terrible! A monotone flat voice that showed excitement or enthusiasm only once—on a long, incomplete pass into the end zone.

Larry Crain, 64BA
Medford, Oregon

Move-In Day

As an incoming freshman, my parents dropped me off in the parking lot on the north side of Quadrangle men's dormitory on a Sunday afternoon in September 1962. I toted my belongings consisting of a suitcase, maybe two, to room B117 just inside the North Tower and facing out on the Quad's courtyard.

I didn't even invite my parents to my room, not that there was much to see. A couple of beds, two desks, two dressers, a closet, a sink, and no phone. There was a common TV room for the entire dorm just off the South Tower, where guys gathered to watch shows like Combat, Hawaiian Eye, McHale's Navy, and Bonanza. In October, we watched with rapt attention as President Kennedy warned the nation of the looming Cuban Missile Crisis. The cafeteria was on the lower level, where it seemed as if Brussels sprouts and parsley-buttered potatoes were served nightly. The room and board fee that year was all of $880, but it was still a tidy sum for back then.

Larry Hershberger, 66BBA
Ramsey, New Jersey


Freshman Fun

I spent my freshman year, 1961-62, in the Quadrangle dormitory. As I recall, our section was referred to as Lower A, or the first floor on the northwest corner. Our group of guys was close, and it was more like a fraternity than a dormitory. Not a day went by that we didn't have laughs and good times. Oh, yeah, we did some studying also.

Being across the street from the old Field House was so convenient for all types of athletics and exercises. It was a beautiful walk down a tree-lined pathway to the bridge to get to class on the east side of the river.

I thought the food was great and plentiful in our cafeteria. I was also fortunate enough to have a job in the public Quadrangle cafeteria. I started out bussing tables, then washing dishes and setting tables, and finally was promoted to cashier. I have great memories of weekends spent there. I especially remember the football team coming through the cafeteria on weekends with two to three trays of food piled high. I couldn't believe they could eat that much!

I was in Iowa City a few years ago and managed to see what was left of my old section. Rooms sure looked a lot smaller than I remember. I'll never forget what the old Quad meant to me.

Michael G. Cook, 69BA
Frisco, Texas


Transformative Times

Progress across a busy campus like the University of Iowa is inevitable. Yet, news regarding the demise of the Quadrangle dorm brings personal heartache.

On my matriculation at the UI in fall 1967, there was no question about my preference to live at the Quad. I had family roots there. My father, Clifford O. Johnson, 34BA, 38MA, had roomed in the dorm before me. He was an Iowa farm boy, the first in his family to acquire a college education. On my mother's side of the family, a favorite uncle (David J. Carey, 57BA, 61MA) had roomed at the Quad, and from him I heard lively stories about his college comrades.

During my sophomore year, one of my neighbors was a student named Keith Bull, 72BBA. Our many late-night confabs that took place in his room could honestly be called "Bull Sessions." Keith was a slender guy, skinny as a rail. Much to our amusement, Millie, the maid who worked our floor, mistakenly entered the room late in the morning when he was still sleeping. She failed to register his presence and began to make the bed while he was fast asleep. She managed to straighten out the bed sheets and tuck them in when she suddenly realized her predicament. They were both a little startled.

Other connections through the Quad were strangely life-affirming. One of my professors in the geology department, William M. Furnish, 34BA, 35MS, 38PhD, was rumored to have spent his undergraduate student days in the Quad. We students called him Uncle Bill. I aspired to follow in his footsteps as a geologist and a teacher. The opportunity arose for me to ask on one occasion if he could remember his room number at the Quad. He could not, but he gave me a description of the room: "East Tower, second floor, southwest room." It slowly dawned on me that I was the current resident of that room. Bill got to see "our" room on a rare visit to the campus west bank. For once, I found him utterly speechless. On entering the room, it was clear that a cascade of memories got the better of him.


PHOTO COURTESY: MARKES JOHNSON
Markes and Clifford Johnson

The most startling moment of my life occurred as a resident of Quad soon after the shootings at Kent State University in spring 1970 during our nation's embroilment in Vietnam. Deep into the night, someone pulled the fire alarm and we emptied out of the dorm wearing bathrobes against the chill air. I will never forget the sight across the Iowa River, where the Old Armory Temporary building near the central library was alight in flames. Those were uneasy times and it seemed that our civic life was at a point of complete fracture. The TV lounge at the Quad was packed every evening to hear Walter Cronkite on the CBS news. Relations with the Iowa City police were frayed, and eventually the state authorities were called in to restore peace on campus. The decision was taken to cancel classes that spring, although students could choose to remain on campus and take their finals. I had to, because I was failing my physics class and I needed to pull up my grade by doing better on the final exam—which I did.

I attach a snapshot of myself and my father (pictured on above) standing outside the East Tower on moving day in September 1968 as he helped unload my belongings from the family car. He was a former resident of the West Tower. Dad is holding my chess set. I am holding a cup and saucer belonging to my tea set. I was not a boozer on campus, and somehow felt that the young ladies of my acquaintance would be charmed by joining me after a night out on the town for tea brewed in my room. Not much so.

Markes Johnson, 71BA
Williamstown, Massachusetts

Lessons from the Kitchen

I didn't live at the Quad; I worked there. My job at the cafeteria from 1969 to 1973 was an important part of my education. I learned that it's important to have goals and be patient.

Almost every lunch and Sunday dinner, I'd dash from Rienow 2, or later from Acacia on Ellis Avenue, to put on a white paper hat and cotton jacket for work. At first I bussed tables. Bussing included loading trays, wiping tables, scraping food and paper into a garbage can, and feeding the trays of soiled dishes and utensils into a mysterious dark passageway through a conveyor belt. I never saw where the dishes went. That was OK.

The food at the Quad was wonderful. Big pans of vegetables and rolls, salads including an alluring ambrosia, and on up to the pinnacle of grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade strawberry pie, and Iowa prime rib.

Behind the line, jobs progressed from food that you scooped, to food you made, to food management. I went from bread and vegetables to mashed potatoes and gravy, which required more skill to deliver that perfect round dome embedded with a crater of brown gravy lava. Then I got to make grilled cheese sandwiches, aspiring to a perfect golden brown on both sides. Competent performance in each area led to the opportunity to work supply. We were a team keeping hot food available in just the right amounts. It was a good lesson and an early step to a long career in management.

My job provided spending money, but not too much. I could afford an occasional grilled cheese sandwich, but not the prime rib. The bone-on prime rib was as close to a perfect beef dish as I had ever seen. It took up a whole plate by itself. And the strawberry pie was magical. Whole strawberries carefully arranged and encased with a clear filling that displayed the strawberries like works of art. I could have sprung for a big dinner of prime rib and strawberry pie I suppose, but somehow it seemed appropriate to wait until I graduated. And, that's what I did. After graduation, my fiancée, Marcia Davis, 73BA, and I went to the Quadrangle cafeteria for dinner. I had Iowa prime rib and corn, a perfect round dome of mashed potatoes embedded with a crater of brown gravy, ambrosia salad, and a slice of strawberry pie for dessert. It was a heavenly reward made better by patience.

Glenn Briskin, 73BBA
Lacey, Washington


Fine Dining

The Hygienic Lab was located in the old Medical Lab Building around the corner from the Quad, so EVERY morning we would wait for a break time to hurry over and get the BEST PECAN ROLL that was ever made! Dinner had the BEST mashed potatoes and gravy in the world, too!

Debbie Bryant
UI Hygienic Lab

Match Made in Quad

I lived in the Quadrangle dorm from August 1991 to May 1992. I was a junior in college then and transferred to the UI to study pharmacy. I had not lived in the dorms at my previous school, so I decided to give it a try to get the full "student experience." What a wonderful decision that turned out to be.

Because I didn't have a car, I took a job working in the cafeteria in the basement of the Quad. I remember that my friends and I had made fun of some advertising we'd seen early in the year that listed the "Top 10 Reasons to Work for Food Service." One of the reasons was "the dating possibilities are endless!"

I met my husband the first time I worked in the dish room. We were the only two scheduled on an away football game Saturday. Most of the students had gone home for the weekend, and we had lots of time to chat and become friends. We were married four years later. We have two children and celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in May 2015.

Jennifer Driscoll Bergman, 94BSPh
Washington, Illinois


Friend for Life

My grandfather Doug Ruckdaschel (late 1950s), my uncle Chris Ruckdaschel, 95BA, (early 1990s), and father Steve Ruckdaschel, 86BGS, (early 1980s) all resided in Quad. This culminated in my residence of Quad in the 2010-11 school year. I have far too many memories from my year to list them all out, but one I will always speak on involves my freshman year roommate, Alex Brunsen, 15BA, 15BFA.

Alex and I were randomly assigned to room 2112, and at first it looked like it was going to be like oil and water. But as the weeks and months grew on, we quickly developed a great friendship that lasts to this day. In spring 2014, just a couple of weeks before I was to graduate, we had the bright idea to return to the scene of the crime (room 2112) where we first met. Alex's mom had taken a photo (which I would call awkward at best), just a moment after we had shaken hands for the first time. We decided to recreate this photo, not because of the amount of "likes" we knew we would likely receive on Facebook, but because deep down we both knew how special that random room assignment turned out to be. Quad not only gave me shelter and a place to study, but a best friend for life.

Greg Ruckdaschel, 14BBA
Coralville, Iowa


The Quad Squad

I lived at Quadrangle during the 1985-86 school year. I remember it well—my floor (Kirkwood) was home to a great group of guys! The "Quad Squad," as we referred to ourselves, was a pretty diverse group of students majoring in engineering, pre-med, business, and other disciplines, and included members of the Hawkeyes' basketball and swim teams. Of the many highlights that year, two stand out to me: 1) our intramural flag football team reached the championship game, which was played in Kinnick Stadium, and 2) Chuck Long [85BBA]'s naked bootleg play against Michigan State, which happened right in front of a group of us and helped propel Iowa to the Rose Bowl!

Darin Soll
Peoria, Arizona