Ribbon cutting ceremony officially opens reborn Preakness Hall

(From L to R) English Department Chairperson Ian Marshall, Student Representative to the WPU Board of Trustees Andrew Massefski, Board of Trustees Chairman Frederick Gruel, WPU President Kathleen Waldron, Trustee John Galandak, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Kevin Rooney and Kinesiology Department Chairperson Kathy Gill.

Todd Evans, Contributing Writer

President Kathleen Waldron, with public and university dignitaries, officially opened the newly renovated and renamed Preakness Hall with a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, Sept. 29.

More than 100 people gathered for the afternoon ceremony in front of the 58,000-square-foot formerly named Hunziker Wing. Ceremony guests included New Jersey General Assemblyman Kevin Rooney and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, chair of the higher education committee.

“This building was built on time and on budget, and we all make jokes sometimes about how rare that is in our state and with public buildings but we’ve done that this time, and we’re very proud of that fact,” said Waldron.

Preakness Hall was designed by NK Architects, and boasts 14 “smart” classrooms with new projectors and monitors, four kinesiology laboratories, group study rooms, faculty offices, a new writing center, a phlebotomy room and a 90-seat auditorium.

A contributing cause to the building’s renovation were its outdated facilities and appearance which, according to alumni, had not changed in the decades since graduating.

“Even though the bones of this building date back to nineteen hundred and fifty-five, I think you’ll agree with me that it is now a thoroughly modern academic building,” said Frederick Gruel, WPU board of trustees chairman.

In addition to Preakness Hall, Hunziker Hall is currently being renovated with a summer 2018 completion date expected. Both buildings will cost together $31 million for renovations with $7 million coming from the state’s Building Our Future Bond Act.

Rooney, who represents New Jersey’s 40th Legislative District, also offered congratulations about how thriftily and efficiently the project was conducted.

“To bring a project in under budget, on time, in the state of New Jersey is amazing, and my hat goes off to you, the board, the engineering firm, the construction firm, the architects for doing this,” said Rooney. “This is a wonderful institution, I’m proud to be here, I’m proud to celebrate and you have our support down in the legislature.”

Preakness Hall was also renovated to give faculty better office spaces with more privacy.

“We lived up to the promise we made to the faculty seven-years-ago, that we at William Paterson University would be sure that every full-time faculty member had a private office, not a shared office,” said Waldron. “Which was what we were experiencing. A private office in which to work, to advise and mentor students and to conduct their research or creative activity.”

The faculty that now occupy Preakness Hall are the English and philosophy departments, who relocated from the Atrium.

“The architects did a phenomenal job at bringing in natural light, and creating spaces where students can gather outside of class and have those connections that continue what they’re trying to learn in the class,” said Dr. Kara Rabbitt, dean of the college of humanities and social sciences.

The project’s general contractor was Benard Associates and the construction firm was international company Turner Construction.

Those who also attended the ceremony include Trustee John Galandak, Student Representative to the WPU Board of Trustees Andrew Massefski, Passaic County Historian Ed Smyk, Arts and Communication Dean Daryl Moore, English Department Chairperson Ian Marshall, Kinesiology Department Chairperson Kathy Gill and many others from the university community.

The hall is named after the Preakness Range of the Watchung Mountains that the university is built on.