The Dr. Kathleen and Hal Gershman Graduate Center will open soon.
As part of UND’s Homecoming festivities, a video debuted Tuesday, featuring interviews with the donors and the story behind the Center. A video tour of the building will be made available later, after construction is complete.
The video shows the project from the perspective of beneficiaries Kathy and Hal Gershman, and also features remarks from UND School of Graduate Studies administrators. It also shows how the historic building’s main floor has been restored to its “original 1903 glory.”
The renovated building, originally known as the Oxford House, will be a space for graduate students and programs, an environment that encourages collaboration and connection for both online and on-campus students. The goal is to build community among UND graduate students.
“The vision was to have a place for graduate students to work quietly, and to get together and work on group projects,” says Kathy Gershman in the “sneak peek” video. “I spent a lot of time in school myself, and I know how space like this is at a premium. Schools are crowded and busy places.”
With new technology and meeting spaces for workshops and professional development, the Gershman Graduate Center will house master’s and doctoral defenses, research talks, social events, study groups and award recognitions.
“I don’t think I can overstate the importance of this generous gift from Kathy and Hal Gershman in terms of its impact on the quality of graduate education at UND,” said Chris Nelson, associate dean of graduate studies. “Very few universities have a center entirely dedicated to providing the academic and social spaces that can both stimulate intellectual growth and build a sense of belonging and community within and among graduate students.
“The Gershman Graduate Center, through the thoughtful vision and spirit of the Gershmans, substantially strengthens the environment for graduate student recruitment, retention, and satisfaction for many years to come. We could not be more pleased!”
The renovation was made possible by a $3 million gift from Hal and Kathy Gershman. The gift qualified for a state matching grant, making a total of $4.5 million available for the historic renovation and remodeling of the house.
The main floor has a restored parlor, music room and dining room for small receptions. The remaining space is more flexible, with technology, study space, and dining and event facilities.
“Our intent is to restore the most beautiful building on the University of North Dakota campus in order that it be used as a gathering place for graduate students,” said Kathy Gershman when they announced the gift. “The center will be a welcoming and intellectually stimulating place and a point of pride on our historic campus.”
Kathy Gershman retired in 2015 as professor and former chair of the UND Department of Educational Foundations and Research. She had been a member of UND’s faculty since 1984. Hal Gershman, a 1966 UND graduate and 2006 Sioux Award recipient, is a successful Grand Forks business owner and former president of the Grand Forks City Council. Both have been active civic and philanthropic leaders in the community.
“This home was referred to as one of the most beautiful buildings in the Midwest,” said Hal Gershman. “Our objective was to try to do that again. . . . This building is here for another hundred years.
Core renovations included a new foundation, basement and roof along with new plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC system and elevator, he said.
“Hal and Kathy had a clear vision for this building and to see it come to fruition is so gratifying,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. “The Gershmans care deeply about the University of North Dakota and its students and you see that everywhere you look in this historic building.”
Built in 1903, the Oxford House was the home to the University’s fourth president, Webster Merrifield, as well as other UND presidents. Described as one of the most fashionable homes in the Midwest, the residence later served as a dormitory, then as the location for the Art Department. After a 1981 renovation, it became known as the J. Lloyd Stone Alumni Center and was the home of the University of North Dakota Alumni Association & Foundation until the Gorecki Alumni Center was built. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.