$3M gift set in ‘Stone’
Gershman Family donation poses new use for first President’s House as engagement center for grad, international students
Thanks to a $3 million gift from Hal and Kathy Gershman, the original president’s home on campus will be renovated for use as an engagement center for graduate and international students.
“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 and international students,” said Kathy Gershman. “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.
“Hal and Kathy have always been such great supporters of the University of North Dakota and its students, but this gift is just extraordinary,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. “We are so grateful for their vision for this beautiful and historic building.”
Built in 1903, the Oxford House was the home to the University’s fourth president, Webster Merrifield. 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 and, after a 1981 renovation, became the home of the University of North Dakota Alumni Association & Foundation (UNDAAF). It has seen limited use since the UNDAAF moved to the Gorecki Alumni Center five years ago. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
“On the main floor we hope to restore the parlor, music room and dining room to their original turn-of-the-century grace, to be used for small receptions,” said Kathy Gershman. “The remaining space, on three floors, will be for more flexible use as today’s modern students would enjoy. We envision that the Engagement Center will bustle with graduate and international students studying, collaborating, conversing, attending “brown bags,” socializing and, above all, learning from each other.”
The $3 million gift qualified for a state matching grant, so a total of $4.5 million is available for the historic renovation and remodeling of the house. Work on the building will begin by late fall.