Ohio Historical Marker Designates Marble Hall as Official Historical Site

Marble Hall Project's Legacy Is Wilmington College's Culture of Service

April 30, 2013

WC President Jim Reynolds watches as Michael Rapp of the Ohio Historical Society's Board of Trustees removes the covering. Applauding is Rebecca Marble Bonnell, widow of the Wilmington College president, Samuel Marble.

WC President Jim Reynolds watches as Michael Rapp of the Ohio Historical Society's Board of Trustees removes the covering. Applauding is Rebecca Marble Bonnell, widow of the Wilmington College president, Samuel Marble.

No doubt some Wilmington College students residing in Marble Hall were still asleep Saturday morning (April 27) when a ceremony unveiling an Ohio Historical Marker transpired outside their windows.

Although they might have missed the event that recognized the building of Marble Hall — largely by voluntary student labor — in the late 1940s as a nationally acclaimed example of selfless service and self-help, those students of today are part of the Marble Hall legacy.

First, they are residing in a building that’s still in use exactly 65 years after ground was broken for the much needed residence hall constructed to house the influx of men enrolled under the G.I. Bill. But, more importantly, they are part of a College that embraces community service.

By the time the semester ends next week, students will have contributed some 23,000 hours of service this year — a remarkable number on a campus of 1,100 students. Indeed, last Saturday afternoon, scores of WC students volunteered at 15 locations for the 20th annual Quake day of community service.

President Jim Reynolds said, at the marker ceremony, that it was a “day to remember and reflect” upon service.

“Those students that built Marble Hall thought of service to others first,” he said, noting many students that worked on the men’s dormitory did so knowing they would never live in it.

Graduating senior Zach Glendening, who was this year’s Ping Award recipient for service, said the Marble Hall story leaves him both “impressed and humbled.”

“I’m so proud to be part of a campus that takes service so seriously,” he said.

The historical marker is the second on campus, seventh in Clinton County and the latest of 1,410 erected in Ohio since the program started in 1953 to, in the words of Ohio Historical Society trustee Michael Rapp, “preserve and share our history.”

The marker not only recognizes the students and others that built Marble Hall, but lauds its namesake, WC’s 12th president, Samuel D. Marble, for his leadership role.Sandra Neville, vice chair of WC’s Board of Trustees, praised Marble as “a visionary and idealist with a bold determination to succeed,” while Wilmington Mayor Randy Riley marveled at the former president’s example of leadership.

(LEFT) Rebecca Marble Bonnell (center), widow of Samuel Marble, chats with Muriel Specht Hiatt, who was dean of women in 1948, and Marble daughter Rebecca Marble Dresser.

“To inspire students to grab a shovel and start digging on barren land, and to have this vision of a student-built dormitory is just incredible,” he said.

Muriel Specht Hiatt recalled accepting the position of dean of women when Marble told her to come to Wilmington because, “We’re changing the world down here.”

“There was a lot of excitement,” she said about her initial visit to campus that coincided with the early weeks of the building project, “and I wanted to be part of that excitement.”

Although the project was trumpeted far and near as “built by students,” Hiatt was quick to point out that many faculty, staff, neighbors, businesspersons, local Quakers and even students from Antioch, Oberlin and Earlham colleges pitched in.

“We all helped build it,” she said.

Proclamations from the Ohio Legislature and offices of the governor and lieutenant governor hailed Wilmington’s legendary act of volunteerism during Marble Hall’s construction from 1948 to 1950.
State Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17th District) called it “an amazing story.”

“I continue to be impressed by what Tom Brokaw calls ‘The Greatest Generation,’” he said. “There was mud here and sweat and toil by students that didn’t have to do this.”

Marble’s daughter, Rebecca Marble Dresser, who attended the event with her mother, Rebecca Marble Bonnell, cited passages in her father’s autobiography. Samuel Marble died in 1990.

(RIGHT) James Ramsey, Class of 1948, recalls the "banner year" 1948 when students began building what would become Marble Hall.

He spoke of what he considered as the great contrast between American higher education at its best and that of traditional European education, the latter of which he saw as an entity that “separates people” and is designed to “free men from work.”

In the United States, “work is the link between thinking and living,” he said. “Work generates motivation.”

Dresser also quoted former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who addressed via telephone the dedication of Marble Hall in 1950. He spoke of three things: the “revolutionary idea of self help, the value of small colleges and that “from both of these ideals will flow uncommon men and women.”

More than a dozen alumni that worked on Marble Hall were in the attendance at the marker unveiling.
James Ramsey, Class of 1948, recalled being in a competition with his fraternity brother, Charles Hart, to determine who would lay the most concrete blocks. Hart won because Ramsey got a job soon after his graduation.

Roy Joe Stuckey ’48 fondly recalls being among a handful of students Marble clued in to his plans prior to the dramatic campus announcement the next day. He has fond memories of Marble and the building project that literally changed the life of the College.

“Today is a significant moment celebrating a significant event,” he said about the marker dedication. “It was the moment that put little Wilmington in the national spotlight.”