Eck Hall Takes Shape

South wing of LA Building renamed in honor of donors


Categories: Alumni , Campus , Academic

Dennis and Gretchen Eck celebrate the new entrance and improvements to the Liberal Arts Building.
Dennis and Gretchen Eck celebrate the new entrance and improvements to the Liberal Arts Building.

In September, the Montana University System Board of Regents approved the naming of Dennis and Gretchen Eck Hall, the south wing of the Liberal Arts Building at UM, in recognition of the couple’s $8.3 million contribution to the building’s renovation.

During the past three years, the Ecks have supported classroom renovation, enhanced technology, upgraded infrastructure, a new building entrance and a renovated 120-seat auditorium inside the LA Building. Dennis Eck, who studied political history at UM, has a strong interest in helping UM enhance the technology of teaching and learning, and he has a special affinity for the building in which he studied as a student.

UM’s College of Humanities and Sciences fulfills about 80 percent of all general education requirements for the University, making the LA Building and Eck Hall one of the UM’s most highly trafficked spaces.

The Liberal Arts Building was constructed in 1953. When visiting campus several years ago, Eck was surprised to see that not much had changed in the facility since he was a student in the mid-1960s. Determined to make a difference, he began funding upgrades. A comprehensive master plan was developed. Classrooms were overhauled and outfitted with modular furniture and advanced technology like interactive whiteboards. Exterior windows were expanded to let in more natural light.

Seeing the impact of their generosity on UM’s students and faculty, the Ecks committed additional funds to renovate the basement-level auditorium, one of the largest classrooms on campus, and to add a building entrance directly off the Oval to enhance functionality. Construction on these areas began in spring 2017 and was completed this past fall.

“This modernization of the Liberal Arts Building, without tearing the building down, serves as a proof of concept for upgrading the University’s facilities without changing the characteristic beauty of campus,” Eck says. “Gretchen and I are proud to have our name associated with a project that will impact students every day and hope to inspire other donors and the state to support higher education.”

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