Some students were greeted with brand new living spaces as the new Garner Hall apartments in Independence Village were completed just in time for the fall semester.
The university broke ground in February, and the apartments quickly took form.
President Randy O’Rear attributes such a rapid completion to the designs, which are similar to the last apartments built. He also said the expansion was a part of the progress made by former president Dr. Jerry Bawcom, which began many years ago.
“I am excited about the growth and improvements we anticipate as we look forward to a very bright future for UMHB,” O’Rear said.
The apartments were made possible by a gift from the Garner Trust.
“Wendell Williams, a local bank executive, serves as the sole trustee for the John Hood Garner and Martha Alleen Weatherford Garner Charitable Trust, which was established in 2003. The Garners were Wendell’s aunt and uncle. John was a county commissioner for Belton for many years, and Alleen was a nurse at the Belton Sanatorium,” O’Rear said.
One thing that makes the new units unique is their keyless entry system. Instead of using a hard key, residents use their student ID cards to gain entry.
Vice President for Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee said, “This is something students have been asking for. The university is moving towards a ‘one card’ system. This allows a student’s ID card to serve multiple functions like a meal card, a library card and entry access …. We believe students will love the new system,” he said.
Patti Wright is the new assistant director of Garner Hall. In addition to being recently employed with Scott and White, she comes with previous experience as a resident director in Stribling Hall. She has hopes for ministering and developing relationships with her residents.
“I have missed this sort of service in His kingdom and feel so blessed to be offered another opportunity to do so,” she said.
Wright is excited to be back.
“When I walked on campus to turn in my application for the position, I can’t explain the feeling that I felt except that it felt like being home,” she said.
Wright says students have given good feedback about the new buildings.
“They seem to really like the apartment and are really excited about the look. We have had a few new building issues, but overall it has been a positive experience,” she said.
As for her staff of resident assistants, Wright said she is looking forward to “serving alongside them in helping the occupants feel at home and safe within their residence.”
Senior elementary education major and resident assistant Rebecca Widmer said she feels blessed with an opportunity to interact with everyone.
One of Widmer’s favorite things in the apartment is the kitchen.
“I love to cook and I love cooking for other people. In order to do this, I need a lot of counter space and Garner has a lot of space to prepare food and that is really nice,” she said.
Widmer hopes the apartments, despite giving independence to students, still hold a sense of unity.
“When a lot of students move out to the apartments after living in the dorms, the unity of the building disappears somewhat. I think that the RAs we have this year are some of the most encouraging, funny and amazing people that I have ever known and I think that if we work together for this common goal we can get it achieved,” Widmer said.
Junior business major Ryan Castleman has enjoyed setting up her new home.
She said, “I just love the homey feeling I get when I walk through the door.”