How The Buildings Got Their Names: Campbell Library, Esbjornson Gymnasium and Savitz Hall

Savitz Hall pictured in The Oak. -Photo copy by Danielle LaSassa

Last week, Whit reporter Danielle LaSassa discovered the story behind Bunce, Bozorth, and Robinson halls. Click here to read that. This week, Danielle tells us the history of Campbell Library, Esbjornson Gymnasium, and Savitz Hall.

Rowan University has a long history that dates back to 1923 when Glassboro Normal School was founded. Over the years, notable individuals have contributed to the school in countless ways, from leadership to excellence in teaching. One way to learn about these people is by looking at the names on our campus buildings.

Savitz Hall

Once a library, Savitz Hall has made big changes in the past few decades.

According to “More Than Cold Stone: A History of Glassboro State College, 1923-1973,” written by former dean Robert D. Bole, Savitz was one of several buildings added to Glassboro State under third president Thomas E. Robinson’s expansion. Construction started in September 1961, costing about $663,000, and was finished in June 1963.

An edition of The Oak, Rowan’s yearbook, said that Savitz Hall was converted into the admissions building in 2001. The building contains many windows meant to portray “a feeling of accessibility to students.”

Savitz Hall was named after the university’s first president, Dr. Jerohn J. Savitz. According to Rowan’s website, Savitz was only considered president for two months since Glassboro was not a college when he started his presidency. He was originally the principal of Glassboro Normal School.

Savitz accomplished many things for the campus, such as increasing enrollment and the number of faculty, developing a sports program, beautifying the campus, and lobbying the state to fund two dormitories, among other projects. His greatest accomplishment, however, was transforming a two-year school into a four-year teachers’ college. Savitz retired two months after being known as president but was principal of the school for 15 years.

Campbell Library

Campbell Library was a more recent addition to Rowan University’s expansion, since the original library was, in fact, in Savitz Hall. According to The Oak, the building was built in 1995 and officially named “The Rowan University Library” under the presidency of Dr. Herman D. James.

Another edition of The Oak explains that Rowan University received a donation of $2.5 million in 2000 from Keith and Shirley Campbell. The Campbell family’s name was set on the building in 2001 as a thanks to their offering. One million of their donation went toward creating a professional chair to the College of Business, and the other $1.5 million was designated to funding for the new library as well as purchasing a residence for the university’s president.

According to Rowan Today, the Campbell Library underwent a renovation in 2015. Students were surveyed on what changes they wanted to see in the library, and the end results were the multi-media room and a new reference section. The expansion ended up costing the university about $120,000 but was paid for with the same donation that the Campbell family donated years before.

Esbjornson Gymnasium

The Esbjornson Gymnasium, also known as Esby Gym, was named after Roland A. Esbjornson, a physical education professor, athletic director, and head coach of basketball and baseball at Glassboro State College.

According to “More Than a Cold Stone,” Esbjornson started as a professor in the 1920s when Glassboro State was originally the Glassboro Normal School. Esbjornson formed the basketball and baseball programs, and created the project “Play Day” in which high school students join Normal School students in various games.

Esbjornson dedicated himself to helping handicapped children. “He was a man who gave copious amounts of time and even his own money to aid physically handicapped children,” the book states, even instructing a class for teachers and upperclassmen students on how to teach the physically handicapped. University President Robinson named the gymnasium after Esbjornson for his dedication to expanding the sports program.

Esbjornson Gymnasium was another one of Robinson’s buildings. According to “More Than a Cold Stone,” construction began on the gym in September 1961, costing the university about $950,000. The building was finished in June 1963, but the main purpose of the gymnasium was to serve as a space for “Glassboro’s basketballers” to play instead of having to “play on the bandbox floor in the Bunce Hall auditorium.”

The gymnasium contains an Olympic-sized pool that caused problems for the university because of expenses. State building officials determined the pool to be a “luxury item” and eliminated it from the program. Although the building officials were on board with the plan, Robinson opposed and fought to keep the pool open. Robinson personally presented the project “Pay as You Swim” to the board, and the presentation was effective enough for the state board to change sides. The pool was expected to take 10 years to pay off, but students made two payments in September 1962 and December 1965 that paid off the $175,617 cost of the pool.

Check back next week for the history of more buildings on Rowan’s campus.

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