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A deep dive into the unique 100-year history of Weiser Hall

By Patrick Fergus

One of the smallest buildings on campus is celebrating a big milestone this year, as 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of Weiser Hall. Home today to the department of Literature, Writing, and Journalism, Weiser was once a state-of-the-art infirmary. Its story begins in 1920, when Springfield College partnered with Hampden Hospital after recognizing that its athletes needed a way of recovering and receiving treatment. 

Clifton A. Crocker, who was a member of the Executive Board of both Springfield College and Hampden Hospital, worked together with the building’s namesake, Walter R. Weiser, the administrator of the hospital, to go over the plan of how to construct it.

The only thing that stood in the way was where they were going to get the money to fund it. 

Hampden Hospital handed over $40,000, but the expected cost of the new infirmary would likely be around $180,000. 

The Springfield community and students leapt into action, with many students helping clear the building site and raise money over the summer of 1921. The cornerstone, which can still be seen today near the entrance, was laid on September 27, 1922, with the building officially opening in January of the following year. 

In the earliest years of Weiser Hall, professor Stacy Betzler and his staff pioneered work in the field of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Under the direction of Betzler, the Department of Physiotherapy corrected thousands of afflictions ranging from inflammations to chronic pain. The department also worked with new treatment methods for the time like Electrotherapy and Hydrotherapy. 

According to Springfield College historian and archivist, Jeff Monseau, Weiser Hall had become exceedingly progressive in medical practices and important for students and athletes around the campus. By 1938, Weiser included impressive therapeutic facilities, four operating rooms and an entire floor committed to recovery. The building’s educational trademark also started to develop around the same time, as the basement was equipped with labs and classrooms for Dr. Peter Karpovich, who just so happened to be one of the best exercise physiologists in the country at the time. 

Over the next three decades, the staff of Weiser Hall continued to excel in medical practices and teachings. However in October of 1972, the decision was made to move the infirmary out of the place that had shaped it. The Towne Student Health Center was seen as a modern improvement to Weiser, with a brand new physical therapy laboratory in addition to newly constructed therapeutic facilities. This met a “critical need” for student-athletes and professors, according to President Wilbert E. Locklin. 

With the future uncertain for Weiser Hall, the building served as offices for many faculty and staff from departments such as Arts and Sciences to Education and Physical Education. After being refurbished, it was also briefly used as the center for the Humanities Department. 

For years, Wesier was unutilized, and many ideas, spanning from tourist attractions to storage, were proposed for the former infirmary. 

Finally, Weiser saw massive improvements in its classrooms and technology, with its official renovation finishing in March of 2006. Weiser had at last found a new purpose: to teach the budding journalists and future writers the intricacies of the field. As the department adapted to the media world, they added a brand new television studio in 2006 – the future home of SCTV3. 

“We are hopeful to one day have a media center housing TV, radio, and the newspaper,” said Marty Dobrow, longtime Professor of Communications whose office has long been located in Weiser.

As for today, Weiser Hall has been the home of Literature, Writing and Journalism for 16 years. Dobrow has been a staple in the journalism department since its inception. 

Weiser Hall has seen the highs of trailblazing medical care and therapeutic techniques and the lows of an uncertain future with no true plan of use, but through it all, has remained a crucial part of not only the campus, but the Springfield College identity. 

“It’s a tiny speck on campus, but it’s our speck,” Dobrow said.

Photo Courtesy of Springfield College Archives

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