A ‘Vegas’ good-bye to Old Gym

Posted May 18, 2007
Rhiannon Mim
The legacy of La Verne’s Dwight Hanawalt and the Old Gym were celebrated Wednesday, where students, alumni and faculty joined Hanawalt to reminisce. Hanawalt started as a graduate from what was then La Verne College in 1941 and later taught for 40 years as a professor of Physical Education. For more than 25 years Hanawalt led and organized the university’s Freshman Camp and taught folk dancing and square-dancing classes in the Old Gym.

Lauren Pollard
Saying farewell to the Old Gym, ULV students gathered to enjoy a night of fun and games at “Viva La Verne” Wednesday. The Gym was transformed into a Las Vegas casino. The games included poker and craps tables as well as a roulette table and money wheel. Kristina Vaughn, Aubry McSweeny, Nick Solis and Nick Gonzalez got into the gambling spirit with the roulette wheel.

The final hoorah for the Old Gym took place last Wednesday to commemorate the facility that has been a part of the University of La Verne’s campus for more than eight decades.

The Old Gym has housed sporting events, educational classes and student activities available to all students past and present.

The gym will be demolished this summer to make way for the Sara and Michael Abraham Campus Center.

“I’m excited to see what’s to come,” alumna Wanda Hines said. “I hope it never loses that family atmosphere that we experienced while I was going to school here.”

The event started at 5 p.m. with pretzels, popcorn and glass bottled soda being handed out to many alumnae who came to pay tribute to Dwight Hanawalt and all of his accomplishments during his years as a professor and dean of students.

The Old Gym was adorned with photographs of Hanawalt in his younger years and of athletic teams including the 20-member track team.

Steve Morgan, the president of ULV, started by welcoming all the guests and by telling the upcoming plans that the university has for the future.

Then one by one, past students came up to the podium and shared their fondest memories of Hanawalt and of the Old Gym. The four speakers were given a three-minute time limit, which they all broke.

As each speaker spoke about the exciting events that happened during their time at La Verne, Hanawalt kept a big smile on his face and some audience members started to tear up.

“I wish my mother could have been here because she would have believed all the good things that these people said,” Hanawalt said.

After Hanawalt’s speech thanking everyone, the audience engaged in the chicken dance and the hokey pokey to bring a livelier atmosphere.

“It was so much fun and it was cool dancing with the older generation,” broadcast journalism major Diana Castillo said.

A buffet of burgers, side dishes and ice cream were served outside to all hungry participants during the dancing.

ULV students had a chance to participate in saying good-bye to the Old Gym by attending Casino Night hosted by the Campus Activities Board later that night.

The gym was transformed into a Las Vegas casino filled with red, black and white balloons, a banner that said “Viva La Verne” and gambling tables that were filled to capacity.

“I’m playing blackjack because it was the first table that I saw that was open,” freshman Shannon Matlock said.

Blackjack, poker and craps were some of the games from which students were trying to get more poker chips in order to win gift baskets filled with movie passes, gift cards and beach items.

The students weren’t the only ones who made an appearance – the King, Elvis, stopped by to sing a few songs and serenade one special person.

Elvis sang to freshman business major Seve Villarreal and placed gold and red sashes around his neck during his time playing craps.

“It gave me a tingling feeling around my neck,” Villarreal said.

Handmade drinks, complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cake were available while students placed their bets.

“It’s very sad to see the gym go because it brings back good moments back to me, like Greek Week,” freshman Naime Laskar said.

As students cashed in their chips and exited, a banner made by Sigma Alpha Epsilon displayed a poignant, final farewell: “The building may fall but the legend will live on.”

Katarina Woloschuk can be reached at kwoloschuk@ulv.edu.

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