Home Alumni Cole Hall renovation enhances Drake’s student recruitment efforts

Cole Hall renovation enhances Drake’s student recruitment efforts

photo of the entrance to Cole Hall
With Cole Hall’s recent renovations, Drake preserved a piece of history for the University and the Des Moines community.

By Charley Magrew

First impressions are so powerful and so quickly formed that people can sift huge amounts of information and come to rapid conclusions, even in the first two seconds of seeing something, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-selling book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.”

Thanks to the recent renovation of Cole Hall — home of the Admission Office — prospective students are forming their first impressions of Drake in a beautifully decorated and updated building filled with natural light.

In fact, Cole Hall is the newest old building on Drake’s campus with the completion of approximately $1.3 million in renovations last November.

“In the past, students would see a newly renovated stadium, but the first building they walked into was 100 years old and it looked its age,” said Tom Delahunt, vice president for admission and financial aid. “We wanted a more modern space that was attractive to students.”

photo of internal of Cole Hall
The first floor of Cole Hall was designed to provide a space where students get quality service as they enter the building.

Today, Cole Hall is well-managed, with nearly 30 offices, three
waiting rooms, two large work areas and a conference room, mailing room
and application processing room, used specifically for the admission
and financial aid process. The atmosphere is inviting with the addition
of floor-to-ceiling glass walls, allowing for natural light to
penetrate deep into the building and to emphasize the transparent
admission process at Drake.

“Everyone, especially the staff, is really excited that we pulled
it off,” Delahunt said. “They really enjoy the work space; everyone has
an equal-sized office and matching furniture, reaffirming our equality
in the department.”

Neumann Brothers Inc. was the general contractor for the project,
which was designed by Dan Sloan, principal of Baldwin White Architects

“The essence of the Cole Hall design concept was to recapture the
spirit of place, to reclaim a welcoming place for prospective students
and their families, and to rethink the ‘first impression’ experience
when visiting Drake’s campus,” said Sloan, who graduated from Drake in
1975 with a bachelor’s degree in art education.

“Since Cole Hall literally serves as the front door to the
University via admission, it was critical to make a lasting first
impression on each and every visitor passing through the door.”

The renovation was conducted in an environmentally friendly manner,
in keeping with President David Maxwell’s participation in the American
College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. As a charter
signatory to the agreement, Maxwell pledged the University to reduce
its environmental impact over the next two years.


photo of upstairs Cole Hall
Energy-efficient windows and glass office walls draw natural light into the upstairs office area and lounge.

The inefficient window air conditioner units were replaced with a
connection to the efficient central campus heating and cooling plant.
In addition, energy-efficient windows, light fixtures, light sensors
and insulation on the exterior walls were installed to boost energy

“The renovation of Cole Hall is an excellent example of the
University’s deciding to preserve a piece of local history while
reducing its own impact on the environment –choosing preservation
instead of demolition; renovation instead of new construction,” Sloan

Other updates to the building include wood paneling in the halls
and on the doors, ceramic floor tiles, carpet runners, Venetian blinds,
rubbed bronze hardware and a fire alarm and sprinkler system.

“It is important to us to give a good first impression,” Delahunt said. “The renovations allow us to put a good face on Drake.”

Francis Marion Drake, a classic 19th century adventurer and former
governor of Iowa whom the University is named for, gave financial
support for the construction of Cole Hall before his death in 1903. The
building was named for Judge Chester C. Cole, former justice of the
Iowa Supreme Court and dean of the Iowa College of Law in 1892. The
addition of the building allowed the Law School to move from a building
just north of the Polk County Courthouse to Drake’s campus.

Originally, Cole Hall was packed tightly with nine classrooms,
three offices, a library and an assembly hall, which seated 250 people
for assemblies or mock trials. It not only housed the College of Law,
but also academic departments of mathematics, engineering and public