A century ago, Eastern Illinois State Normal School became home to the Illinois' only state-funded residence hall, allowing students to live on campus for the first time.
A lot has changed since 1908, including Eastern Illinois University's name, but Pemberton Hall -- and the camaraderie it inspires among the women who live there -- remain the same.
To honor the 100-year milestone, Eastern Illinois University's Alumni Association is planning several events for Pemberton Hall alumnae and the community at large. The festivities coincide with EIU Homecoming.
"Celebrating the Legacy and Embracing the Future: Commemorating 100 Years of Pemberton Hall" will begin with an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at Pemberton Hall. Tours of the building and the rest of campus will be offered.
The Pemberton Hall Centennial Commemoration is to begin at 4 p.m. Friday in the former dining hall, featuring speakers and the dedication of a time capsule.
Two EIU graduates who lived in Pemberton Hall, Jill Nilsen (1974, 1975) and June Giffin (1942), will talk about the history of the building and share memories of their time there.
Nilsen is now EIU's vice president for external affairs, and Giffin's EIU career included working as a substitute teacher at the lab school before working in three campus departments. Other officials expected to attend include EIU President Bill Perry and EIU Board of Trustees Chairman Roger Kratochvil.
Former residents will be donating items for the Ladies of Pemberton Hall Time Capsule, which will remain on display in Pemberton Hall. It is expected to be reopened in 2058.
A time capsule buried in 1961, when an addition was built onto the north side of the building, is to be dug up by current hall residents at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on the north east end of the building. Any recovered items will be exhibited at the open house.
Many other historic items will be on display, as well, including the original china and silver from the dining room. A 1942 graduate provided the etiquette book she received as a Pemberton Hall resident; its rules included being in the rooms by 10:30 p.m. and dressing up for dinner each day. Boys were not allowed in the hall.
A new acrylic portrait of state Sen. Stanton Pemberton of Oakland, who secured funding for the building after five years of championing the cause in the Legislature, will be unveiled. The painting, by current Pemberton Hall secretary Sandee Ibbotson, will reside in the building. Ibbotson also painted a watercolor of the building's exterior, and each person who attends the festivities will receive an 11-inch-by-14-inch copy.
Ten current Pemberton Hall residents are to be dressed in period costumes for each decade Pemberton has been in existence, bringing some of the building's history to life.
Events have been coordinated by Chelsea Frederick from the EIU Alumni Association, with much help from Mark Hudson, director of University Housing and Dining Services.
"Celebrating our history and reflecting upon it is an important part of understanding who we are," Hudson said.
Marian Kidwell, a 1940 graduate who lives in Donnellson, is the most senior alumna who plans to attend.
Kidwell vividly recalls her years living in Pemberton Hall, from the nightly get-togethers in girls' rooms (including having food delivered from the restaurant across Fourth Street) to the meals in the lovely dining hall (the food was typically good, she said, excluding the so-called mutton served on Fridays).
Kidwell lived in one of the most coveted rooms in the building, Room 206, a single room on the south end. It had a bay window and was just steps away from the gymnasium door.
"It had a lot of girls kind of wanting it and wishing for it," Kidwell said.
In the first few years after she graduated, she visited Pemberton Hall a few times.
"Of course, I'd always go back to the room I lived in, because it was home," she said.
Each Pemberton Hall resident who attends the reunion festivities will be asked to sign a floor plan and mark the location of her room.
The former residents' emotional response to the events has been amazing, Frederick said.
"They are absolutely thrilled," Frederick said. "I've gotten whole life stories, even from those who cannot come back. There's just a closeness for ladies who lived in Pemberton Hall, I think, more than any other residence hall on campus."