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The Last Word: Bader Comes Down

Constructed in 1963, Bader Gymnasium met its demise in May when the building that housed the Department of Health and Human Performance came down to make way for an improved campus appearance.

The university’s master plan, devised by M2D/element design of Lexington, Ky., calls for additional green space and a pedestrian-friendly campus. In addition to the removal of Bader, the asphalt parking lot has been taken out. The hill will be graded for a smoother walk across campus. Removal of Bader creates a north-south open space at the heart of campus so that the campus will be green from Wallace-Gano Dining Hall to Loyd Auditorium. The Bader Gym site will become the Oval Lawn, a major new focal point for the center of campus. Plans call for the space to be anchored by a ceremonial bell tower at the south end with a strong link to the amphitheater/ commons space to the north end and Chapel Walk to the west. Walkways, terraced seat walls and landscape development will eventually frame the space.

The Department of Health and Human Performance has moved to the former nursing building behind Loyd Auditorium. The space was reconfigured for their use during the spring semester. Some parts of Bader, including flooring, some of the bleachers and brick have been salvaged for future use.

Bader Gym was built in memory and honor of Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Bader of New Madrid County, Mo. Although the couple had never visited campus, they agreed to meet with FHC President H.A. Dixon in a meeting arranged by Jack Hilliard, who at the time was preaching in Southeast Missouri. He later joined the Freed-Hardeman staff. Mr. Bader died before the meeting could be held, but Mrs. Bader agreed to give $50,000 toward the $150,000 administrators anticipated would be needed for the project. Eventually, the structure would cost $200,000 but the Baders’ gift made it possible for construction to begin. Groundbreaking was held May 14, 1963, and the building dedication was held that fall at Homecoming, Nov. 27. By this time, Mrs. Bader had also died and a nephew represented the family.

Although the Baders never saw the fruits of their gift, it blessed the lives of thousands of students and visitors for fifty years. It was truly a “multi-purpose” building as the planners had envisioned. Classes were held there, intramural battles were fought on its many-lined court, intercollegiate basketball and volleyball were played there. Opposing teams hated it; Freed-Hardeman fans loved it. The “intimate” nature of the seating made them a part of the game too. Lectureship events were held there from exhibits to singings to dinners to video coverage for overflow crowds. For a couple of years in the 70’s, daily chapel was conducted there.

Most recently, physical education, kinesiology and swimming classes and intramural activities have been conducted in the building. Intercollegiate competition moved from Bader in 1996 when Brewer Sports Center was completed.

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