Goodrich Hall now home to the Mathematics and Physics departments was built in the late 1930’s as a hall of sciences at Wabash. The new building was the result of two very determined men and a stiff challenge.
Former Governor of Indiana, James Putnam Goodrich was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1904-1940. He was President of the Board of Trustees from 1924 until his death in 1940. Goodrich was a fiscal conservative and the fact that Wabash was running a deficit bothered him greatly. In the middle of the Great Depression many things had been cut to the bone and still there was an operating deficit. Governor Goodrich told President Hopkins that if the college would balance its budget for three years running, he would fund a badly needed new building for the sciences.
The 1920’s had been good to Wabash…enrollment was up and the “Hell-roarin 500” as our student body was sometimes called, were full of spirit and optimistic. As the 20’s ended and our national economy went sour, many students had to leave college. There are those who never returned and there are those who, with great personal hardship and some clever financial assistance from Wabash, managed to make it through. It was a hard time in the history.
The Goodrich challenge was made at the height of the Great Depression, yet with extreme cost cutting measures, the goal was achieved. All maintenance was delayed. The buildings on campus were left unpainted and all other non-essential expenditures were put on hold. Dick Ristine used to say that the mall was cut once a summer, just before the students returned to campus in the fall, “whether it needed it or not!” Even staff and faculty salaries were cut with the understanding that they would be restored as soon as practicable.
The new building for the sciences was a brilliant addition to the campus. Designed by the same architect as the Chapel, Goodrich made a truly lovely anchor for the southwest corner of the mall. In fact, that corner is still just brilliant. Truly these two buildings, Goodrich and the Chapel, are a great pair. How nice that they both still serve our college today!