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Joan (Peterson) Littman’s 1967 senior class photo

A building can be more than just a structure that stands permanently in once place – the case for Mott Academic Center, the 50-year-old heart of Olivet College learning and development. Nearly every student’s educational journey includes Mott at the core, but more importantly, the relationships and memories that were created within. The building is named for Charles Stewart Mott, an engineer and entrepreneur, but also a philanthropist and public servant. Like the founders of Olivet College, Charles Mott was forward thinking and dedicated to helping others be more and do good.

In the spring issue of Shipherd’s Record, a special collection of stories shared more about Mott Academic Center’s past and future in “If These Walls Could Talk.” Mott has not stood still. It is alive, and it’s moving toward the next 50 years. This piece was written by Joan (Peterson) Littman ’67. She shares her experience as a student at Olivet College during the demolition of Mather Hall and the construction of Mott Academic Center. Read the full magazine online now.

Before Mott Academic Center was constructed, Mather Hall served as the hub of learning for 80 years.

I had my very first Olivet class in Mather Hall – September 1963 – Theatrical Production with Theatre Director Bill Beard – front north lecture hall. I entered as high school graduate and left as “Miss Peterson,” Olivet freshman.

Before entering the room, which was wrapped on two sides by huge double hung windows that carried the wavy imperfections of very old glass and sported real “blackboards” made of actual slate, I experienced the “Mather smell” – the seemingly ever-present combination of sulfur, formaldehyde, dust, and old wood, which emanated from the full complement of ongoing science classes. I had also passed the glass display cases containing a rather impressive collection of dusty scientific specimens.

Mather Hall Demolition, 1965

When asked to give some impressions of the Mather/ Mott site, I was amazed at the specific detail tucked away deeply in my memory. Seeing the building razed seemed like a real historical as well as emotional loss. The scramble for adequate class space was a pain and looking back after 48 years as a teacher, it must have been a real struggle for Drs. Gruen, Fleming, and Speare to provide adequate lab experiences.

It is the responsibility of educational institutions to provide current experiences, research methods, and best instructional practices for their students. I believe Olivet has always endeavored to do that. The decision to disrupt class time with the major renovations and seek committed donors who believe in the astounding lifelong relationships and successful futures that go forth from this relatively tiny place isn’t easy.

Mott Academic Center under construction, 1966

I’m sure I am joined by thousands of alums as I say thank you to all individuals and philanthropic institutions – especially the Mott Foundation – for their solid belief in quality educational experiences.

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