By Carla Rawson, Western Communications
One of Western’s most iconic residence buildings is celebrating 50 years as the starting point for thousands of students embarking on their university careers.
In 1969, Saugeen-Maitland Hall opened its doors and has housed approximately 1,200 students each year. The traditional-style building has been home for one-fifth of Western’s 300,000 strong alumni network since.
Management and Organizational Studies professor Daniel Brou, a Saugeen-Maitland Hall alumnus, said the connections he made in the building shaped not only his time at Western but beyond.
“Throughout the rest of my Western life, I lived with or studied with people who I had spent a lot of time with at Saugeen. The most important one is that I met my wife there, so that’s impacted my life greatly, very positively,” Brou said.
The professor lived in Saugeen-Maitland for two years in the late-1990s, first as an incoming student and then a Residence Soph. After completing his undergraduate degree in Economics, he went on to pursue his masters and doctorate at the University of Toronto and Columbia University, respectively. He has now returned to London to teach at his alma mater.
He was also one of the dozens of alumni who attended the 50th-anniversary celebration in Saugeen-Maitland Hall during Homecoming Weekend. At the event, past residents could tour the building, visit their old floors, and listen to a set from Rick McGhie, while reminiscing about their time in ‘The Geen.’
For Brou, his Saugeen-Maitland experience not only created countless memories but fostered connections that helped him kickstart his time at Western.
“It was just a really nice community, it was a lot of fun. But the most important thing is I’m still friends with a lot of the people I lived with in first year. It just really helped me get through first year,” he said.
Brou’s memories of the community mirror many Saugeen-Maitland Hall residents, like current student Michaela Wand. Wand has lived in Saugeen for the past three years, as a first-year student, Residence Soph, and now as the building’s Head Soph.
“It’s a very welcoming environment. You could walk into the cafeteria and talk to anyone, or if you go to any floor. The floors are bonded; they’re like best friends – family,” Wand said.
When it first opened, Saugeen-Maitland Hall was one of the largest residence buildings in the province. The new building brought a host of firsts for Western residences: first building to be designated as smoke-free; first to implement co-ed floors; first to make a concerted effort to increase engaging late-night programming.
Even as a large building, Saugeen-Maitland still fosters a tight-knit, thriving community year after year. For Chris Alleyne, the Associate Vice-President (Housing and Ancillary Services), the size of the building means more opportunity for students.
With so many people, there’s always someone to connect with.
“You live, eat, sleep, breathe the same air as these people for eight months and Saugeen is large enough that it’s like a small little town on campus,” Alleyne said. “But, you’re still familiar with the people. You still walk to class every day with people. You still recognize them in the dining hall.”
Alleyne is a Saugeen-Maitland Hall alumnus himself, residing in the building as a Residence Staff member, and later as a Residence Manager. He said that the openness of the building is what helps foster a sense of belonging amongst residents.
“Just being able to wander from floor to floor and meet people, really made that sense of community strong at Saugeen,” Alleyne said.
For many alumni, it’s this sense of community and the connections they form with others that shapes the fondest memories of their residence experience.
“I remember always open doors, going around and doing everything together with these people,” Brou said. “The floor I was on was full of really interesting people that did all sorts of really cool things, and that really drove me to do well.”
In his role, Alleyne is able to hear from countless alumni how the people in the building are what make it a special place every year.
“It’s not about the bricks and mortar; it’s about the people, the relationships, the culture built every year,” Alleyne said. “There’s a soft spot in many people’s hearts to what that building was able to facilitate and create for them in their first-year experience.”
In her three-year tenure, Wand has seen how this feeling of home is carried on year after year, even with 1,100 new students entering the building each September.
“Every year, it’s like a new set of faces. But a good chunk of those faces become your family, who you turn to, have fun with, whatever it is. I find that it never fails to become a home every year,” she said. “There are always people who make it home.”
When it was built, Saugeen-Maitland Hall was just the third residence building on Western’s campus. While the building count has increased to nine, Saugeen-Maitland is still one of the most beloved with five decades worth of students feeling the rumble.
For Brou, the impact of the building resonates even in a joking conversation with his wife about their proximity to a Western institution and Saugeen favourite. “Rick McGhie lives in the same neighbourhood we live in now – that’s when we knew we had made it,” he said.