DePauw University’s Hoover Dining Hall

Cultivating conversation, forging relationships and exchanging ideas-all while sharing a meal-were the driving forces behind Hoover Hall, DePauw University's new 48,000-square-foot dining facility. Sustainable design and construction also guided the project, earning it LEED Green Building Rating System Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in March 2018.

Replacing Two Smaller Dining Halls

Located at the center of the Greencastle, Indiana-based campus, Hoover Hall serves as the primary dining space for first-year students and upper-class students living in DePauw University’s housing. The building replaces the university’s two former dining halls, neither of which was large enough to accommodate the school’s 2,300+ students.

The building’s name honors 1967 graduates, R. David and Suzanne A. Hoover, who provided the lead gift to fund Hoover Hall. The Hoovers, according to DePauw President Dr. Robert McCoy, “recognized that DePauw builds lifelong relationships through a strong sense of community. And that community needed a place to meet, to eat, to interact and to share.”

A Core Element of a Campus Master Plan

To facilitate that interaction, Hoover Hall design professionals took a different approach to the dining room’s seating arrangement. Rather than choosing the traditional dining hall style of small tables that can accommodate four to six people, they brought in multiple, long, community meal-style tables that each seat 100 people. Several smaller dining rooms surround the main hall, which are available for staff and faculty meetings.

In all, Hoover Hall seats more than 600 students in the main dining room, with dozens more accommodated in the smaller dining rooms.

Hoover Hall fulfills a core element of the University’s Campus Master Plan, which called for the transformation of the campus core into a place of greater connection, contemplation, and creativity. The $32 million project, which broke ground in May 2014 and took 29 months to complete, came in on time and under budget.

Finding the Right Fit

At the building’s October 2016 dedication, Suzanne Hoover described how she and her husband, the former CEO of Ball Corporation and past chair of DePauw’s Board of Trustees, met with different architectural firms before choosing Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA).

“When we went into the offices of Robert A.M. Stern in New York, it was really apparent, almost from the moment we entered, that they were genuinely excited about taking on this project,” said Hoover. “They had all sorts of wonderful ideas for both form and function. This building has to work for its purpose, along with looking beautiful.”

According to Douglas I. Smith, a DePauw Trustee and chair of the board’s buildings and grounds subcommittee, RAMSA’s attention to detail is “legendary.” The 1,000+ craftsmen and women who put more than 145,000 hours into the project also carried the same commitment to excellence and attention to detail. Their dedication, he noted, was obvious in the beautiful detail seen throughout the Hall.

Historical Implications

One challenging aspect of designing and building the new dining hall was to make the brand new building look like it had always been a part of the 175-year-old DePauw University campus. The integration was even more important as the new building would be located at the center of campus and sit in the shadow of one of DePauw’s most iconic buildings, historic East College.

“DePauw University’s Hoover Hall is designed in a restrained Georgian style, referencing the adjacent Memorial Student Union, as well as Asbury Hall and Harrison Hall, academic buildings to the north,” said Sean Foley, associate at RAMSA. “It was important to carry forward this design language through the details. Important aesthetic details for the windows include simulated divided lites, decorative brick mold trims, and custom color matching to the trim of the adjacent buildings.”

Designed in the Georgian style, popular between 1720 and 1830, Hoover Hall features steep-angled slate roofs with copper accents, hand-molded red brick, Indiana limestone and painted trim that blend with the rest of the campus.

Balancing Tradition and Transparency

RAMSA’s Foley noted that a very important element of the building’s design were the very large windows, installed “so that the activity within the building is visible and transparent from the surrounding quad and serves to draw students into the building.”

Kenny Glass worked closely with Turner Construction Company from the earliest stages of the project’s development to support the architectural vision of RAMSA, and with exterior contractor JC Ripberger Construction to implement it. Double hung transom windows match the design specifications, with many units spanning up to 85 by 118 inches.

“It took several months to make sure each opening would be right, so that when the crew arrived on site everything would install as quickly and smoothly as possible,” said Jerry Morris of Turner Construction. “From the perimeter fence to the wall of the building, we only had 20 feet. Every maneuver had to be planned. Given the size of the windows and confines of the site, that effort upfront made a difference.”

Morris shared, “One of the more challenging aspects for us with the windows was perfecting the curved units that flank the main entrance. On the flat sash windows, simulated divided lites were specified and worked fine. On the curved units, simulated just weren’t possible.” The window manufacturer was able to modify its traditional design to match the desired look with performance divided lites that segment the unit into nine lites with a 1-1/8-inch bar, low-e glass with beveled glazing bead and extruded aluminum clad exterior finished in an Abalone color.

While DePauw’s new dining hall may maintain a traditional exterior, its interior shifts from dated cafeteria lines in favor of exhibition-style cooking with a menu of foods from around the world.

Environmentally Friendly

Along with form, function and beauty, the new dining hall needed to be sustainable as well. Hoover Hall met that goal, demonstrated by its recent LEED Gold certification.

“DePauw is committed to quality construction that adheres to environmentally friendly principles and practices,” said Bob Leonard, vice president for finance and administration. “It’s a tribute to our great facilities team, led by Warren Whitesell, and the contractors and engineers that contributed to the Hoover Hall project that we can celebrate this honor.”

Hoover Hall becomes the third LEED Gold Certified building on the DePauw campus. Bon Appetit, Hoover Hall’s foodservice vendor, also has built sustainability into their systems. There is a strong focus on choosing locally sourced produce and a faculty and student led “reusable to-go container” initiative is underway with the goal of having the dining hall become completely paper-free.

A Change for the Future

DePauw President McCoy contemplated the building’s significance to these future students. He noted, “It is remarkable to think of the ways this building will shape DePauw. How many students, like Dave and Suzanne, will meet their lifelong companion within these walls? How many times will a professor start a conversation over a meal that completely changes the trajectory of a student’s life? How many friendships will be made and deepened here? How many problems solved? How many questions answered? How many imponderables will be pondered within these walls? Such moments are the fabric of the rich and rewarding DePauw experience, and now have a home, here in Hoover Hall. DePauw changes lives.”

David Hoover agreed and added, “It’s even better than we expected. We hope and expect it to be a place where people connect, communicate, build relationships, and improve and strengthen DePauw’s culture.”

McCoy concluded, “The beauty and magnificence of this space is clear to all of us and it will enhance the DePauw experience for the thousands of lives that will pass through these doors.”

About the Author
Nicholas Pesl ( draws from 14 years of experience with customized windows and doors. He serves as a product and market specialist at Kolbe Windows & Doors, which provided the Ultra Series doors and MajestaR windows on DePauw University's Hoover Hall. See