A Campus Community
By Mike Greife
During his presidency of Central Missouri State Teachers College, George W. Diemer advocated creating an environment on campus where students could feel "at home" as part of a community where they learned and lived.
Diemer's commitment to providing this environment for students resulted in the completion of the North Morrow Social Hall in 1939 and ultimately laid the groundwork for the planning under President Warren Lovinger that led to the construction of the current Elliott Union.
Key to Diemer's plan to build a sense of community on the campus was the construction of residence halls for men and women. Students commonly were housed in local boarding houses and private homes, but as enrollment continued to grow throughout the 1930s, the need for housing for students also grew. Diemer's dream was realized with the construction of Yeater Hall for women in 1941 and East Hall for men in 1949.
The college president announced the women's residence hall project, long a dream of former faculty member Laura Yeater and former Normal School No. 2 President E.B. Craighead, to the faculty during the summer of 1940. With no state funding available for such a project, the local community founded the College Dormitory and Development Association to provide the financial backing for the project through a bond issue.
Yeater was delighted when notified the building was to be named in her honor. Retired in Fayetteville, Ark., she returned to campus for the dedication in May 1941. The new residence hall provided a college home for 150 women in a home-like setting that included formal living rooms with fireplaces and family-style meals served by uniformed waitresses in a dining hall that was added at a later date. Upon her death in 1954, Yeater willed the furnishings of her home to be used in Yeater Hall. An addition in 1946 expanded occupancy to 232.
Following World War II, enrollment of young men taking advantage of the GI Bill at CMSTC increased the need for campus housing for men. Planning began in 1947, and in January 1948 suggestions were accepted for the name of the new hall, with East Hall selected.
The formal ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone drew a large crowd, and the dedication of the new building, located on Maguire Street across from the campus, on May 22, 1949, drew more than 1,000. James C. Kirkpatrick, president of the college's Board of Regents, presented the ceremonial key to Missouri Gov. Phil Donnelly, who cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Later renamed Diemer Hall in honor of the former college president, the hall provided housing for 168 men in 59 rooms. Described as masculine in décor, the hall did not include a formal dining hall. Male students dined in local homes that served two meals a day to a large group of men on a subscription basis, restaurants in the nearby "Buentetown" business district, or the college cafeteria.