Etheridge Hall opened its doors to students in August 2013.
Etheridge Hall opened its doors to students in August 2013.

Etheridge Hall dedication a tribute to a man's devotion

Bob Etheridge in 1973.

Bob Etheridge in 1973.

The dedication of Miami University’s newest residence hall at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, may look more like a joyous reunion than a formal ceremony when immediate family and longtime student affairs staffers gather together at Etheridge Hall to pay tribute to the building’s namesake, Robert Etheridge.

If weather permits, the ceremony will be held outside on the MET or south side of the South Quad hall and will be open to the public. If inclement weather forces the ceremony inside, limited space will not allow the public to attend, only invited guests.

Heading that list are sons Rob, who is coming from his home in Australia; and Mike, who lives quite a bit closer in Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Veda, their mother and Bob’s sweetheart dating back to their high school days in Fairfield, Ill.

Of the 232 students who live in the new hall, Veda Etheridge said, “I wish they had had a chance to know Bob. They would have liked him. He was really the students’ friend.”

Robert and Veda Etheridge came to Oxford in the summer of 1959 with 8-year-old Rob and Mike, then 5, from Michigan State. He arrived as dean of men on a campus where women lived in South Quad and men in North.

Some thought the campus would be better off if the men and women stayed as far apart as possible. Not Bob.

A progressive thinker who, according to his former staff members, was always pushing for change, he would like that the students living in his hall are benefiting from a new concept in which the traditional corridor layout has been replaced with eight, 30-resident houses. Each 15-bedroom coed house includes such student-requested features as communal living and dining room plus kitchen, multiple bathrooms and a study room.

Bob Etheridge on his bike.

Bob Etheridge enjoyed riding his bike around campus.

He’d also appreciate the indoor bike storage on the hall’s first floor, as he was often seen riding his oversized bike around campus during a time when students wouldn’t be caught dead riding a two-wheeler, Veda said.

In fact, the former high school football star enjoyed recreational sports immensely and pushed hard for a recreation center at Miami nearly from his first day on campus. Even though it opened five years after he retired in 1989 as Miami’s vice president for students affairs, Etheridge took tremendous pride in it.

Nothing, however, could top the pride he felt for “his” students, even during the difficult times when his position demanded he be the disciplinarian. Those times were rare, according to Veda, who still lives in Oxford.

“He loved to talk to students. Any student and anything they’d want to talk about,” she said, recalling that he was especially interested in student government.

In a memorial written after his death in 2010, one student remembered of Miami’s vice president emeritus for students affairs that he was “always unfailingly polite and respectful of what we were saying and a good listener, but I still recall fondly the way his eyebrows would rise up when he heard something ‘interesting.” The university was a better place because of him, and my life is richer for having known him.”

written by Donna Boen, editor, Miamian