HUNTINGTON — Before there was Marshall University, there was Marshall College. Before there was Marshall College, there was Marshall Academy.
At the heart of all these variations was a dedication to educating educators.
Marshall honored its past and looked toward the future of educating educators Friday with a rededication of Jenkins Hall, which houses the College of Education and Professional Development. The building was recently renovated.
As part of the rededication, alumni of the Marshall Lab School returned for a reunion, which included the unveiling of the Marshall Lab School memorial mural, located on the second floor of the building. The mural was created by art professor emeritus Robert P. Hutton, a South Point, Ohio, artist.
The lab school was created in 1896, when Marshall was Marshall College. The school eventually grew to have all grades, and in 1938, Jenkins Hall was built to house the school. The school was a chance for education majors at Marshall College to get hands-on student teaching experience before student teaching was a mainstream practice.
In 1970, as costs increased and student teaching moved from the campus to public schools, Marshall elected to close the lab school.
Alumni of the lab school worked for years to find the best way to honor their school before landing on the mural.
Major Simms, the lab school alumni president, said they wanted something that conveyed what they all knew: The lab school was not just a place where they gathered, but it was a place that changed their lives. He said Hutton’s work was perfect.
Hutton explained parts of the mural, which is made from glazed ceramic tiles — the first piece Hutton has made using ceramics. Figures in the mural include a beloved lab school teacher, a cheerleader from lab school yearbooks, a former student who was infamous for bringing mice to school in her pockets, and elements of the original building, like the tile work and doors. The border is made from tiles glazed by alumni and others. Hutton designed the piece after looking through yearbooks and speaking with alumni.
“The meaning of this work is not only in the storyline or the narrative, or what is going on here with the figures,” Hutton said. “The meaning is partly implied through the total experience. When you look at a work of art, you have an experience. You have a certain emotional response. What I would like people to take away mostly is the rich, colorful, emotional response to the overall imagery.”
College of Education and Professional Development Dean Teresa Eagle said she wanted to have a memorial to the lab school inside Jenkins Hall so her students can know the roots of Marshall were education.
“One of the things that’s happening to education on a national level is they are moving more to a clinical base,” Eagle said. “Think about someone who becomes a dentist or a doctor, or any medical (profession) — they start spending time actually out there, not necessarily performing, but observing, seeing what it really looks like and making sure it’s actually something they want. … It’s the same thing here. We want our students to go out and do that. Our students don’t have the experience of a school dedicated to people just coming in and practicing and learning. That’s exactly what this was.
“I want our current students to know that this is kind of the root of what Marshall was. It’s hard to get people to go into education today because it’s not a high-paying job and it’s been disrespected. It’s really important to know the university values the college, and the university values them.”
She said it was a joy to have the lab school alumni back in the building, and even though not all of them ended up being educators, they all believe in good education and supporting education.
Along with the lab school mural, Jenkins Hall has a new plaque detailing another part of its history — its namesake.
Jenkins Hall is named for Confederate Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who also owned slaves. A movement occurred on campus during the last school year to rename the building after someone with a less controversial past, but the board of governors voted to keep the name. The board decided the best course of action was the plaque. The plaque explains why the decision was originally made to name the building after Jenkins and why the board in February decided to keep the name.