High Rise residence hall turns 50

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Opened in 1968, High Rise Residence Hall is one of the “newer” residence halls on the Lipscomb University campus. Celebrating its 50th year, the youth of the men’s dorm doesn’t mean it lacks history.

Jim Thomas was a resident the first year it opened. Now the Lipscomb University interim senior vice president for student services and a professor in the graduate education and communication programs, Thomas recently reflected on his time in the dorm.

Thomas transferred to Lipscomb as a junior and spent his first year living in Elam Hall, a men’s dorm at the time, which was due for a renovation. Thomas said the move to High Rise was a treat for him and his classmates.

“That was truly for us like a luxury hotel,” said Thomas.

Thomas said a significant memory of his, awful then but funny to look back on now, is when he crawled around the bottom of the elevator shaft after losing his keys. He was on his way to Sewell Hall, then a girl’s dorm, to pick up his girlfriend at the time. Having hopped in the elevator, he put his hand up to hold the door open for someone and his keys were knocked out of his hand.

“My keys went perfectly between the crack between the door and the elevator,” said Thomas. “So I went down and crawled around the bottom with my flashlight, found my keys, I went back up to the sixth floor, showered and cleaned up.”

His date was notified that he would be a bit late.

Any High Rise resident surely has fun memories that shaped their experience on campus.

Student Jacob Pregont said he remembers taking part in a Lord of the Rings extended edition marathon.

Alumnus Ben Forrest recalled the times before cell phones where he used the extension number 1411 to make his phone calls from the residence hall.

Much of this history is more than just personal, in many instances major world events made an impact within the four walls of each male student’s room.

Ken Durham holds the Batsell Barret Baxter Chair of Preaching and is associate professor of Bible at Lipscomb University. Durham also moved into High Rise in 1968 as a junior, right in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War. Some of his most vivid memories are centered around these momentous events, particularly the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis.

“I remember that night we went up on the roof of High Rise. We looked down into Nashville and there were fires all throughout downtown,” said Durham. “I was confused by it but I knew something really life-changing was going on in the world.”

Young Durham had a similar feeling the night the first draft lottery for Vietnam was broadcast on radios and televisions throughout the country.

“I remember sitting in one of the lobbies of High Rise, the room just crammed with men, watching the TV,” said Durham. “One by one they began to read off the dates… You’re just sitting there on the edge of your seat.”

Durham recalls the devastation of the men in that room who were drafted.

“There were several Lipscomb students who were called,” said Durham. “Some of them didn’t come home.”

During that grim time Durham found great comfort in his college community, a kinship that current High Rise Resident Hall Director Mike Smith says is still evident in the dormitory.

“We do the best that we can to make it a great place to live,” said Smith.

Smith fits well in his role as RHD. Alumnus Justin Bowen said spending time with Smith was “hands down” his favorite High Rise memory. Bowen called Smith an “incredible boss and event programmer.”

Smith was a High Rise resident himself in 1980 before becoming head resident in 2000. He said the biggest change he’s seen is in the behavior of the men.

“Nineteen years ago, before the internet and video games, there used to be a lot more mischief,” said Smith. “Now they’re [the residents] too busy playing video games to come up with some good pranks.”

For Durham this mischief would include, “Getting in trouble for yelling too much, singing after two in the morning and throwing water balloons from the seventh floor.”

Alumnus Benjamin Moss also recalled items that were launched outside. He said he remembers his friend “taking clothes that people had thrown out the window.”

“There were frequent objects that would be thrown out the window,” confirmed Thomas.

Despite 50 years having passed, objects dropped from a room above can still be found surrounding the dorm. Some things may never change.  

Comment your favorite High Rise Memory on Lipscomb University Social Media.

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