Almetris Duren Hall, named in honor of a woman who nurtured and inspired the first black freshman students to integrate the university, was dedicated during a campus ceremony on Oct. 12.
More than 400 people turned out for the ceremony, including 15 members of the Almetris Marsh Duren family and numerous black alumni whose lives and careers were influenced by “Mama” Duren.
Several alumni shared memories of Duren during the ceremony, crediting her “with being their role model, mentor, friend, resource provider, momma away from home, and much more,” said Division of Housing and Food Service Assistant Director Gloria Allen.
“A Celebration of Progress, An Affirmation of Promise” was the theme for the ceremony in the spacious courtyard of Almetris Duren Hall, the newest and most modern dormitory on the university campus, at the corner of Guadalupe and 27th streets.
“The ceremony took the audience to another level and helped us see how one person really can make a difference, did make a difference, and how Mrs. Duren’s living legacies are passing it forward in her footsteps,” Allen said.
Duren became a housemother, friend, adviser and mentor to black students when the university became integrated in 1956. For a quarter century she motivated them and many other students on campus to strive for success academically and as individuals. She was founder of the first minority recruitment program, Project Info, and the Innervisions Gospel Choir. She retired in 1980 and died in 2000. Duren was the recipient of the Margaret Berry Award for outstanding contributions to student life, the Presidential Citation and the Southwest Association of College and University Housing Officers Distinguished Service Award.
The 588-bed Almetris Duren Hall opened the doors to its first residents last January. It features double occupancy rooms with private bathrooms, data and cable connections in each room and wireless access throughout. The 175,000-square-foot building has a Terra Cotta Ludowici Spanish tile roof and features “Azteca” Seneca quarry tile flooring in the lobby and first-floor common areas. The lounge is outfitted with a baby grand piano, native Texas hand hewn mesquite and pecan furnishings and native Texas leather furnishings.
The courtyard is graced in the center by a 100-year-old live oak tree and is a popular gathering place for many residents. The ventilation system includes a total energy recovery wheel, which is a special “green” feature that recovers energy from exhaust air, adding to the energy efficiency of the building.