Renovated USA House “feels like a home now” for military-connected students at AU
ASHLAND, Ohio – “It really feels like a home now,” Ashland University senior John McCabe said of the thoroughly renovated, 9,000-square foot USA House, following an official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony that was one of the highlights of Homecoming weekend.
For McCabe, an Air Force veteran majoring in business management with a minor in entrepreneurship, this marks the third year he’s been living in the USA House, an on-campus residence only available for those AU students with a military affiliation. But, it’s the first year he has felt at home.
“It (now) feels like a place where you can relax in the living room and it doesn’t feel like you’re going to the same school that people went to in the 1980s. It’s kind of like an apartment, rather than a dorm room,” said McCabe, originally from Olmsted Falls, Ohio. “Every room is full. We have two living rooms with updated furniture. Everything looks aesthetically pleasing like it belongs. Everyone (is) happy.”
That is the type of reaction AU administrators, alumni and donors were hoping for when they embarked on this project a couple of years ago.
As Deborah Liebert ’72 Karl, one of the lead donors, explained it, the committee went from providing USA House residents a few new items, such as “dishes, a sweeper and a basketball,” to quickly determining a “complete renovation” was needed.
The Georgian colonial home was built in 1968, along with the other residences that make up fraternity circle, at a cost of about $200,000. Don Jakeway ’70 was on the original design committee and he was thrilled to be able to play an integral role in giving it a much-needed refresh 55 years later.
Jakeway labeled the legacy project as “a labor of love.” At the dedication ceremony, he told the crowd of alumni and other supporters on hand, “There’s a lot of pieces of our hearts that are on this campus. We owe this university a lot. Anytime we have the opportunity to come back here, say our thanks and our blessings for what we did have here then and now, is truly a special blessing.”
In addition to Karl and Jakeway and their late spouses, Ronald Karl and Alice Jakeway ’71, the lead donors to the USA House renovation consisted of Evelyn M. Liebert, Paul McKnight ’70 and Lani McKnight ‘68, and Brooks Hull ’70 and Terry Gimmelli. There were dozens of other contributors, and all together, the completely donor-funded project came in at $375,000.
The new features of the USA House include 18 single-occupancy rooms with air conditioning and individual temperature control, five private occupancy bathrooms, LED lighting, fresh paint and flooring throughout, roof replacement, landscaping and concrete porch repair, back patio and privacy fence and furnished common areas.
McCabe was not only thrilled with the transformation, but for the chance to meet and live with like-minded housemates. “It really is a great opportunity to meet new people and get connections with other veterans and people who are involved in the veteran community,” he said.
Randy Spade, director of admissions and a key driver behind the project, noted the renovations to the USA House are the latest example of AU’s long-running pledge to support military and veteran students. Ashland, which was awarded a Collegiate Purple Star by the Ohio Department of Higher Education in 2022, also opened the Jack W. Liebert Military & Veteran Resource Center, a hub on campus to support military students, in 2020.
“This house is more than a home. It is symbolic of the university’s commitment to those men and women who have served our country bravely and their families,” he explained. “My team has the distinct honor every time we welcome (a military) family to campus … those veteran parents know there’s a place for their children here that will keep them safe, will help them be successful and will help them be the best versions of themselves.”
AU’s military and veteran students are already among the best and bravest, noted AU President Carlos Campo during the occasion.
“From my perspective, bravery begins with the sentiment that there is something bigger than yourself in this world. It’s what unifies everyone who will live in this house. They have sacrificed and they begin each day in their lives with the understanding ‘it’s not all about me.’ ‘There’s something bigger than myself.’ It’s about service,” Campo said.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.