After three years of fundraising, two years of house hunting and one false start, the University of La Verne Board of Trustees funded a $2.5 million Claremont home to be regarded as the new “University house.”
The historic mansion, built in 1922 and previously owned by L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz,” will be home to University functions, fundraisers, events and more, as well provide housing for University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman and her family.
“The purpose of this house is only for this University,” Lieberman said.
“It’s University pride,” Lieberman said. “When you walk through that house, you’re going to be proud that this house is a part of the University of La Verne.”
Lieberman’s additional plans include using a room for a faculty library with books published by the University’s own faculty, another room for board meetings and the rest of the space inside and outside will be used for entertaining.
“I actually visualized our students sitting around, talking, being with one another,” she said.
The house is an additional space; it does not replace anything currently on campus, Lieberman said.
The University house was funded entirely out of donations and fundraising by the Board and alumni. The Board managed to raise around $2.6 million for the house. The purchase price of the house was listed at $2.5 million, and the Board negotiated to buy it for $2.35 million.
The Board spent three years fundraising for the house, but it is still and ongoing campaign, Board Member Paul Moseley said. Funds beyond the purchase price will be used for renovations and upkeep.
“No operating money, no budget money (and) no tuition money was used in terms of buying the house,” Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian said.
The Claremont house was actually the Trustees’ second attempt at securing a presidential home. In their first attempt last fall the, Trustees bought the Kuns House, located on Magnolia Avenue and Fifth Street in La Verne, and named after Henry L. Kuns, one of the city’s founding fathers.
The historic La Verne home was previously owned by the late Don Hauser, former owner of the Coin Depot on D Street. However the trustees, who paid just $400,000 for the Kuns house in October 2012, subsequently learned that it needed millions of dollars in renovations.
The Kuns House had been neglected overtime. The closer board members looked, the more expensive ad time consuming the job of renovating the Kuns house became bigger the project became, and they realized that they needed to keep their options open, Moseley said.
“From a financial standpoint, it was the right decision,” Kechichian said. “It would have cost twice as much to renovate the Kuns house than what we pay to purchase the house in Claremont, and plus it would have taken at least two years to renovate (it),” he said.
“We have tremendous momentum now on this campus,” Lieberman said. “(There is) better retention than what we’ve had before, more student applications, the La Verne Experience – this campus is sort of on fire with all these fabulous things happening,” she said.
Moseley said that it is important for the University to be able to entertain alumni and donors who are galvanized to maintain the mission of La Verne.
The University still owns the Kuns property, and they are currently considering what to do with the old house.
“The University is committed to exploring all options and will encourage a dialogue with the city to ensure that whatever decision is made is one that will mutually benefit both parties,” Luis Faura, chair of the Board, said in a letter addressed to the campus community.
The Claremont house is a short walk to the Claremont Colleges, yet it is more four miles away from the University of La Verne main campus, according to Google Maps.
Sophomore philosophy major Kelsey Jon found it disconcerting that the University of La Verne’s University house is located in Claremont and not in La Verne.
“That’s just the thing that’s weird,” Jon said. “You’re going to have me leave my own territory and go to someone else’s college?”
It would have been ideal for the house to be in La Verne, Lieberman said, but because of timing and expense, that did not happen.
Lieberman added that the neighboring Claremont Colleges have been nothing but welcoming.
“It’s not about borders,” she said. “We’re all here to serve our students, no matter where we live.”
ULV spokeswoman Alisha Rosas said it is important to note that the University does expand outside of La Verne, as it has established numerous regional campuses.
“That’s something I think is a part of our culture,” Rosas said. “We build community wherever we go.”
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.