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The president’s office

The creaky old elevator finally opens its doors revealing a beautiful lobby where alabaster light bowls and lustrous marble walls are reminiscent of an old southern plantation house.

This is the Main Building fourth floor where the University’s president comes to work every day. From its outer offices to its rooftop gardens, this administrative abode is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places on campus.

If you’re a University student, odds are about one to 200 you’ll be invited to a get-together with Lorene Rogers next semester in her office. Each semester 200 students are randomly chosen from the Student Directory for an open question and answer session. Staff assistants know, however, to expect only 35 to 50 of those invited.

It’s one of those places most of us will never visit, although anybody can ride the elevator to the fourth floor and take a peek at the lobby. Its walls are faced with veinless gray Tennessee marble, offset by the dusky rose marble of the base and frieze. Tree-sized tropical plants line the north windows and almost obstruct a breathtaking view of the Tower a few feet away.

Opposite the window a polished brass and glass front frames the double doorway leading to administration outer offices. Visible through the glass are more marble, paintings and carved wood desks. But this is as far as the curious will get, denied so much as a glimpse of Rogers’ office, several rare books libraries or the rooftop garden.

The Stark Library on the floor’s east side contains glassfronted bookcases, and a continuous balcony circles its walls. The velvet hangings, Kerminshah rugs, gold-washed light fixtures, antique furniture and all the other furnishings come from Miriam Lutcher Stark’s home in Orange.

Intricately handcarved woodwork and hand-wrought iron are used decoratively throughout the room. Mrs. Stark’s full length portrait, painted by the Swiss artist August Benziger, hangs in tribute to the heiress.

The Stark library of more than 7,500 volumes is especially rich in books relating to 19th Century English Poets and novelists. The Browning Collection is equaled in America only by that of New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library, the Shelley collection only by that of California’s Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. A number of unusual items, including miniature and jeweled books, are displayed.

Scholars from all over the world use the library for research. Requests to use the manuscripts should be made through the librarian to the Committee of the Use of Literary and Historical Manuscripts.

Forming the flat roofs of the southeast and southwest fourth floor wins are roof gardens planted with grass, flowers, and shrubs. Their fine views, their constant breezes and their freedom from noise give them rare charm. The East Garden holds a few works of art, a lovely marble well carved with cupids in high relief by Italian sculptor A. Petrilli, and a reduced bronze copy of Joan of Arc by Anna Hyatt Huntington; both are gifts of Mrs. Stark.

Donated in 1918 by Major George Littlefield, the smaller Wrenn Library is south of the lobby. It holds more than 6,000 volumes–rare editions and copies–in the field of English and American literature.

This library, designed by Talmadge and Watson of Chicago, features woodwork of dark walnut carved in a floral design. The wood ceiling, painted in three series of designs, illustrates the development of printing, the history of dress and the coat of arms of famous universities.

Its stained glass windows facing the south mall, designed by Charles J. Connick of Boston, portray the arms of English colleges. Female figures in the library’s main light fixtures symbolize history, lyric poetry, comedy, controversy, tragedy, fiction, epic poetry, and fable.

Rogers’ office also is richly decorated and emphasizes pale blue in its color scheme. Its tall windows are hung with heavy velvet drapes which open to reveal a view of Austin’s rolling hills.

It may seem strange to think of a busy staff going about its daily routine sumptously surrounded by objets d’art and history. But Rogers and her assistants appreciate working in the opulent atmosphere and often use it for reception.

And, where else on campus does a secretary stop her busy schedule each day to feed turtles sunbathing in a roof garden?

Daily Texan. December 13, 1976.
Article by: Unknown

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3 May 1999
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