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Stories from the Experimental College

Pioneer Hall Fire

Photo of the 1973 Pioneer Hall fire from Red & Green

Part of the story of the EC is the memories of the people who were part of this experience. There is no shortage of stories which reveal interesting aspects of the EC, its era, and its environment.

One EC student would arrive at class every day with a large German Shepherd who dutifully sat at his master’s feet, tongue lolling to the side. The student would have animated conversations with the dog, treating the dog as a member of the class. So too would many of the other students. The same student had a penchant for drumming up excitement on campus. He would proclaim that a famous rock band or speaker was going to visit the college. When the time came for the event to take place, the student arrived at the location, mounted the makeshift stage, lit his pipe, inhaled, announced "This is a happening," and finally alighted from the stage to melt into the perplexed crowd.

In the fall of 1973, Dr. Clausen and several of the EC students returned late one evening from a trip to the Grand Canyon to discover that Pioneer Hall, which housed the EC offices, had been damaged by fire. When Clausen called Kae Erickson, the secretary of the EC, to find out what happened, she exclaimed, "Oh Eric, I’m so sorry, I left the coffee pot on!" Her admission was in jest, but that kind of play helped to lighten the mood during what Clausen described as one of the difficult times for the EC.

In an interview from that time, Clausen seriously questioned if the EC would recover from the fire. His concerns for the survival of the program stemmed from the fact that the EC had experienced great difficulty procuring physical space for classrooms and offices to begin with (on a campus with a much smaller physical plant in 1973 than it has now). Luckily for the program and MSC the damage to Pioneer Hall was quickly repaired and the EC once more had its own home at MSC.