Men’s and women’s suits, in light and dark shades, hang on the wall in one room, ready for loan. Plush chairs, part of an inviting, bright décor, await a workshop on interviewing or personal money management. A stocked kitchen includes pots and pans to borrow for late night cooking at tough moments. A mini-library of textbooks fill shelves. Other corners create a place for the unspoken support of a gathering of peers.
College offers a lot but not always enough. Davidson’s newest campus resource, Lula Bell’s, aims to meet the changing needs of students and serve as a hub where students find a feeling of community. Named for a 60-year college employee, Lula Bell Houston, and made possible by the parents of a deceased alumnus, Lula Bell’s was officially dedicated Monday afternoon.
“Anyone who spends more than a few minutes on Davidson’s campus grasps the sense of community that helped build this place and that energizes us each day,” said President Carol E. Quillen. “This new space and what goes on here underscores our shared commitment to educational excellence and access.”
Lula Bell’s provides students with professional and winter clothing, textbooks, food and kitchen supplies. Along with resources for all students, the space will host innovative and informative programming around systemic social issues and life skills, such as financial literacy.
Decker Anstrom and Sherry Hiemstra, of Washington, D.C., made a generous gift to support Lula Bell’s in honor and memory of their son Tom Anstrom, a 2004 Davidson graduate who died suddenly in 2015 from of an incident related to a longstanding heart condition. Following his passing, friends and classmates led the creation of the Tom Anstrom Internship Fund, which supports students who share Anstrom’s passions for public policy, progressive politics and social justice.
The internship fund already has supported six opportunities, and Anstrom’s parents wanted to help even more students along their journeys of building lives of leadership and service. Their vision and generosity turned plans into reality.
“Lula Bell’s really captures Tom’s values, and that’s why we were so privileged to help,” Decker Anstrom said. “Somewhere up in this big universe, we know that Tom has that big, warm, generous smile of his because of what’s happening. We miss that smile, and we miss him, but we’re very happy about what Davidson has made possible.”
Tom Anstrom and countless other Davidson alumni came to know and appreciate Houston. For 60 years, she woke up at 4:15 a.m. so as not to be late for her 6:30 a.m. start time at the Davidson College Laundry. And every day, she washed clothes, flat-ironed sheets, welcomed students with a smile and helped turn a college into a home. The laundry was named for Houston when she retired in 2004–she then returned to the laundry to work for three more years.
Although the laundry is no longer a service offered at Davidson, the new Lula Bell’s resource center occupies a repurposed portion of the same building.
Houston attended the dedication, despite failing health and eyesight, and heard the many kind words offered about her life and service to the college.
“I wish she was able to see everything and everyone,” said her daughter, Peggy Rivens, who spoke on behalf of the Houston family. “But we have explained it all to her. She is happy, and we are, too.”