Vignettes about Events & People


The construction of Renn Memorial Library began September 14, 1972.

Renn Memorial Library

The late Nell Renn, who was a well-known Arkansas City resident and a former Kansas legislator, set aside about $270,000 in her will for the construction of a library on the Cowley campus. Mrs. Renn specified that it would be named "Renn Memorial Library" in memory of her late husband, Oscar "Jack" Renn, one of the early instructors at the college and himself a Kansas legislator.


Ground was broken on the building on Sept. 14, 1972. When Oscar died, Nell was appointed to complete her husband’s term of office, after which she successfully represented the 50th District for two additional terms, 1951-1956. At the time, the gift was the largest private contribution in the history of the college.


Nell was born on Oct. 8, 1894, in Queen City, Mo. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in education in 1918. She pursued graduate work at KU and Columbia University, and taught history and government in high schools in Kansas, Montana and Arizona. After she married Oscar Renn in 1924, the couple settled in Arkansas City, which was to be their life-long home.


The following was written prior to the groundbreaking: "Renn Memorial Library is designed to be more than a building to house books and other printed materials. Utilizing a variety of media, the library will become the hub of learning for the entire college. In addition to storage and reading space for more than 30,000 volumes, latest provisions have been incorporated in the library design to make available microfilm, film strips, instructional slides, periodicals, newspapers, sound recordings and video tapes. Faculty, students, staff and members of the community will find that the new Renn Memorial Library will be aesthetically beautiful and academically functional."


The top level of the library is 8,122 square feet, while the lower level has 7,913 square feet. The original design of the reading area was to accommodate 160 people; 85 in the seminar room and 275 listed as "Other." The architectural lines and designs adopted in planning the building were to set a style that would be followed in all subsequent new structures as part of an overall Campus Master Plan. The new styling featured a low flat roof with three-foot concrete and asbestos cornices, a pattern created in Belgium. Another characteristic was curved lines at the base of the walls and columns.


Total cost of the project was $562,068. As part of the Master Plan, the Board of Trustees arranged with the city of Arkansas City to close Fifth Avenue at the intersection of Third Street. Then, by acquiring sufficient land on both sides, trustees were able to let a contract for constructing a much-needed library. Coon Construction of Winfield offered the lowest bid and was awarded the general construction contract. On completion of the facility, the cost of the furnishings and equipment came to $30,000.


A dedication ceremony was held on April 16, 1974. Headlining the services were addresses by U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and Gov. Robert Docking of Arkansas City. Audra Stark, who had been a long-time friend of the Renn family, made the formal presentation. Today, Renn Memorial Library houses two of the college’s grant programs: IMPACT and Upward Bound. Also located there are the Learning Skills Lab and the English as a Second Language and GED programs.

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