305 College Avenue
The LaFave House serves as a special gathering place for University and community functions. The home-like atmosphere provides a warm welcome to friends of the University— students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, community leaders as well as dignitaries from around the world. The LaFave House is located at 305 College Avenue, adjacent to the University of Minnesota, Morris.
LaFave House History
The comfortable, brick and white ranch-styled house just down the street from the main
University of Minnesota, Morris entrance belies the intensity and commitment of the
men and women who employed the Edward and Patricia Paul LaFave home as one of
their West Central Educational Development Association (WCEDA) gathering sites.
Here, and in WCEDA members’ homes, local cafes, and gathering spots throughout the
community, the WCEDA, a grassroots group of area citizens, met to plan their lobbying
efforts, to entertain influential guests, and to dream about a four-year campus in Morris,
Minnesota. They imagined a unique University of Minnesota campus, a public liberal
arts college, affordable and accessible. They pooled their talents, time, and resources to
make the dream a reality, developed a convincing case for west central Minnesota’s
access to higher education, and then tirelessly shared their proposal with the
community, region, public officials, legislators, and regents.
In fall 1960, the efforts of those first visionaries were realized in the establishment of
the University of Minnesota, Morris. WCEDA then concentrated on getting UMM off to a
good start. A fund drive raised more than 43 percent of UMM’s first-year operating
costs. Community members went door-to-door selling light bulbs. Boy Scouts sold
holiday wreaths. Businesses generously donated to the cause. Donors called in on
Clifford Hedberg’s local radio show. He’d ring a cowbell on air when a new pledge was
received. These community gifts started UMM’s library, established a counseling
program, and purchased equipment and supplies.
Throughout UMM’s history, WCEDA has been a stable presence. During the 1980s budget
crisis, 22 regional supporters joined the Presidents Club Giving Society, pledging
$10,000 each to UMM. The dollars were much needed, but the gifts themselves were
invaluable in the message they sent to the University and to the legislature. In the late
1990s, WCEDA’s well-honed lobbying skills influenced the legislature’s decision to fund
the Morris Science Project and Regional Fitness Center.
In 1999, after a lifetime of campus involvement and in the midst of their retirement
years, Ed and Patty, active members of WCEDA and loyal UMM supporters, donated
their home at 305 College Avenue to the University of Minnesota, Morris. Their gift has
become a symbol of an important time in our campus history. Like the Multi-Ethnic
Student Program building constructed during the American Indian Boarding School
years, like the beautiful “Prairie School” structures constructed during the West Central
School of Agriculture years, LaFave House is a remembrance of our campus heritage. It
reminds us of a dedicated group of regional citizens whose tireless efforts in the late
1950s resulted in the Morris campus of the University of Minnesota.
After LaFave House was gifted to UMM, Chancellor Sam Schuman appointed a task force
of faculty, staff, alumni and Morris residents to research possible uses for the home.
Their extensive work included open forums, visiting other campuses and numerous
conversations with University of Minnesota and City of Morris officials. It was
determined early in the discussion that the neighborhood in which LaFave House is
located was not in favor of the facility becoming an office building. University Facilities
Management personnel confirmed that the building was not suitable for offices, both in
terms of cost and structure.
After considerable contemplation, the task force presented a recommendation to
Chancellor Schuman that was greeted with approval by the campus. LaFave House would
serve as UMM’s “hospitality center.” The facility is available to faculty, staff, alumni,
students, and the community for dinners, small group gatherings, and receptions.
LaFave House will be, as stated by Chancellor Schuman, “a gracious social center for
special events and gatherings for UMM and the community.”
The 2,650 square feet LaFave House, constructed in 1958, was prepared for its new
campus role during the summer of 2001. On the occasion of Sam Schuman’s appointment
as Morris chancellor, Mark Yudof, former University of Minnesota, Morris president,
earmarked a special onetime allocation of $210,000 specifically for renovation of LaFave
House. These dollars were used to satisfy University building codes, to provide
handicapped accessibility, and to redecorate for the facility’s new purpose.
In addition, three other projects were completed. The heating system was replaced under
an energy conservation payback program. The cost of improving the heating system
should pay for itself within three years. UMM Facilities Management removed the
underground fuel oil tank to limit future environmental liabilities. Finally, the roof was
repaired using funds budgeted as a repair and replacement maintenance item.
Ongoing maintenance and upkeep of LaFave House are supported in part by rental
charges, although modest, and Friends of LaFave House. Membership dues for this
organization are designated to LaFave House. Members volunteer their time and talents
to the facility’s preservation and beauty.
The history of the University of Minnesota, Morris and the history of the Morris
community intertwined over 40 years ago. Throughout the years, the relationship has
flourished. LaFave House honors the partnership and the heritage shared between
campus and community.