College Inn was truly a unique place.
It was the rare residence hall that boasted a swimming pool. Its residents included sorority sisters and beauty pageant winners. It launched numerous friendships, hundreds of careers and at least one marriage.
College Inn will be demolished in January -- too expensive to maintain with its many needed repairs. But the memories will remain.
"We had a blast, and we still managed to get to class," says Donna Alley Veile ('85), who lived there with her sorority. "It was a great place to live and a great place to have a full college experience."
College Inn began as a luxury lodging complex for male students in 1964. An ad in the Campus Chat boasted its exclusive features, such as an oversized swimming pool with cabana, maid service, and a snooker and ping pong lounge.
Sororities used the building in the 1970s and 1980s. Beginning in 1987, what is now the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism used a portion of the building for the Club at College Inn, a restaurant managed by the students. When that restaurant moved to the Gateway Center in 2001, several departments at UNT used the administrative offices while students still resided there.
One of those students was James Fairchild ('99, '05 M.S.), who was a resident assistant there and is now director of housing at UNT. Not only did College Inn pave the way to his career, but he met his wife, Chandra Fairchild ('02, '05 M.Ed.), there.
"From a sentimental perspective, College Inn was where I spent a good time of my college life," Fairchild says. "It's definitely the uniqueness of that building that made it special in what we had to offer students."
The students also created their own special times.
College Inn was the home for nine sororities in the 1970s and 1980s -- back when there were not any sorority houses on campus. Veile lived there as a member of Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi). The chapter room was on the first floor and members lived on the third story.
The kitchenettes were "a really big deal," Veile says. "They were awarded by seniority. You could cook your own ramen there."
And there was the pool.
"The swimming pool had a lot of stories," Veile says. "So you have 270 girls living in all-girl housing. It attracted a lot of boys to the swimming pool. We had lots of fun swim parties."
The sororities played intramural sports and hosted Sing Song, in which a chapter would match up with a fraternity to put on a musical.
"The parking lot was really busy," Veile says. "Most nights, especially Friday and Saturday nights, it was kind of a cruising place. People checked parking lots to see who was at College Inn. There were a lot of pranks, too. Sometimes if the fraternities had a mixer, they'd serenade us from the parking lot."
Because of the sororities, College Inn included another unique population -- beauty pageant winners. In the 1970s, North Texas claimed two Miss America winners in Phyllis George and Shirley Cothran Barrett ('73, '74 M.Ed.), and the Miss Texas USA franchise had taken off. Resident Lisa Allred earned the Miss Texas USA title in 1983 and later Miss World, and Laura Shaw was crowned Miss Texas USA in 1984 – and both of whom belonged to Alpha Delta Pi.
Each June, agents from GuyRex Associates, which groomed beauty pageant contestants, would host a casting call at College Inn. The representatives would pick students -- who met the 5-feet-7-inch height requirement -- and give them contact information for the pageant representative in their city. The reps would buy the dresses and get the women ready for the Miss Texas pageant in September.
Times have changed since then, but College Inn seemed the same when 25 of the sorority sisters revisited their former home in April. The ADPi's walked the ramp, checked out the old Quick Pic Office and reminisced around the pool about old times and bid days.
"It was a blast," says Veile, who recently retired from AT&T as director of national accounts and contracting and traveled from Belleville, Illinois. "It's crazy how you form these relationships and everyone goes their separate ways and everyone has similar life cycle experiences."
ADPi Nanette Judd Monte ('85), a business computer information systems alumna who works as an IT project manager for the city of Fort Worth, roomed at College Inn in her junior year.
"It was a very sweet gathering," Monte says. "You could almost picture us in those years, going up and down the ramp and going to the chapter meetings – memories that I will always cherish."
For Allen Powell ('92), College Inn was the place that launched his career.
He was a nontraditional student who was pursuing a bachelor's degree in hospitality management. His job at the Club at College Inn was to unpack all the plates and glasses and wash and store them. He did it while raising two children with his wife and working at the Marriott Hotel in Irving.
He said he learned "everything, from being organized, guest service skills, working as a team and so much more."
As a teaching assistant, he taught Quantity Food Production and Management, where students created, cooked and served a luncheon to faculty and staff. Through the years, hundreds of students, including celebrity chef Blythe Beck ('01) and Smokey Joe's Bar-B-Que owner Brent Reaves ('99), have taken the class at College Inn, now under a different name and operating in the Club at Gateway Center.
Powell put his knowledge to work for large hotels, universities and food service operations.
"I have opened over 38 restaurants, and opening the Club at College Inn gave me the tools to be successful," says Powell, who taught at the University of Arkansas and Tarrant County College, where he won the Chancellor's Award for Exemplary Teaching. "It was a great honor, and it all started at the College Inn!"