Students and staff say farewell to Hecht

Hecht first opened its doors to students in 1968 and will soon be torn down to make way for Centennial Village, which is set to open in 2024.
Hecht first opened its doors to students in 1968 and will soon be torn down to make way for Centennial Village, which is set to open in 2024. Photo credit: Ajhada Gabriel

The catchy phrase, “Oh Yeah, Hecht Yeah,” Hecht Residential College’s famous chant, will soon be but a memory as students, staff and alumni say farewell to the iconic 12-story tower.

This semester is Hecht’s last semester at the University of Miami — ever. The tower pair that comprises the Pentland and McDonald towers will be bulldozed in preparation for its more modern successor, Centennial Village, which is set to open in 2024.

“I’ve been here almost two-thirds of the time of the towers, so I’m certainly sad, but what’s coming next is really exciting,” Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Whitely said.

Originally named the “1968 complex” when its doors first opened 54 years ago, Hecht was the first residential hall to be converted into a residential college, becoming the Honors College that only housed honors students at the time.

Stanford Residential College would arrive one year later in 1969 with its Rosborough and Walsh tower.

While the news of Centennial Village has been in circulation since 2019, many are still shocked that Hecht is the first tower to leave.

“Hecht has a near and dear place in my heart,” said Hecht resident assistant Juliette van Heerden, a senior studying microbiology and immunology. “I have made a lot of amazing friends, memories and developed myself as a better leader there.”

Whitely said pre-pandemic plans had Stanford coming down first, but the location of the Hecht-Stanford dining hall, which is connected to Stanford, made administration rethink the plan.

“We decided that it would be better to get a brand-new cafeteria up and running,” Whitely said. “And so, Hecht would be the place where the new cafeteria would be.”

Centennial Village will have five residential colleges and a new dining hall. Residential colleges one and two, along with the dining hall are set to open in August 2024, whereas three, four and five will open in August 2026

To staff and students, Hecht’s farewell is emotional. The reality of the Pentland and McDonald towers being gone forever evokes heartbreak. But excitement for Centennial Village is evident.

“The news is definitely bittersweet,” Van Heerden said. “And as a senior, I am losing something sentimental to me, but I know the university is doing it to move on to bigger and better things.”

The estimated $335 million residential college will offer 2,025 beds, including single and double rooms, centrally located private bathrooms, shared resident lounges, along with classrooms and other instructional space.

Christian Blakely, a freshman majoring in microbiology and immunology and health said while she is grateful to have lived in Hecht in its final year, she also yearns to be younger to experience Centennial Village.

“I am a bit sad about it going down,” Blakely said. “But I understand. I’m thankful I got to live in this historic building before it’s demolished. I am excited to see Centennial Village.

Senior Taylor Rose said she hopes that Centennial Village will honor Hecht in some way.

“Having lived here since my freshman year, part of my UM legacy and memories will be gone once the building is knocked down, ” Rose said. “I do hope to see the namesake of the building commemorated in some way within Centennial.”

UM alumnus Matt McCabe says he will always cherish his memories at Hecht but looks forward to Centennial Village.

“As a student I lived here for four years and was an RA for three of those years on MT 8,” said McCabe, who graduated in 2014 and is now an area director at UM. “Hecht was the best part of my college experience and it’s been a privilege supporting this building and the first-year residents who work here. My experience as an RA here even inspired me to pursue work in student affairs.”

“Being the area director, things have come full circle for me and it’s just been an honor,” McCabe said. “That being said, it is time for the building to retire and for us to create something new”

Raising a family on a university campus is as unique as it gets and Brian Arwari, senior residential faculty at Hecht and his family called it home for six years.

“Both my children, 6 and 3-years-old, are growing up here,” Arwari said. “This is where they learned to walk, talk and it’s all they’ve ever known.”

Reflecting on Hecht’s history, Arwari says he’s honored to be the last senior residential faculty.

“For decades the baton has been passed from one faculty to the next and I have the privilege of being the last one,” Arwari said. “Every year, when parents drop off their kids, I talk to dozens of people who tell me that this is where they lived when they came to UM. Most of them still remember their room numbers. There are decades of memories and thousands of lives contained among these walls.”

Arwari and his family are moving off campus and other live-in faculty will be relocated to Stanford.

Associate residential faculty Karoline Mortensen says she will miss everything about living in Hecht, from the students to the chants.

“I will miss my 850 first-year neighbors, the incredible residential life staff, the resident assistants and First-Year Fellows,” Mortensen said. “I will miss hearing ‘Hecht Yeah,’ ‘Power Tower’ and ‘Money Tower’ and the Hecht vibes. I love living steps away from the Wellness Center and the dining hall.”

In lieu of Hecht’s farewell, McCabe said Housing and Residential Life is having an honorary event named ‘Hecht’s Last Hurrah’ on Tuesday, April 26 at 8 p.m. inside of the Hecht tower.

“We will celebrate and honor Hecht one last time before the end of the year,” McCabe said.