by Lindsay Beller
Staff Writer, Lake Forester
In a recent dream, Leslie Bertholdt stood in her yard watching the stars when an airplane flying overhead exploded and destroyed her neighborhood.Bertholdt, director of the college office at Barat College of DePaul University, believed the dream represented her anxiety over the school's imminent closure and her feelings that her community will soon be destroyed."That's the emotional level," said Bertholdt, a Lake Bluff resident and 11-year employee who is looking for a new job.
"There's a lot of anxiety."With less than a month left until the doors close for good on June 30, Barat College faculty, staff and students are preparing to say their final good-byes to the 101-year-old institution.The school will hold a centennial celebration on Saturday for students, faculty, staff and alumni where 1,000 copies of a Barat oral history will be distributed on DVD. Commencement is scheduled for June 11, where approximately 150 students will receive their degrees and Silvia Nasar, former Newsweek reporter and author of "A Beautiful Mind," will serve as the keynote speaker.
The emotions leading up to these events are "a mixed bag," said Jessica Horowitz, assistant dean of academic affairs."There is a deep sadness and some melancholy and some pretty low energy," she said. "I think people are trying to get up for the events, but it's difficult."Associate Dean Eugene Beiriger said the upcoming commencement will be "bittersweet.""On one hand, there is a clear understanding of what commencement means," he said. "On the other hand, there is a sense of accomplishment on the year."He credited staff and students with how they handled themselves during the transition."There is a sense of remarkable resilience," Beiriger said. "There's a strength that comes from having gone through this year. Everyone who dedicated themselves to getting the job done and the job done well deserves a lot of praise.
"DePaul University announced plans to close the school in February 2004, three years after the two schools merged, because of low enrollment and high costs associated with upgrading the facilities."We've been living with the closure for over a year," Horowitz said. "It's almost more painful to have so much time. Once April hit, the finality is really looming, and it's been really difficult for the people involved."A majority of faculty will continue to work at another DePaul campus, while about 20 staff members will receive severance packages, said Denise Mattson, a DePaul spokeswoman.
In March DePaul announced an agreement with the Dallas-based American College of Education to buy the assets of Barat College, but the 23-acre property remains for sale. The school will stay closed until a buyer is identified."It will be vacant and have security but no academic activity or other activities as we continue to consider potential offers," Mattson said.Pat Melchi, a graduating senior and Waukegan resident, is sad to see the school close without knowing what the next generation of life will be in the historic buildings on campus.
"It's the end of an era," she said.
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