Looking Back: The Fires at Defiance College

By Kevin Dillinger

With the fire at McReynolds Hall still hot in the news it seems fit to remember the fires that Defiance College has endured in the past. While the fire in McReynolds Hall is being ruled as arson is a cause for concern, it is important to remember that the fire was relatively minor and confined to the stairwell. The same is not true for many of the fires in the past. Defiance College has had fires in nearly every one of its buildings, including all of its older buildings; the only building that has not been engulfed with flames is Tenser Hall.

Fires on campus date clear back to November 1960 with Weston Hall, a classroom building, burning down. This was followed by fires in Defiance Hall, Sisson Hall, Ender’s Student Union, Kamaj, Rowe, and Shaumburg Auditorium.


Sisson Hall was one of the more destructive fires. After the flames had been extinguished only a shell was left of the former residence hall. According to the Defender Article published at the time, “the building was gutted by the fire, with only four exterior walls standing.” Students lost many of their belongings in the fire, and temporary residence had to be secured until a new building could be erected.


Only five years after Weston Hall caught fire, Defiance Hall followed suit. The building was demolished by flames that burnt through its ceiling. After the fire the building was reconstructed into the building that students visit on campus today.


The fire in Ender’s Hall, the former student union building, is another notable fire because it cleared the way for the Serrick Center to be built. The fire was relatively recent, occurring in July of 1997. After the fire the entire top floor of Ender’s Hall was destroyed. It was only with significant work did the college community manage to get the cafeteria up and running for the following semester. Serrick Center was built in its place and opened in 1999, fully replacing the old Hall.


While many buildings have been burnt down fully or partially on Defiance’s Campus, their memories remain. These memories contain the perseverance of the faculty who endured in order to educate and the students who continued to relentlessly pursue their education despite the fires. Defiance College continues to grow stronger and prouder despite the many fires it has had, each peril only serving to spur on the motivation of both the students and the faculty members.


While hopefully there are no fires in the future, it is this writer’s belief that if there is Defiance College will continue to defy the odds and rebuild taller and stronger.

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