Biola’s oldest residence hall is headed for retirement.

Emerson Hall, a campus landmark that has served as a home to hundreds of Biolans over the decades, will be officially retired from its duties as a dorm next spring, university leaders announced this semester.

With the opening of a large new residence hall at the north end of campus in the fall of 2015, Emerson will no longer be needed for student housing. Instead, the 55-year-old building will be renovated and transformed into much-needed office space for faculty and staff.

“Certainly, this news comes with some sadness,” Kevin Cram, Emerson’s resident director, wrote in a campus announcement in January. “Emerson has a long legacy of being a vibrant, unique and impactful community to those who have lived within it, as well as the greater Biola community.”

He continued: “Emerson’s retirement is the closing of a long chapter in Biola University’s history, yet is also an incredible opportunity to carry what we love about Emerson with us.”

As one of the original buildings on Biola’s La Mirada campus, Emerson has served residential students since the university’s relocation from downtown Los Angeles in 1959. When it first opened, the dorm was named Gamma Chi, Greek letters intended as shorthand for “Growing in Christ.” It was later renamed for Wallace Emerson, the founder of Biola’s undergraduate psychology program and the first president of Westmont College.

Originally a female-only building, Emerson today is perhaps best known for its distinction of being both the only all-male residence hall on campus and the only residence hall without air conditioning — a sometimes-unfortunate combination.

For many years, the building had a “twin sister” in the nearby Horton Hall, an all-female dorm that was torn down in 2005 for construction of a much larger replacement. Emerson, though, is quite literally irreplaceable; city regulations prohibit Biola from tearing down and constructing a new building in its place due to its closeness to the property line.

The building will continue to house students until the end of next school year, at which point they will have an opportunity to move to the new 160-room hall currently under construction next to Sigma residence hall. Emerson’s rooms will then be converted into faculty offices, a solution that will allow the university’s space to keep pace with the growth of both its student body and faculty.

Cram said Emerson’s final year will be “a year to savor and to celebrate.”

“Toward the end of the spring 2015 semester we plan to have an event to honor the Emerson community, past, present and future,” he wrote. “The campus community and Emerson alumni will be invited to this celebration, and we hope you will join us to say goodbye.”


Share Your Memories!

Former Emerson residents, what stands out from your days in the dorm? Which memories mean the most to you? Send your thoughts to and we may share them in an upcoming tribute.