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A sentimental send-off for a dowdy old friend

Galvez House, that low-slung "Southwestern motel" on Galvez Street outfitted with cast-off furniture from San Francisco law firms, may have earned low scores in the last evaluation of campus buildings, but its occupants gave it a warm and sentimental sendoff on Friday, Sept. 11.

The home since 1976 to Stanford's Help Center and since 1979 to the Center for International Security and Arms Control (CISAC), Galvez House will be torn down this fall, along with the Band Shak next door to make room for a new Alumni Center next to Frost Amphitheater. The center, approved in concept by the Board of Trustees last spring, will house the newly combined Office of Development and Alumni Association with conference rooms for alumni events on the first floor.

By mid-October, the current occupants of Galvez House will move to newer digs in Encina Hall and Encina Commons. CISAC, which is also changing its name to the Center for International Security and Cooperation, will move temporarily to the fourth floor of Encina Hall while renovation continues in portions of that building. The Help Center, which provides educational programs and personal counseling to employees and their families, will move into a suite of rooms in the Commons.

More than 100 past and current occupants of Galvez House attended the farewell party in its interior courtyard to reminisce about past weekly wine-and-cheese parties and interesting guests. The guests have included scientists, generals and government ministers from countries that were official enemies of each other. A favorite of many was Andrei Sakharov, who visited in 1989, while some remembered Russia's new prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, as a rather "querulous" visitor in 1988.

Many of those bidding farewell to the building said they did not object to having newer, more spacious quarters soon, but they cautioned one another to take the spirit of Galvez with them.

Physicist Sidney Drell, a former co-director of CISAC, who claimed he was "not the nostalgic type," nevertheless warned the others: "I've known several very wonderful theoretical physics programs at other universities that became so terrifically interactive that they were rewarded with fancy new quarters. That was the last they were ever heard of, so don't change the spirit of this place."

Provost Condoleezza Rice, who started her Stanford career in Galvez House, seconded his warning and spoke of her experience as one of four "fellowettes," the nickname given to the first female fellows at the center in 1980. "People like Nancy Okimoto and Gerry Bowman really took care of us, everything from making sure we had places to live to making sure we had places to celebrate holidays," Rice said. "They were really our family and that's what this place is really about. A lot of very important work was done here, a lot of dissertations, including my own, were finished here . . . , but mostly this is the place that cared not just about the intellectual development of young people but also about their personal development."

Carol Zimbelman, a psychotherapist with the Help Center, said she and her coworkers also felt charmed by the atmosphere of Galvez House. "There is something very comfortable and charming about this building," she said, adding that some of the atmosphere was the result of having neighbors who willingly shared their conference room and copy machines. Pressed to identify the attributes of the building itself, Zimbelman and others said its small scale and homely appearance tended to encourage people to engage each other.

Built as a dormitory for the university's janitorial workers in 1935, the building reminded some of a "Southwestern motel," said Andrew Kuchins, a CISAC research associate. It has several wings of small rooms that encourage bumping into others and engaging in conversations without regard to hierarchies, said CISAC administrative associate Barbara Platt, a relative newcomer.

The friendliness is not just the smiling kind, according to Drell, who said it was one of the few places in the country where political scientists, ethicists and physical scientists like himself "shouted at each other," instead of ignoring each other's specialized knowledge about the risks of nuclear war and other types of international violence.

Bowman, an administrative associate who retired several years ago, suggested that the practice of everyone working and playing together may have developed from the center's relative poverty at first. Cast out of temporary quarters in the political science department in 1979, the young program in international security and arms control begged used furniture from San Francisco law firms and had annual clean-up days when everyone washed and scrubbed because they could not afford to hire it done.

"The building is kind of hidden away and private, which is very important to our center," the Help Center's Zimbelman said. "We offer up to 10 free, private counseling sessions to employees of the university, the hospital, SLAC and their children and spouses or domestic partners," she said. People come with problems related to their workplace but even more to discuss personal relationships, she said, and may not want others to know they are seeking help. The center's new location in Encina Commons should offer similar privacy in somewhat larger counseling rooms, she said.

In earlier periods, Galvez House served as a dormitory, first for the employees of the American Building Maintenance Co., who provided the university's janitorial service, according to Karen Bartholomew, a member of the Stanford Historical Society who is writing a book on university place names. Purchased by the university in 1959 for offices, she said that "in 1962 it was again used as a dormitory, this time for 25 male employees of the hospital and food services." Renovated in the 1970s, it also has been used by other university units, including the Sponsored Projects Office and the Asia/Pacific Research Center.

In a 1986 evaluation of campus buildings, Galvez House scored low, Kuchins said. Its highest rating on a 4-point scale was a 2 for age, and it barely beat out the Band Shak for aesthetic quality, scoring 1.7 to the shack's 1.3.


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