As facilities manager, Watts played a critical role in the renovation of Cunz Hall and bringing faculty and staff under one roof.
The moment the ribbon was cut and the doors opened is the one that stands out the most to Renée Watts. It was October 2011 and the newly-renovated Cunz Hall became the new home of the College of Public Health. The three years of blood, sweat and tears that Watts put into the renovation had come to fruition, and it was time for her—and the college—to start a new chapter.
At the end of this month, Watts will start a new chapter of her own when she retires after serving the college for 17 years.
Watts said that after so many years as the facilities manager of the college, she could almost speak to the building that she invested so much of her time in – immediately sensing when something was wrong.
“I’ve been so particular about this building, down to the type of tape I want people to use on the walls,” Watts said. “If I could speak to the building, I would say ‘I hope someone takes care of you when I’m gone.’”
While the renovation stands out, Watts managed countless other projects involving construction, office relocations, furniture, fixtures and equipment. She was originally hired as coordinator for the Master of Health Administration program and went on to be the administrator for the Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (Center for HOPES). She became the facilities manager when the college acquired Cunz Hall and needed someone to manage the renovation.
“Renée has played such an important role at the college for such a long time,” said Ann Florentine, assistant dean for finance and administration at the college. “We wouldn’t be where we are, physically, without her efforts. Taking care of Cunz Hall has been very personal for Renée and she will truly be missed.”
The three-year renovation officially started in November 2009. Watts said it was first proposed as a way to foster community and build a more “cohesive group.”
“We needed space. We were just scattered all over the place,” Watts said. “So, we made the proposal for funding for a building.”
Cunz Hall originally opened its doors in 1969 and functioned as the Hall of Languages. Watts said after the former occupants moved to Haggerty Hall, the college was granted the building to renovate and make it its new home.
Watts said that the transformation of Cunz Hall from a “really ugly building that looked like a waffle” began with a large feasibility study from 2005 to 2006 to prepare for the renovation of the building. Her team took inspiration from these renderings when preparing the finalized project design, layout and pricing for the building. It was completed in 2011, ready for the College of Public Health team to make themselves at home.
“I was just happy that it was finally done,” Watts said. “It consumed me for three years. It offered me such a sense of relief to be done. Every project I’ve done has been on budget and on time. That I’m pretty proud of.”
During her retirement, she plans to travel, complete projects around her house and continue to work on a four-year project at her community garden supporting purple martins, the largest North American swallow.
“I’ve seen a lot of transition and I’ve had some good memories at CPH,” Watts said. “I’ll be very satisfied when walking out of Cunz for the last time. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and lots of successes. The building is pretty awesome, but it’s mostly the people and friendships I’m going to miss.”