Denis Harris, a 1968 Ball State alumnus, walked through the doors of Williams Hall in Noyer Complex Oct. 22 with a look of both astonishment and nostalgia. 

“Oh wow, this has really changed,” Harris said. "This has changed so much — my word."

Harris, who had lived in Williams Hall from 1964 to 1968, had been back to the university before, but never to revisit his "old home." With Ball State's 2016 Homecoming, however, Harris teamed with his friend, 1969 alumnus Dan Molinaro, to bring a group of their friends and former Noyer residents back to Muncie. The goal, Harris said, was to bring the men together one more time before it was "too late."

Williams Hall alumni reunion on Oct. 22:

Bob Baker: '69

Russ Bridenbaugh: '68

Mike Crouch: '68

Larry Gregorash: '68

Denis Harris: '68

Don McDaniel: '68

Dan Molinaro: '68

Mike Patrick: '67

Jim Shabi: '70

Don Watson: '67

Williams Hall alumni reunion on Oct. 22:

Bob Baker: '69

Russ Bridenbaugh: '68

Mike Crouch: '68

Larry Gregorash: '68

Denis Harris: '68

Don McDaniel: '68

Dan Molinaro: '68

Mike Patrick: '67

Jim Shabi: '70

Don Watson: '67

"We're back. The Williams Hall guys are back and ready to see the place," Harris said. "And they're all excited — really excited."

It had been nearly 50 years since the former tenants had seen one another. But despite the decades apart, 10 men — many of whom roomed together in Williams Hall at one point or another — were all back in the same place they had met at the age of 18. 

Some were quiet at first entrance. Others, however, were quick to notice changes.

"It's all turned around now," Russ Bridenbaugh, a 1968 alumnus said. "It looks good, but it's very different."

Noyer Complex underwent its most recent round of renovations in 1996. But long before the residence hall underwent anything major, Bridenbaugh said he could remember when residents in the building were first getting "the basics," including color televisions and ice machines.

"We had asked the university if we could have an ice machine in the hall, but they weren't really keen on that idea," Bridenbaugh said. "So we decided we would raise the funds on our own, and by golly, we did."

By selling bags of popcorn straight from the farm of Indiana's own Orville Redenbacher, Bridenbaugh said residents were able to raise enough money to buy the ice maker, even installing it themselves in the residence hall.

"We were very active. In a way, it was like a fraternity without all the rituals," Bridenbaugh said. "Everyone was very enthusiastic about change, and it was very unique time to be in college."

As a part of their visit, the returning alumni were invited to tour the residence hall, visiting their old rooms and recalling memories of their days in Williams Hall along the way.

“Oh my gosh, they have indoor plumbing in these places now,” Molinaro said as he walked into one of Noyer's current rooms. "And they can go eat whenever they want now, that's so much nicer — maybe it's because the kids are nicer now. I remember one time I stuffed a guy's mailbox in this place with keys because I didn't like him too much. When he opened his mailbox, he got showered in room keys — and one of them were his. We did some crazy things back then."

In the minutes following the tour's commencement, the other men were quick to share memories from their college days in the hall, too.

"Hey — do you remember when we stuffed the RA's room with newspapers?" Larry Gregorash, another 1968 alumnus said. "They couldn't even open their door it was so full of crumpled paper."

"If I recall, you weren't truly a college student at Ball State, though, until you snuck out after hours and kissed your girl under Benny's wings," Molinaro said.

But their college years weren't all fun and games, Gregorash said. While at Ball State, three of the Williams Hall "brothers" — Gregorash, Harris and 1969 alumnus Bob Baker — were in the ROTC program. After graduating, the men served a combined total of over five decades in the Armed Forces, also making their way to Vietnam during their time in the military.

Five members of the Williams Hall “crew" have also since died, Harris said.

But a memory the men were able to share before parting ways brought smiles and laughs to them all. 

"We made this softball team a while back," Molinaro said. "We called it the 'Williams Psychos,' and man were we good. We even had them selling shirts with our names on them in the bookstore."

The team, named jokingly after a friend in Williams Hall, held practice each week in a practice field (now home to the Whitinger Business Building) and went on to win campus-wide softball championships.

"When we were here, there was always a game going on," Harris said. "It was 'the thing' for us back then, very unique. I know all these guys can look back on those games and share some funny memories."

Although Harris said he doubts all of the men will ever be back together again, Molinaro said the "special reunion" in Williams Hall is something he'll always cherish and he knows the others will feel the same way, too.

"When we left school, I thought we were friends for life, and I still feel that way now," Molinaro said. "We all feel like we've never been apart."