Morehead Remade

While some schools focus on flashy amenities, Morehead State University renovates parking garages and updates dining areas. Richard T. Linio explains how doing the small things well is helping the Eastern Kentucky school thrive.

Photo: Carter Barnhart Architects

College guides once promoted academic programs and showcased modern laboratories, but today’s tours often highlight stadiums and fitness clubs.

In 2005, with universities competing to lure students with the best comforts, the University of Missouri spent nearly $40 million on a 293,000-square-foot recreation center complete with hot tubs, a lazy river, and a “high-powered vortex.” Around the same time, Eastern Kentucky’s Morehead State University (MSU) took a different approach. Morehead’s historic campus has seen ongoing renovations since its leaders approved a campus master plan in 2014. Since 2006, with competitors focused on climbing walls and infinity pools, MSU has spent about $50 million on residential spaces and roughly $8.5 million to upgrade Internet capabilities to match student needs.

“We have a solid master plan that gives us a critical road map based on what students are actually looking for,” says Richard T. Linio, assistant vice president, office of facilities management. “We invest our time, dollars, and resources to meet today’s students’ needs in their living and learning environments.”

In 2013, the university launched a $100 million, five-year capital improvement campaign. Linio’s department led efforts that have introduced several new spaces to the campus, including a new 525-bed residence hall named after MSU’s retiring president and his wife, Dr. Wayne D. and Sue Andrews, as well as two 24-bed apartments at the school’s Derrickson Agricultural Complex (DAC). These projects—along with a new parking garage and other updates—have rejuvenated student life.

“The sensible architecture fits in here, and we emphasized things that matter to students like robust Wi-Fi, multipurpose rooms for studying, and ample collaboration spaces,” Linio says.

Promoting Sustainability from Farm to Campus

As part of its numerous sustainability initiatives, Morehead State University’s (MSU) Farm to Campus program partners with Kentucky Proud and Aramark to supply campus dining facilities with high-quality fruits, vegetables, and beef. The program also works to find more local foods to serve MSU students and staff, expand the local food system, and enrich the experience of students in the university’s agricultural program.

From this initiative, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will partner with MSU and other Kentucky colleges and universities to help with their buy-local efforts. During the next few years, the department is set to target college campuses to put more shelf-stable Kentucky proud products in their bookstores and gift shops, as well as more farm-fresh Kentucky Proud products in cafeterias and food service systems.

At the DAC farm, students studying agriculture live in well-equipped units that overlook Morehead’s acreage. The apartments, which leased soon after completion, now have a waiting list.

With the initial projects complete and slow-but-steady growth in enrollment, Linio is dedicated to completing the long-term capital improvement project. Before the end of 2018, Morehead’s campus will see several new features, including an expanded pedestrian walk, a finished dining commons, and a remade University Center.


In the summer of 2017, Morehead State University began work to transform the heart of its campus from major thoroughfare to pedestrian oasis. Linio and his team accomplished the task by closing the center to vehicular traffic and rerouting cars around MSU’s perimeter.

The university is replacing spaces once occupied by stoplights and parking meters with a pedway, bike lanes, and a rain garden for stormwater management.

“We want the middle of our campus to be an inviting space, where students can gather and enjoy the outdoors as they go to and from class,” Linio explains.

Eagle Walk extends to a larger pedestrian plaza that is also part of the master plan. There, the university is developing more pedestrian-friendly gathering spaces to enhance ease of walking on the campus and access to amenities.



In 2016, work was completed on Phase I of the dining commons, which included work on the structure’s façade. Now in Phase II, workers will return to complete a full interior fit out of the highly trafficked and populated area.

 The concept is fresh food. Morehead State’s food service vendor, Aramark, will bring healthy options and introduce more variety as Linio’s team more than doubles seating capacity in the commons to 600. Wide, storefront-style windows pull in light from the outside while providing stunning views of the school’s new green spaces.

Linio split the project into two phases in order to speed completion and properly allocate resources to ensure on-time delivery of other facilities.

“We have a small and lean team, and there’s always a lot of work to do on a campus like ours,” he says.

Internal architects, construction professionals, and engineers also assist Linio to stay on top of his work, which at times, is voluminous. In addition to the capital improvement project, he oversees the day-to-day operations for a portfolio that tops 3.5 million square feet.


Linio’s largest, and perhaps most important project, is the renovation and expansion of Morehead State’s Adron Doran University Center.

In 2017 and 2018, crews will add 80,000 square feet to existing space, which includes expanded student programing lounges. The completed space will host five major fast food, coffee, and sandwich retailers, as well as a sports pub. Additionally, students will benefit from doubled meeting-room space, a 24-hour tech area, larger student programming zones, and other upgrades.

Those who have questions about financial aid, schedules, or other academic issues will have the chance to meet with university employees for assistance at an adjacent help center.

“Our goal is to give students the services they need. We want to provide great spaces that support their educational experience,” Linio says.


MSU opened in 1887 in the slopes of Daniel Boone National Forest. The famed Olmsted brothers designed its classic academic buildings. In 1948, MSU helped organize the Ohio Valley Conference before joining the NCAA in 1953. In 1999, MSU became Kentucky’s first school to offer a full online degree program. Ten years later, it started offering a degree in space science. In 2015, MSU opened its Innovation Launchpad in order to help entrepreneurs succeed.

Over that time, dedicated and loyal facilities professionals such as Linio (a 1977 MSU graduate) have worked to build the spaces that anchor students’ success.

“We’re always doing something, and the work is always for the students,” Linio says. “That’s the common thread that ties this campus together from the past to the present to the future.”


CMTA has partnered with Morehead State University for over two decades engineering facilities that help students from Eastern Kentucky and around the world major in their passions. These projects include everything from HVAC renovations to master planning to signature buildings like the state-of-the-art Space Science Center and the LEED Gold Campus Recreation Center.

CMTA serves our clients through MEP consulting engineering, performance contracting, Net Zero Engineering, technology, commissioning services, and renewable energy design.