The $19 million renovation of Memorial Union came to a close this month, and the completion was celebrated over the weekend.
Dave Hendricks, director of MU, said the project would have been impossible without students agreeing to an increase in fees, which paid for most of the renovation.
“I would like to thank the students, both past and present, who trusted us enough to vote for an increase in fees, most of them knowing that they were paying for a building that they themselves would not get to use as current students but understood that it was an investment in Emporia State University,” Hendricks said during the rededication ceremony on Saturday. “I hope you are pleased with the final product.”
Hendricks said the union was originally conceived as a memorial to the students and alumni who fought and died in World War I. Later, plaques were erected in memory of students who had fought in other wars, including the Spanish-American War. The union is the 15th oldest student union building in the world, the eighth oldest in North America, and the first built west of the Mississippi River. The original building was opened on Founder’s Day in 1925.
“We had students who made a visionary decision to build a union back in the 20s,” said Josh Kruger, former ASG president. “We have students who committed themselves to a fee increase that was $125 a semester at a time when tuition was (also) increasing. We need to ask ourselves, ‘Will we be able to act as visionaries by the students who will come after us?’ So please, help me make that a reality and be remembered as a visionary for (ESU).”
In 1999, the Board of Directors approved a plan to hire an architect, but the renovation was not started until 2007, due to issues with funding. In addition to student fees, a campaign was started to raise money from alumni and friends of ESU to pay for the renovation costs.
“The vision and determination of university administration, students and alumni for the past four years has brought us to this point and this incredible building that surrounds us,” said Randy Steiner, co-chair for the campaign.
At the ceremony, President Michael Shonrock thanked the students and alumni for attending.
“I began my humble career in student union and student activities,” Shonrock said. “And so, I know how important the living room of a university is to our faculty, staff and especially our students.”
The Masonic Lodge of Emporia conducted a traditional dedication ceremony. Part of the ceremony involved mixing three items in a bowl – grain, which represented the dependence of mankind on God; wine, a symbol of renewing and refreshing; and oil, a symbol of healing and peace.
Associated Student Government presented two new plaques for the MU lobby commemorating the students and alumni who fought and died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.