History and Renovation
Starbucks® to campus
The Memorial Union Story
The history of the Memorial Union began October 17, 1939 at the annual homecoming. At that time interest was mainly represented by a faculty-alumni group, but student interest soon followed. However, plans for a building were shelved with the coming of World War II.
The Board of Regents was empowered by the legislature of 1941 to grant authority to the state college to establish student union fees to construct and operate a building. Early in 1944 Fort Hays State requested permission of the Board of Regents to collect student union fees, beginning the spring semester 1945. This permission was granted on June 4, 1944, and the fee established at $5 a semester and $2 a summer session.
During World War II the old Gymnasium-Woman’s Building was converted into a Social Building and served as a student center until the first unit of the Memorial Union was completed in 1958, nineteen years after the original proposal to build a Union.
When the first unit was completed, it was found to be inadequate for the needs of a student body that had experienced an unprecedented growth during the planning and construction period. To provide an addition to the building the union fees were increased to $7.50 a semester and $3.00 a summer session, beginning September 1,1960.
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on February 12, 1957, and the “moving-in” process was started early in the fall of 1958. The building was in complete use before Christmas of that year. Cody Commons, which during the years had passed through various transformations and additions, was again remodeled and incorporated in the new building, providing the food service center.
The students, faculty, alumni, and friends of the college gave much of their time, services and financial support to making the Memorial Union a reality. It was built at no cost to Kansas taxpayers. The fees collected for twelve years, contributions from individuals, and a loan from the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency made it possible to complete the first unit of the building, which cost $851,600.
An annex to the union was completed in the spring of 1970. The new annex provided a large recreation area in the basement. There was a 12-lane bowling alley, pocket billiards and snooker tables, table tennis, a snack bar and booths, a lounge with a capacity of 100 seats, and a bookstore in the lower level. The ground level contained a 120 seat theatre-television lounge and a large food service area. An art gallery, a large ballroom, and several new meeting rooms were located on the second floor.
Since 1970, changes in the Union included the move of the Student Health Center to the Union and University Bookstore remodeling in 1983-84, Cafeteria remodeling in 1992, the creation of Stouffer Lounge, and numerous minor remodeling projects utilizing the annual budget fund.
In the fall of 2003 a student referendum was initiated by the Student Government Association to increase student fees to fund a major renovation of Memorial Union. The referendum passed, and an additional student fee of $6.00 per credit hour was added to pay for the proposed $7.2 million renovation. The latest renovation, scheduled to begin in 2005, includes creating a new student organization office area; a new multi-purpose area in place of the bowling lanes for activities, events, dining, film, lectures, etc., an renovated food service area with a new food court; expanded student health center and bookstore facilities; a new two-story atrium entrance; upgraded mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems and improved technology capabilities throughout the building.
The FHSU Memorial Union is a campus community center and headquarters for campus life providing most facilities not found elsewhere. But it is much more than a building --- it provides an educational program of out-of-class activities designed to provide for the students’ personal, social, and cultural development, practice in leadership and management, and fullest enjoyment of leisure time hours. The building provides facilities for students, staff, faculty, alumni, friends, parents, and visitors. It is a living room at the center of the campus --- a laboratory in leadership, in democratic action, and in living.
The Memorial Union is the realization of a dream of students, staff, faculty members, and alumni. It stands as a memorial to the men of Fort Hays State who lost their lives in the defense of their country during two world wars and the Korean conflict. A dedication service was held on October 18, 1958, during homecoming activities. This statement is quoted from the program for that event:
This building is dedicated to the unfulfilled dreams of our young men who gave their lives in defense of freedom. We can only speculate what contribution they might have made to the world’s culture if war had not intervened, or what honor they might have brought as creative adults, to their families, their home communities, their college.
Instead, they fought bravely in wars not of their own making. They died in strange and distant lands where the rippling sheen of a Kansas wheat field was but a golden memory. The Memorial Union is dedicated today as a practical but permanent monument to the sacrifice these men have made.
In November 2005, construction began on the $8.5 million dollar Union renovation by Paul-Wertenberger Construction from Hays, KS. The Memorial Union remained opened in as many areas as possible during various renovation phases.
In 2007 the Memorial Union renovation was complete. A grand opening celebration activity was planned that Fall.
View the before and after photos!
Fall 2011 Starbucks comes to the Union!