Omeka - Digital History at Ursinus

The College Union--More than a building

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The College Union--More than a building


Ursinus' past decade has brought continual improvements in the curriculum, in student life, and in the physical structure of the College. Few innovations were as eagerly anticipated by the student body as the addition of the Ursinus College Union, which was to serve as a centralized source for extracurricular campus activities. Many alumni--whose echoes of "there's nothing to do in Collegeville" reverberated--viewed the Union as a catalyst needed to improve campus leisure activities. The Union, now beginning its seventh year, has realized its potential to improve the social atmosphere at the College; the Union's present role is much wider than that originally projected.

Before viewing the Union today, we might first reflect on its origins. Most alumni attended Ursinus when there was no Union, when social activities were organized by a number of campus groups, and when areas for informal get-togethers were limited to dorm lounges. The need for a College Union was eventually recognized, and plans made for its establishment. In 1969, as Myrin Library was rising above the ruins of Freeland, my classmates detoured around picket fences blocking the construction site and tracked clay-colored dust and mud into classrooms and dorms. Eventually we carried stacks of books from the Old into the New Library and then helped lay plans for the conversion of the Alumni Memorial Library into the edifice which would house the Union. We then graduated before the Union, which we nurtured in its embryonic stage, became a functioning unit of the College.

As a member of one of the last pre-Union classes, I have found it particularly rewarding to visit the Union regularly and to sit on its Governing Board as the alumni representative, in order to see first-hand the Union's contributions to College life. The physical transformation of our library into the Union is impressive: the interior has been completely renovated to include a gameroom in the basement, numerous meeting rooms, and a modern snack bar. The ambiance of the immense main lounge is to be enhanced by a mural designed by Mr. Xaras of the Art Department. The Union is warmly decorated for the holidays and is always a friendly spot where students can relax and socialize.

Dr. Herman Wessel, the Union's first director, viewed management of the Union's programs as essentially a student responsibility to be overseen by the Union Governing Board. His successor, Associate Dean of Students Leslie S. March, '68, has successfully continued to delegate significant responsibility to the students on the Board. Mr. Charles Fegely, the union program board adviser, and Dr. David Phillips, assistant professor of biology, assist with supervision of the Union in the evenings and on weekends. At monthly meetings of the Governing Board, project proposals are thoroughly reviewed by the students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni and the Chancellor (Dr. Helfferich), who represent the entire College Community. Programs are funded by the activity fee paid by every Ursinus student; any annual surplus is applied toward a general scholarship fund.

Over the years, the student leaders have served the Union with distinction; they have proven themselves consistently to be mature and capable individuals, dedicated to the tasks of continually improving the Union's successful programs and of introducing new functions which appeal to varying student needs and interests. The students monitor a rather sizeable budget, are involved in negotiating fees for concert artists, attend to the morass of details generated when complicated programs are scheduled, seek out new ideas by maintaining close contact with their peers and with leaders of other College Unions. In every succeeding year, the newly-elected student leaders have profited from the experiences of their predecessors so that Union programs improve continually.

In addition to the major concerts, movies, dances, and coffeehouses sponsored by the Union, a number of new Ursinus traditions are being established. Every fall, the Union sponsors a Record Breaker such as the world's largest puzzle, which once assembled on the football field, bodly announced "the Union does it again!" During the annual Casino Night, the Union is transformed into Atlantic City West and Roaring 20s costumed are worn y participants in the floor show. The spring Fun Run raises money for charity. During Superstars Week, student teams engage in a series of athletic endeavors, culminating in an ice cream eating contest. The College Bowl, an academic intercollegiate competition previously unknown to Ursinus' current student body, has been reinstituted, and mini-courses, sometimes conducted by faculty, administrators, or members of the community, acquaint participants with such varied subjects as woodcarving, winemaking and bridge.

Some Union programs provide the opportunity for informal interaction among different groups within the College Community. Members of the Board representing different constituencies have successfully involved all branches of the Ursinus family in the Union's activities. At an annual fall buffet, student leaders and faculty advisors informally discuss upcoming plans for student organizations. Students, faculty, and administrators prepare gourmet dishes with a foreign flair for the International Dessert Festival, attended by all who enjoy good eating. Meeting rooms provide a pleasant setting for student-faculty discussions. In honor of the Union's fifth anniversary, alumni who worked in the Union were invited back to attend a buffet and birthday celebration.

Alumni from classes before 1972 may reflect on aspects of Ursinus' social life before the Union became a reality--when "Casino Night" was a friendly game of blackjack, when the "International Buffet" consisted of Japanese sardines and Spanish olives purchased at the local market, when the most popular mini-course was conducted by the juniors who gave sophomores tips for preparing for Organic Chemistry pop hourlys, and when the year's most popular concert may have been an impromptu sing-along in the dorm. Traditions such as these (and others unmentioned) still abound and will never be supplanted by Union programs. What the Union has offered to the student body is a wider variety of well-planned activities than those which most alumni could enjoy during their days in Collegeville.

Those of us who initially viewed the Union solely as a center for social life at the College were somewhat mistaken, although judging by the number of well-received programs there can be no doubt of the Union's positive effect on the social atmosphere on the campus. Not to be overlooked, however, are the other important manners in which the Union has enhanced the Ursinus experience for so many of its future alumni. Each year, about forty students help to finance their own educations through employment in the Union. A number of students acquire valuable skills in leadership and management through their experience in program and budget planning, and some have even looked toward careers as union directors. The Union provides one successful form for productive interaction among all segments of the Ursinus Community. It also serves to help better the campus community spirit and to help students grow as well-rounded individuals. In all of these ways, the College Union has contributed significantly to that portion of the Ursinus Experience which extends beyond the classroom.

[Karen Jogan Loux, '70, is chairman of the Alumni-Undergraduate Relations Committee and serves as alumni representative on the Governing Board of the College Union. Dr. Loux is head of the Spanish division at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.]


Dr. Karen Jogan Loux, '70


Ursinus College Bulletin: The Ursinus Magazine, Vols. 73-77, 1975-79.
Summer 1979, pg. 6-7


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Dr. Karen Jogan Loux, '70, “The College Union--More than a building,” Omeka - Digital History at Ursinus, accessed March 5, 2024,