March 2013 Cover
Volume 81 | Issue 2
March 2013

Union Spotlight: Texas A&M University, Memorial Student Center

Building Leaders, Living Traditions, a book about the Memorial Student Center’s history, states that the idea for the union building at Texas A&M University was put in writing for the first time in 1918. It was seen as a way to honor those who had given their lives during World War I. A renewed effort to build a union came in the 1930s as two graduating classes donated funds for its creation.

While World War II put a hold on plans, once the war concluded and veterans headed to campus, Texas A&M University finally decided it was time to build a union. Construction began on the Memorial Student Center in 1948, and the building opened in 1950.

“With its strong horizontal and vertical lines and its use of natural building materials such as locally quarried limestone, the original building reflected the architectural style of the mid-20th century,” said Luke Altendorf, director.

Through the years, increasing enrollments required additions to the building. A renovation completed in 2012 increased building size to more than 400,000 sq. ft.

Unique Features
The university is most proud that the Memorial Student Center is dedicated to those campus community members who died in war. Since the building is a memorial, all those who enter are asked to remove their hats; signs at each entrance say, “Hats Off, Please.” Additionally, the Hall of Honor displays plaques commemorating those who were lost during war and those who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Texas1

Students’ Role

The Memorial Student Center employs more than 80 students.

“Students assist with a variety of jobs such as event setup and security, hospitality and information, marketing and communications, reservations, and other administrative tasks,” Altendorf said.

Students also work on programming for the union. Sixteen committees provide “all of the union’s arts, cultural and educational exploration, and leadership and service programs,” Altendorf said.

Additionally, students were essential during the most recent renovation.

“Their work on the 2007 student referendum, which passed by a two-to-one margin, was key to the project’s success and sent a signal to potential donors that the renovation was a top priority for students,” Altendorf said.

But students did not stop there. They traveled across the state to meet with donors and served on oversight committees.

Student groups plan 200–300 programs annually. Flagship programs include the performing arts series, Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, Open House recruiting fair, Wiley Lecture Series, and movie night, among others.

Notable performers have included Danny Glover, Carol Burnett, Garrison Keillor, Blue Man Group, and Steve Martin.