NINETY YEARS OF
NINETY YEARS OF
A MEMBERSHIP ORGANIZATION
On November 5, 1921, a fundraising campaign for Memorial Union began with a parade down State Street. One of every two students pledged $50 to help build the Union and each received a lifetime membership. From the beginning, students have had—and continue to have—a majority voice in the organization.
CAMPUS GETS A LIVING ROOM
When Memorial Union opened on October 5, 1928, it immediately became the social center of campus, transforming the University from a house of learning into a home of learning.
PROGRESSIVE SOCIAL VALUES
Social values are expressed through programs and amenities at Memorial Union. From women in leadership roles, to making art accessible to everyone, to being the first college union to serve beer, the 1930s proved that the Union is not only a valuable educational workshop but a progressive entity that adapts with societal ideals. Ninety years later, this commitment to social values and service still holds true.
PUBLIC WORKS OF ART
The Paul Bunyan murals were painted by James Watrous from 1933-36. Funding for six months of the project came from the Public Works of Art Project, part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
WISCONSIN UNION THEATER
The Wisconsin Union Theater opened in 1939 and draws actors, dancers, musicians, political leaders, scientists and thought leaders—a vibrant kaleidoscope of arts, politics, public discussions and more to its stage.
A UNITED COMMUNITY
During World War II, the Union was a place for service men and women to socialize, eat and prepare for the line of duty. After the war, it was a place where young military families created a sense of community.
WOMEN AS LEADERS
With 3.6 women for every man on campus, women played an important role at the Union during World War II. Carolyn Hall became the Union’s first woman president in 1943-44.
WOMEN LEAD THE ARTS
Women have always held leadership positions at the Union. Fan Taylor was the Wisconsin Union Theater’s publicist from 1939-42 and served as the director from 1946-66. The Union Craft Shop, now Wheelhouse Studios, was created by Sally Owen (Marshall) in 1930.
DINING AT THE UNION
With increasing enrollment on campus, Memorial Union’s dining units were stretched to make adjustments to keep up with the changing times and tastes. In 1956-57 the kitchens were renovated and expanded and a new cafeteria with lakefront views was built. Designed to bring the outside in, this dining room has been a favorite gathering place for students and faculty.
“Any good college union needs a central organizing space that is the place that people immediately think of to go hang out. If you want to meet a friend, you meet them in Der Rathskeller. It’s a place where people come together.”
THE LIVING ROOM OF THE UNIVERSITY
“Students, faculty and alumni come together to dine, play and take part in a lawn social. These are the memorable times, lingering with friends.”
PROTESTS AND LEADERS’ VOICES
Civil disobedience was a common phrase in the 1960s and students on campus embraced it as a way to effect societal change. The student leaders in the Wisconsin Union Directorate committees created programming and a platform for rational discussion and debate about current issues.
OUTDOOR RECREATION AND LEISURE
Swimming and sailing has been a favorite pastime on Lake Mendota. The Wisconsin Hoofers clubs offered a wide array of recreational activities to help students and community members enjoy the outdoors in all seasons. Lake Mendota is a gateway for students to explore and experience something new—getting them hooked on recreation both at the Union and beyond.
Mark Guthier, current Union Director, and Ted Crabb, past Union Director, get together to discuss the origin and evolution of Winter Carnival at the Wisconsin Union.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS ON THE TERRACE
After the 1987 Terrace renovation, Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Music and Film Committees began consistently programming music and movies on the Terrace in the summer, providing a place where both the campus community and members of the Madison community could come together to enjoy the views, the weather and the music.
A STUDENT-LED UNION
“Programming changes from year to year because the students change; they drive the Union and put together the best series of programs and events they can for the student body. It’s all done through a student leadership model and not through a staff-driven model.”
THE MAGIC OF THE TERRACE
“The chairs coming out represents that spring is here and summer is on its way. We are central to how the University says, ‘Welcome! You belong here.’ The Terrace adds an extra sparkle and magic that helps your memories come to life.”
MULTICULTURALISM AND INCLUSION
By the mid-1990s, the faces of the university students had changed and creating an inclusive, multicultural environment at the Union was at the forefront of the students’ needs. The students on the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Cross Cultures Committee commissioned Leo Tanguma to paint two multicultural murals to honor the histories of the diverse students and faculty and staff on campus.
RESTORING THE PAST. BUILDING THE FUTURE.
After nearly 90 years without a comprehensive renovation and restoration of the building, the students voted to approve the Memorial Union Reinvestment project to preserve iconic spaces while updating the building with modern amenities, such as improved accessibility, upgraded infrastructure and sustainable practices. They were involved in all of the design decisions through surveys, focus groups, committees and open forums. Now, the building is LEED-certified and ready for the changes the next ninety years will bring.
WUD LEADERS FIND THEIR VOICE
“A lot of people feel like four years is a long time to get through. But the more you think about it, that’s only so much time you have to make a difference on this campus. And I think everyone’s ambition is to leave a lasting footprint, a lasting impression.” Through their involvement in Wisconsin Union Directorate, student leaders are able to do just that.
MEMORIAL UNION 90TH ANNIVERSARY
“The Union is the heart and soul of this campus and this whole entire building—and the programs and opportunities within the walls—is for students. Students past, present and future come here and know that this is a place for them. The Union keeps the whole fabric of the University together.”
TODAY: LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
We’re celebrating the impact the people and programs have made on the living room of campus for the past 90 years. With a strong tradition of student-led programming and governance, the events and activities that develop within these walls remain relevant to the ever-changing expectations of our diverse student body and no matter what the future holds, student leaders will tackle the issues head-on.