The Campus Living Room
By Mike Greife
The concept of a student union for Central Missouri State Teachers College, a place where students could gather in "the campus living room," began as far back as the mid-1940s when CMSTC President George Diemer began polling his faculty about the idea. His vision was that of a facility that would include dining, social and recreational activities, as well an attached residence hall.
Throughout the 1950s the North Morrow Social Hall filled the needs of the student body. In 1958 planning began in earnest for a new facility. President Warren Lovinger appointed a college union planning committee, architect's plans were completed, and ground was broken for the new facility in 1961 on College Street on what was then the western boundary of the main campus.
When completed and dedicated on Sept. 29, 1962, the new College Union featured dining facilities, a game room, a TV room, a barbershop, a 10-lane bowling alley, meeting rooms, a student lounge and an information desk.
By 1966, more room was needed as enrollment continued to grow. The building was expanded to the north, adding a larger game room, a ballroom with a stage, more student lounge area, a beauty shop and a faculty and staff lounge area. Ten lanes also were added to the bowling alley.
The One and Only Singers and The Troupe, musical groups created by the Union staff, provided entertainment. The union programming staff developed a variety of activities that kept students involved.
When CMSC became Central Missouri State University in 1972, the College Union became the University Union. The lowest level of the union had been developed into the Mule Barn in the 1960s, providing a coffeehouse atmosphere. The Union Programming Cabinet, a group of students who planned events, brought live entertainment to the union. Ski trips were organized, and Madrigal Dinners were presented in the Union Ballroom.
Following the 1966 renovations, the union continued to serve the campus until the 1980s, when the university began to respond to the social changes that spread throughout the country and higher education. Students were more mobile, and the union was no longer the only location for entertainment and social activity as the surrounding community began to cater to the student population.
With the arrival of President Ed Elliott in 1983 and the reorganization of the university's student affairs division, planning began for an extensive renovation of the union. Plans were developed to expand the University Union from 90,555 square feet to 168,000 square feet. Student leadership, faculty and staff joined university administration in planning the new facility.
The Mule Head Lounge was expanded to become the union atrium, featuring a new east entrance and the landmark clock tower. Dining facilities were moved to the ground floor and expanded to offer a variety of dining options, and ballroom facilities were renovated to include expandable space and state-of-the-art technology. The University Store, formerly the bookstore, was expanded, bringing textbook services to the union from the library, and ten lanes of the 20-lane bowling alley were converted to space to house the Office of Campus Activities.
The University Union was renamed the Ed Elliott Union in honor of the university president upon his retirement in 1999, and the ballroom was renamed the Sandra Temple Elliott Ballroom. Focused marketing of the Elliott Union as a campus and community facility has resulted in a variety of new venues that meet the needs of UCM students and faculty, as well as the community, allowing it to remain the "campus living room" after 50 years of service.
The Elliott Union will celebrate its golden anniversary Sept. 27, 2012, with a day of activities. Alumni, former faculty and all friends of UCM are invited to return to campus to reminisce about the role the Elliott Union played in their lives as UCM students.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit ucmo.edu/union50.