The University of Rhode Island community will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Memorial Student Union next week.
The building, which opened in November of 1954, has been a fixture on campus and the center of student life since a growing student population, led mostly by returning veterans, who demanded a new union building following World War II. It was dedicated as a “memorial union” to the servicemen and women who did not return.
The original facility included a large part of the current building’s southern end and through the years has seen amenities including a bowling alley, pub and game room.
“One of the things that happens all the time with a building like this is it evolves,” said Memorial Union Director Bruce Hamilton.
“We’ve got things going now like the video wall and the plug-in stations that of course would’ve never been thought about in the 50s,” Hamilton added.
After 60 years of serving what Hamilton sees as the “heart of campus,” and having undergone other expansions, renovations and adjustments, Hamilton thinks this could be the last major anniversary the building sees in its current state. “By the 70th [anniversary], we hope to have a new or a larger, renovated facility,” he said, referencing plans currently underway for a major upgrade to the building.
On Nov. 5, students will have the ability to mark the occasion with a series of 1950s-themed “backwards in time” events, according to Hamilton. The day will include a barbecue with free burgers and root beer floats, jazz music performed by music professor Joe Parillo, 10-cent coffee and a 1950s movie at 193 Degrees Coffee House and prizes throughout the day.
“When they first opened the building and were saying goodbye to the Quonset Huts [which were previously used as a student gathering-place]…they had a casino night to celebrate…let’s replicate that,” said Hamilton. The celebration will include a revived casino night from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Ram’s Den.
“We thought it was appropriate to highlight the fact that the building is turning 60 and even though we’re planning to either add to, renovate or replace the building, this building still plays a major role,” Hamilton said.
The full list of 60th Anniversary events can be found at http://www.uri.edu/news/releases/?id=7249.