Ask Abe: Memorial Union

An Alum

When did Memorial Union open?

Abe

What a timely question! Memorial Union opened on this day — October 5 — exactly 90 years ago in 1928. The space, which was pitched as the “Home for Wisconsin Spirit,” debuted with a full weekend’s worth of activities ranging from an “informal” dinner in Tripp Commons to a recital in the Great Hall (featuring the piece “Leaves from the Diary of a Dead Artist.” How festive.). Though the building itself opened 90 years ago, the concept of a campus union started much earlier. In 1904, Charles Van Hise 1879, 1880, MS1882, PhD1892 introduced the idea in his inaugural address as UW president, and in 1907, the Wisconsin Union — a group of gentlemen who created campus programming — organized in the old YMCA building (now Alumni Park). But it wasn’t until 1919 that the Board of Regents created a committee in charge of planning and finding funding for a union building. Fundraising efforts were very successful, and they included tactics such as dropping flyers from airplanes on Game Day asking students to “bring an extra silver dollar to the game.” (That “Buck for the Bucket” campaign, targeted for the 1921 Homecoming game against Minnesota, raised $3,000.) Crews broke ground for the building four years later, on November 11, 1925, and began paving (literally) the way for generations of future Badgers.