At RensselaerFrom the ArchivesTHE RENSSELAER UNION
Thirty years ago, the original dedication of the Rensselaer Union represented a university embracing a dramatically changing student body.
Dedicated on Oct. 21, 1967, the newly finished Union building on 15th Street catered to an active student who was becoming involved in extracurricular activities like never before.
"The original dedication was a huge, huge deal. The university was celebrating a student body that was changing," said Rick Hartt '70, director of the Rensselaer Union, who attended the celebration in his sophomore year at Rensselaer. "Students were interested in becoming more activepolitically and socially. This was a campus that was becoming more diverse."
The dedication took on the theme "Tomorrow Is Here," and consisted of student representatives from some of the leading universities in the world, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and West Point.
Then-Union President George W. Criss '68 had this to say about the new Union building in a Polytechnic editorial: "Yes, culture has come to campus ... The film series, art exhibits, fine music programs, and lectures are now established facts."
To many, the dedication also represented nearly 60 years of student-life development. The Rensselaer Union Organization was established as an official body in 1908. The same year, the Board of Trustees and a graduate committee financed the first Rensselaer Union structure, called the Clubhouse, at the west end of the '86 Field.
An improved clubhouse was built in 1932 (now the Lally Management Center) but for fewer than 1,500 students. By the mid-1950s, the building was bursting at the seams with the activities of a student body almost three times as large, and one that was more active and diversified than ever.
In 1955, student leaders approached Union Director Frank McNeil and suggested a fund drive to erect a new building. In the spring of 1956, Rensselaer students overwhelmingly passed a referendum to assess themselves $10 per semester for a new home for student activities.
The $3 million Rensselaer Union project began in 1965. Under McNeil's leadership, the Union became more of a focal point than ever before for student activities and government.