Dedicated in 1927 and opened in 1928, the Oregon State University Memorial Union is not only the oldest student center of the PAC 12 and Oregon, but also on the west coast.  Two students, Warren Daigh and Tony Schille were members of the class of 1922 and were World War One veterans.  Together they developed the concept and promoted the idea of a Memorial Union at Oregon State University in 1919.  Paid for by student fee and alumni donation, the building opened in 1928, 6 years after Daigh and Schille had graduated.  In 1921 the student body voted to assess themselves $9 per term to create the Memorial Union.  In today’s terms that is equivalent to $108 per term (CPI).  A legacy left by those students for the students of today to enjoy.  Here are some construction photos.

Ground Breaking for the Memorial Union 1924. In the photograph are student leaders

Digging the Memorial Union foundation, 1924. Notice that the dirt is being moved by horse drawn cart in the center of the photograph.
Pouring the Memorial Union foundation, 1925. Doing the work in this photograph are OSU students, members of the Baseball team that volunteered their time.
Setting the Memorial Union Cornerstone, 1927. Speaking is Dr, B.F. Irving, editor of the Portland Oregonian and member of the board of governors. With him on the platform is from left to right, Percy Cupper, chair of board of governors, President Kerr and Victor Johnson, student president of the Memorial Union.

 

When the OSU Memorial Union opened in 1928, Charles Lindbergh had crossed the Atlantic a little more than a year before and the term “Air Travel” was related to flying on a Zeppelin Airship. Calvin Coolidge was president and the first talking film was just being distributed nationwide. To give you some perspective, the OSU Memorial Union is older than:
• Sliced Bread
• Rotary Dial Telephone
• Heisenberg’s Principle
• Antibiotics
• Insulin
• Ernest Hemingway’s first published book
• Stock Market Crash
• The Great Depression
• New Deal
• Social Security
• The First Airliner
• Development of Plastics
• Jet Engines
• Nylon
• Ballpoint Pens
• Development of Fiberglass
• Helicopters
• Radar Waves
• Computers
• Velcro
• Bombing of Pearl Harbor
• Atomic Bomb
• Microwave Ovens
• Bikinis
• Telephone Numbers with Area Codes
• India’s independence from Britain
• The establishment of the state of Israel
• Holographs
• Invention of the Transistor
• Development of the LP (Long Playing) Record
• Credit Cards
• Television
• Rock n’ Roll
• School Desegregation
• Digital Clocks
• Sputnik, first artificial satellite
• Integrated Circuit Semiconductor
• Modem
• The states of Alaska & Hawaii
• Civil Rights Movement
• Invention of the Laser
• Human Space Flight
• Cuban Missile Crisis
• ATM Machines
• Watergate
• Rubik’s Cube
• Compact Disc (CD)
• World Wide Web

When the Memorial Union opened, Oregon State University (OSU) was known as Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) and the student body population was 3,490 (15% of its current size).

6 thoughts on “How Old is the Memorial Union?

  1. “When the OSC Memorial Union opened in 1928….the first talking film was just being distrusted????”

    I presume it was maybe being distributed.

  2. What happened to the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima that used to be on the west side as you came in the main entrance? I believe a mural of the Wecomah was on the East side as you came in the main entrance. Why is there no MIA/POW flag flying? After al.l, it is to honor our VETERANS.

  3. What happened to the mural of the raising of the flag over Iwo Jima that used to be on the west side as you came in the main entrance? I believe a mural of the Wecomah was on the East side as you came in the main entrance. Why is there no MIA/POW flag flying? After al.l, it is to honor our VETERANS.

  4. It would be great to see a image the of the murals you are talking about, no one around here remembers them. The current murals were installed in 1985 are by Hank Pander a Portland artist. Photos of the entry that we have from 1930 and early 40s just show blank walls. We love to fill in missing elements of our union’s history. If you happen to have any images we would enjoy getting a copy.

    The flags in the Concourse are all of countries and donated by students from that country while attending OSU. The veteran’s lounge, which is located in the Memorial Union, does have a MIA/POW flag and the entence to the veteran’s lounge has the MIA/POW image eteched onto the doors. The student veteran’s association are very involved in the OSU Memorial Union and a proud part of student life on campus.
    Kent Sumner (kent.sumner@oregonstate.edu)

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