The desire for a student union at Concordia began after World War II and was supported with various campaigns throughout the years.
The Student Union Now (SUN) organization was formed in 1969 to generate interest in and support for a new student union. Their campaign slogan was “We’re #1 – the only one without one” meaning Concordia without a campus center. With the completion of the Knutson Campus Center, “We’re #1 – with one” could replace this former slogan.
The formation of SUN was not the first attempt to secure a space for students on campus. After World War II, Concordia experienced a surge of construction in order to create needed classroom and dormitory space. In 1947, in response to this space crunch, students proposed a student union to afford much needed leisure space for current and future coeds. While the alumni did organize a resolution and planning committee for this initiative, the bid for the student union was unsuccessful.
In 1951, Concordia students made a second attempt to secure a union. Their first goal was to create a student union in the old gymnasium that would be vacated once Memorial Auditorium was built. This goal proved fruitless; however, the students did succeed in securing a recreational space and a new lunch counter. When Memorial Auditorium was built in 1952, the board of directors approved the use of a basement room that became a popular space for roller skating. The lunch counter was placed in Brown Hall and opened in April 1953. Student life in the early 1950s thus included indulging in a snack each evening, watching the senate-funded television or listening to long-playing records, and taking roller skating lessons, which were offered for both beginners and seasoned skaters.
The desire for a student union did not end here. In the mid-1950s, students began planning a new union and submitting a $5 fee to a student union fund each semester. By early 1957, the students raised more than $25,000 and ultimately contributed $50,000 for the Commons building, which opened in February 1960. The Commons was designed to hold a cafeteria, student offices, a game room and lounge. Subsequent phases of the Commons building campaign included razing Academy, Grose and Bishop Whipple halls; however, these additional plans did not materialize.
Surveys distributed in 1968 indicated that 25 percent of students were very dissatisfied with their social life; faculty and administrators also suggested a need for meeting rooms, storage and lounges. As a result, the SUN organization formed and the “We’re #1 – the only one without one” campaign began. Greg Dale, chairman of SUN, stated, “The reason the (student union) drive was so low key in the past was that we had an idea of what we wanted, but we didn’t have the money resources.” The SUN committee thus sought to secure funds for a campus center by working with the Development Office and encouraging students to engage in fundraising efforts.
By 1970, SUN had raised $20,000 for the new union, which was endorsed by C-400 as Project 5. This student center bid resulted in the building of the swimming pool and the Knutson Life Center – the latter of which was attached to the existing Commons structure. In addition to the swimming pool, the building campaign created space for the post office, campus information, Korn Krib, meeting rooms, lounges, campus pastors’ offices and the Centrum (designed as a multipurpose room). Both the swimming pool and the Knutson Life Center were completed in 1975 at an expense of $1.3 million.
In the decades since the addition of the Knutson Life Center, proposals for a new student union have been relatively nonexistent except for brief discussions of renovation and task forces to analyze student union space and use. The next significant bid for a student union resulted in the current structure, which opened in fall 2008. With new construction and the remodeling of the former Knutson Center and Centrum, the Knutson Campus Center continues to meet the needs of the Concordia community by providing space for worship, recreation and fellowship as the student union at Concordia has done throughout history.
– Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, college archivist