Why do universities have memorial unions?

Seems like a lot of universities have centralized buildings for meetings, offices, eateries that are named “memorial union” … Why is that?

Because somebody gave them a huge amount of money to honor the person being memorialized.

Every single thing on a college campus is up for sale. Every building, every room in every building, every professorship, every stadium, every bench, every brick in every wall. Putting peoples’ names on things is how colleges make money.

It’s called a “union” because that was the centralized place for students. In a smaller world, the student union was the dining hall, the place to pick up mail, the hang-out spot, the dance hall.

So getting your dead relative’s name on the most beloved building on campus (and the most important after the library) was a coup you paid dearly for.

Your answer makes a lot of sense. But in the various universities I’ve had experience with (3 or 4), I’ve never seen a person’s name associated with the building. Doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not a name attached, but it’s not prominent enough for me to be aware of. E.g, here’s a link to a description of the MU at ASU: http://www.asu.edu/tour/tempe/mu.html … So seems to me the donors are getting a raw deal!

The MU I’m familiar with have a front hall that has lists of students/alumni that died will in the US Armed Services during war time.

Iowa State’s MU was built after WWI, paid for by donations.

So it really is a memorial.

At a couple of student unions I have seen a plaque that describes that the union was dedicated to the students/alumni who died in a war (I believe WWII). That made sense as these unions seemed to have been built in the 50’s.

“ASU chose the name ‘Memorial Union’ to serve as a living memorial for those who have courageously served our country in the military services. In remembrance of the building’s first director, Cecelia Scoular, the study lounge located on the main level was named in her honor.”

Indiana University’s Memorial Union is dedicated to “the sons and daughters of Indiana University who had served in the wars of the Republic”

U of Wisconsin
On October 5, 1928, the Memorial Union opens, dedicated to the men and women of the University who served in our country’s wars.

According to that web site, the ASU Memorial Union opened in 1956. As I understand things, that was a bit before naming things became a full-fledged industry on college campuses, so in all likelihood, rather than a single corporate donor paying the lions share of construction expenses in order to get their company or CEO on the building, moderate amounts of money were solicited from large numbers of alumni, and the name was chosen to appeal to a broad constituency. Obviously, in the early 1950’s many of those people being solicited would have had their association with the university during and shortly after WWII, so it makes sense that billing the new facility as a memorial to those who died in the war would help to raise the funds needed. They could have been more explicit and called it the WWII Soldiers’ Memorial Union, but firstly that would have seemed redundant, since given the magnitude of the national trauma being memorialized, no one would doubt what was meant, and secondly by leaving it vague, they could also solicit money from the older generation of alumni, who may wish to think of their gifts as memorializing their fellows in WWI, and also from that wealthy widow whose son died at the college from pneumonia but who never saw the inside of an enlistment office.

The only surprising thing is that they haven’t renamed the building to take advantage of the new fundraising opportunities that such would offer. Presumably, either they haven’t had a big enough donor make the request, or there is enough attachment to the old name that changing it would cause an uproar.

IU actually has three buildings that were built and dedicated after WWI — the Indiana Memorial Union, Memorial Hall (originally a dorm, now offices/classrooms) and Memorial Stadium.

After World War 2, a room in the Union was dedicated “The Memorial Room”. It’s set off from everything else and has a large seal featuring symbols of the armed forces set into the floor. The focus of the room is an altar-like structure at one end, flanked with flags, that holds the “Golden Book”, which is a giant book that has, inscribed in calligraphy, the names of veterans connected to IU from all wars.

This is similar to why many cities have (or have had) a “Memorial Hall” for live performances or a “Memorial Stadium” for sporting events or a “Memorial Park.” “War memorial” is implied.

University of Missouri-Columbia. Built in 1923 to honor veterans of the World War. See also Memorial Stadium (which is still called Memorial Stadium although the* football field * was named for Coach Faurot.)

The Oregon State University Memorial Union is dedicated to anyone who has ever died:

:smack: I should have remembered that tradition of naming, because Rochester’s arena used to be called the War Memorial.

I was thinking more of buildings like Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester. The Strong family backed an upstart named George Eastman when he was trying to make a go of Kodak.

You can’t walk five feet in the hospital or in many other places on campus without tripping over a Tyrion and Daenerys Targaryen Memorial Coffee Urn in the cafeteria or a Joffrey and Sansa Stark Memorial Copier Niche in a library. That’s true at every university I’ve visited.

But I agree with the other posters that a memorial to veterans or other generalized dead is the proper answer for these specific cases. Sorry for any confusion.

So it sounds like some are memorials to the honoured dead, and some are just memorials to William Shatner

A memorial to alumni who have passed, particularly in the armed forces, makes a lot of sense. A memorial to anyone who has ever died is just bizarre! In any case, I would think there’d be some sort of plaque to that effect somewhere. I’ve not seen one at ASU, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there somewhere. But thanks again, my curiosity has been sated!

At George Mason University in Virginia, there is (or was, I haven’t checked lately) a room called “Dewberry Hall” that is located inside the Johnson Center (which is an actual building on campus). Dewberry Hall is used a lot for events. People had problems with this - they would get an invite telling them to attend such and such event in Dewberry Hall and they would get flustered trying to find it, believing that Dewberry Hall was another building like Krug Hall or Thompson Hall.

Well as I said, if you’re trying to raise money, you want as broad a donor base as possible! I suppose the next step would be a memorial to just anything anyone has ever remembered! A monument to remembering!—Where you left your car keys, why you drink, the last time you really cared, if you or anyone you love has ever remembered or been remembered, please contribute generously to this important tribute to whatever it is you remember so that future generations of Walden students will know that once upon a time, remembering things was an important part of education!

Thanks for the chuckle, Alan! :smiley:

Pictures of the “Gold Star” room, which is the front entry of Iowa State’s Memorial Union.

The general inscription

One of the walls bearing names (scroll down about 1/3rd of the way)

And my favorite part, a zodiac inlaid in the floor. The plan was that people walking over it would wear it down to floor level, signifying the triumph of knowledge over superstition. Of course, the students turned it into a new superstition. Stepping on the zodiac would result in failing your next test. So over 80 years later, students still pass on this bit of lore, and the raised zodiac is still there.