• Part 1 - General Information - History & Evolution - The Call For a Student Union - Phase I: The Student Union Becomes Reality

  • Part 2 - Phase II: Growing Pains

  • Part 3 - Phase III: Changing with the Times

History of the MSC

General Information

Texas A&M University's Memorial Student Center (MSC) is a prominent symbol of its strong history and tradition. It stands as a tribute to Aggies who gave their lives for our country. The MSC is now the largest college union activities program of its type in the world. It currently involves about 1800 students in various leadership roles and committee positions.

The MSC is the focal point for many student activities at Texas A&M. While most people familiar with the MSC realize that there are activities and organizations associated with it, few have a clear idea of all the MSC has to offer. Our endeavor has been to chronicle the events which led to the building's conception and to provide an understanding of important MSC functions which have evolved. This page narrates the Memorial Student Center's history, and describes its operations and programs.

Before describing these aspects of the MSC, it is imperative that we introduce the man who started it all, John Wayne Stark.

History and Evolution

The MSC: Early 1950's, Photo courtesy of TAMU Archives
The MSC: Early 1950's, Photo courtesy of TAMU Archives

From its small beginnings in 1950, the MSC has undergone many transformations in order to keep up with the needs of an ever-increasing student population. Because of the rapid growth and continually changing staff, it is important to document the MSC's past, so that its history and traditions will live on forever.

The Memorial Student Center has long been the focal point of campus life. However, much of the documented history of the MSC exists only in fragments scattered about the university, relegated to dusty folders in the back of file cabinets. For a building of such monumental importance to Texas A&M University as a whole, it is sad to say that much of the building's history takes the form of newspaper clippings, brief written summaries, and memories in the minds of a few select people. With this in mind, we begin with the story of how the MSC was born.

The Call For a Student Union

The necessity of a student union at Texas A&M was recognized in the late 1930's. Until this time, the Y.M.C.A., Guion Hall, and the Aggieland Inn served as the only places for social activity on campus. The university desperately needed a centrally located place for students to gather. The classes of 1935 and 1936 felt so strongly about this that they collected funds for the development of the student union. In addition to state funding, the Association of Former Students donated War Bonds in the amount of $234,000 which helped fund the construction of the student union. The money collected by the classes of 1935 and 1936 was later used to purchase a silver serving set that was dedicated in their names.

The need for a centralized facility providing a source of fellowship and social interaction was finally addressed in March of 1946 when the university commissioned the A&M system architect, Carleton W. Adams, to perform a study on the proposed student union. To fulfill his task, Mr. Adams visited seven mid-western universities which had outstanding student union buildings. He searched for key ideas and ingredients to incorporate into Texas A&M's proposed student union. Today, Texas A&M's student union, housed in the Memorial Student Center, adheres to the goals and intentions set forth in Mr. Adam's original report. The union serves and represents the A&M students, former students, faculty, and friends of the college. The union is a memorial to those who gave their lives in service of our country and those who served during World War I and II. For this reason, all gentlemen are asked to remove their hats while inside. In his report, Mr. Adams suggested naming the building, "Gold Star Hall" or simply, "The Memorial." The dream later became a reality, and it is called the Memorial Student Center.

Phase I: The Student Union Becomes Reality

On 20 September 1947, Texas A&M College President F. C. Bolton turned the first shovel of earth, breaking ground for the Memorial Student Center. The building was formally dedicated on San Jacinto Day, 21 April 1951. The construction of the new MSC lasted approximately three years, ending with an informal opening for the freshman Class of 1954. A bronze tablet, inscribed with the names of those to whom the MSC was dedicated, was placed at the front entrance of the building.

Funding for the $2,000,000 complex and its $300,000 worth of furnishings was received from former students and the Exchange Store. In 1937, the Chancellor of Texas A&M, Jeff L. Horn, distributed a letter to students entitled "A Modern Miracle." This letter encouraged students to donate ten dollars each to help fund the project when they registered. Stating and Jarvis, Putty, and Jarvis of Dallas. The Board of Directors acknowledged that suggestions from the architectural firms were both essential and cost effective; therefore, work on the MSC and the J. Earl Rudder Tower and Theater Complex was approved by the Board later that month.

J. Wayne Stark, an A&M graduate, was hired to head the MSC project as the first Director of the Memorial Student Center in 1947. Carleton Adams of the A&M Architecture Department was appointed as architect for the project, and the Robert E. McKee Construction Company of Dallas built the complex. Robert D. Harrell of Los Angeles was the interior decorator for the project.

The final site was selected adjacent to Guion Hall. The new MSC consisted of only two floors and a basement. A sixty-five room air conditioned hotel was incorporated into the design, thereby eliminating the need for the Aggieland Inn. There were twelve conference rooms of varying sizes which could be used for many different events such as dining, parties, and receptions. A bowling alley, game room, post office, shops, and eating facilities were located on the first floor. The second floor had ball rooms and meeting areas. In the basement were hobby and craft shops, various book stores, and gift stores. Throughout the MSC were several lounges and offices for MSC administration and student organizations.

The project was well received by the students and faculty of Texas A&M. The public was also able to view the new building through one hour tours held 21-23 September 1950. During the opening days of the Center, special exhibits were displayed highlighting the various activities that would take place during normal operations. Many people enjoyed the bowling and bridge competitions available in the recreation area. A bridge expert was even on hand to lecture to the enthusiasts. The opening ceremonies of the MSC were a success, attracting large crowds from the Bryan/College Station area.

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