History of the MSC
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
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
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
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 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.