• 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 - Part 3

Phase III: Changing with the Times

The planning for the next phase of the MSC and the University Center began late in 1987. The Texas A&M Board of Regents began looking at ideas to expand the MSC. They felt that the space available to offices and organizations was, as Steve Vinson wrote, "not conducive to work." When the 1973 renovations to the center were completed, the space was large enough to fulfill the needs of the students and faculty at A&M; enrollment in 1973 was about 18,000. However, as the student population grew and reached close to 40,000, the MSC was no longer able to serve its primary function which was "to provide space and facilities for students [and their] activities." Organizations who felt they needed more space were able to submit their requests and suggestions to the advisory committee overseeing the expansion. The response was overwhelming. Student requests produced a book of proposals which was several inches thick. The offices of many student activities had been moved to the Pavilion in 1983 because of the lack of space in the MSC; by 1987, the problem had only intensified. Neither the MSC nor the Pavilion was capable of handling the population boom that had taken place on A&M's campus.

One of the regents' main requirements of the architects was that the fountain area not be destroyed. The architects' only alternative was to make the additions in the area of the bridge that connects the MSC and Rudder Tower. The regents were careful to talk to the users of the MSC to determine what their needs were. Once again it was clear that some trees were going to be lost in the construction process. The additional space gained by the renovations was to be used for meeting rooms and an expanded copy center. The plans also included a 500-seat movie theater and concessions area; however, this was later cut from the budget.

Over Christmas Break of 1986, the MSC was shut down for removal of the asbestos ceiling tiles. A federal regulation required that the removal be done when any renovations were to take place; the university decided to alleviate the problem before beginning work on the addition. The removal began immediately after the students left for the Christmas holidays and was completed prior to their return for the spring semester.

In June of 1987, the Clayton Williams Alumni Center was completed and opened. The of the trees was the Rudder Oak, a tree that was about 165 years old and 33 inches in diameter. On 29 June 1989, Kelley Brown, a reporter for The Battalion, noted that the Rudder Oak was on the "save and move" list and was to be moved about 40 feet away. Rucker and others argued that the expansion could be accomplished in other ways and that moving the trees was not necessary. Several students joined the crusade to save the trees, and a petition was drawn up against their removal. The Battalion quickly became the sounding board for the angry students who felt the university was making these decisions without the consent of the student body. The efforts of the students obviously had no real affect on the committee. Most of the trees were eventually replaced or destroyed. Sadly enough, the noble Rudder Oak did not survive its move. Approximately six months later, the tree died and was removed.

Construction began in February 1989 and was completed in November 1991. The original plans called for a two-story addition placed on the north side of Rudder Auditorium that would house a 500-seat lecture hall. A second, smaller lecture hall was also planned in the addition, and space was provided for the Rudder Forum. Unfortunately, according to Dennis Busch, this project came in 3 million dollars over budget, so the theater complex was cancelled.

On the east side of the MSC, a tiered, three-story addition was constructed. This addition, linking the building more fully with Rudder Tower, allowed for interior remodeling, and the bookstore was expanded as planned. A section of the enlarged bookstore currently houses the Micro Computer Center which sells computer equipment to students and faculty at educational discounts. The bookstore space is leased by Barnes & Noble who leases the the area as a part of the Texas A&M Bookstore. Three other areas benefited from the new addition. First, the John Wayne Stark University Center Gallery was added adjacent to the Flag Room to be used as a visual arts gallery. The gallery is under the supervision of the Office of the University Art Collections and Exhibits. Next, the bowling alleys were moved, and the improved food court was put in its old location. Finally, more meeting rooms were added to the second floor. The students' requests for space were met as the Student Programs Office was enlarged to a more appropriate size.

To alleviate the overcrowding problem in the MSC, the university built the John J. Koldus Student Services building. This building houses several student activity offices; in addition, several other services were moved into the building. The "L" shaped building was connected to a new multi-story, 1500-car parking garage which provided much-needed parking space to the south area of campus.

The first floor of the new structure was home to the Offices of Student Activities as well as Student Government and the Student Senate Meeting room. KANM, the campus radio station, is located on the first floor. The Department of Parking, Transit, and Traffic and the Support Services Office for Students with Disabilities were moved into the building soon after its completion. Additionally, the 12th Man Foundation Office and the Off Campus Center were located on the first floor. In order to help ease the crowding at the MSC, new meeting rooms were added in the building.

On the second floor is the new Placement Center. Its purpose is to bring students in touch with job opportunities as they near graduation. The old quarters, originally housed in the Rudder Tower, were cramped and unsuitable for their purpose. The new office contains a research library sponsored by Andersen Consulting that provides students with the resources needed for finding a job. The Athletic Department and the Office of Cooperative Education were also moved to the second floor as was the Office of Admissions Counseling.

From its inception in 1950, the Memorial Student Center has been the hub of campus activity and has gone through many changes to meet the demands placed upon it from the growing student population. Though the present facilities seem spacious and grand compared to those of 1950, that vital focal point of Aggie life will undoubtedly continue to grow, serving its university nobly in years to come.

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