History of the LSU Student Union
The idea of a college union at LSU was first proposed in the Reveille as early as 1939, but it was not until 1958 that a formal “Proposed Plan for a Student Union at LSU” was submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval. That same year, a student referendum was conducted in which students voted to self-assess a fee to build a union. After three years of planning, the Board of Supervisors approved the site – the Memorial Oak Grove in the center of the campus, authorized the construction of the facility, approved a $10 student fee, and commissioned the architects. The first director, Carl Maddox, was appointed in 1959, and the first Governing Board of students, faculty and alumni was chosen in 1962-63. Construction began in 1962, and the official ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new building was on January 6, 1964.
During the decades that have followed, hundreds of thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests have visited the Union, to attend programs and meetings, to shop in the retail stores, have a meal or a cup of coffee with friends, browse in the Art Gallery, check their mail or e-mail, and use a myriad of other services available to them.
The facility has undergone a number of changes over the years. An addition was built in 1987 on the southwest corner of the building, which added new retail space, meeting rooms, and created a galleria area. A browsing-listening area with a reading room and four small rooms for music listening was replaced in 1987 by an expansion of the bookstore. The original cafeteria and snack bar area were converted into a food court in 1997. The Barber Shop was relocated several times before landing in its current location on the first floor. An ice cream store once stood where the southwest entrance is today. The ATMs on the ground floor were located outdoors between the Theater and the main building before being moved to their present location. The Tiger Card office was formerly located on the main floor where a coat-check and book-drop room for cafeteria patrons once stood.
In 2011, the Union completed a five-year comprehensive renovation to the building, providing a fresh, new look to the entire facility. The project added a four-story wing on the southeast corner of the building, created new lobbies and meeting rooms, replaced the entire food court, added space for student organizations and activities, and renovated the entire Theater. Construction added 50,000 new square feet to the building, brought it up to life safety code and ADA requirements, and created a “living room” for the campus that will serve LSU students well into the coming decades.
Programs and activities in the Union have also changed and evolved over time, reflective of the changing interests and lifestyles of each new generation of students. Throughout, the Union has continued to serve as a center for campus life, creating a sense of community that fosters enduring loyalty to the University.