University of Central Missouri’s Elliott Union Celebrates 50 Years
I like to consider myself a proud alumnus of the University of Central Missouri. Although the name changed from when I was a student there, it still feels like a second or even third home to me. Whether you were a student of Central Missouri State University or University of Central Missouri as it is now known, I think you can recognize a lot of the buildings and remember things from your past that took place there. The Elliott Union is one such building.
I was studying for my Bachelors from 1996-2000. Ed Elliott was the President of the University during most of that time period and when he announced his retirement in 1999, the University decided to give the honor of naming the Union after him.
The Elliott Union goes long before then as it was built in 1962. The building became a place that students could take a break from their classes, sit on couches, relax, watch some television and of course, eat. I still remember when I took my first official tour of the campus, and when the leader took us there, you knew you would spend some time there.
The Union is a great focal location for students, faculty and alumni to gather. I remember many times my fellow classmates would gather for lunch and choose between sandwiches, pizza at Pizza Hut, burgers from Burger King or even tacos from Taco Bell. There were also bowling lanes with a pool hall and arcade attached with it, complete with snack bar. Many are unaware of this, but I actually had a bowling scholarship and even took a bowling class as my P.E. requirement there. I have many memories of helping people out with their bowling form and just talking about what was going on in other classes. They would do cosmic bowling at night with the lights out and the lanes glowing too.
Perhaps one of my fondest memories was sticking around the International Studies area, which at that time was headed by Dr. Terry Rodenberg. My mother taught English as a second language and I knew some of the students that came from other countries growing up. There were times where you could hear several different languages being spoken when you walked from the bowling lanes to the front entrance. One of my favorite memories was International Night where the students would make cuisine and put on a production that would occur in the Union Ballroom.
Another time that I most remember in the Union was seeing Michael Winslow, the man of a 1,000 voices, put on a free show during welcoming week. I remember it was one of the most attended events and the Union Supervisor had to open up all the different doors to the Union for the students to get into and be seated. I think seats were used from the Ballroom to the Piano Lounge.
Perhaps the Piano Lounge was one of my last great memories. I commuted to campus and it was this room that you could go to for some peace and quiet. There were several couches and I can honestly tell you that I fell asleep in that room many times, especially in my final week of classes when I had some early finals. I would get to campus real early and try and cram as much as I could, then set my alarm for whenever the class final was.
The Elliott Union has certainly had its fair share of celebrities come and go. I remember there would be a music set put on once in a while in the 2nd floor, next to all the winding couches as I called them. That is where I met the young Brody Buster playing some blues, then there was 1999 when Mikhail Gorbachov who had one of his speaking tours come there.
Whenever I visit the University of Central Missouri today, the Elliot Union is where I go. Perhaps it is because that is where the alumni center is located or perhaps it is where career center is located or perhaps it’s because I just like to stop and get the coffee at Jazzman’s Cafe or even a chicken sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. The Cafe and the Chick-Fil-A were not there at the time. I used the University Store a lot. Whether you needed a pencil, pen, paper, or the latest test sheet, you had to get those items at the University Store.
I think I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg on some of the memories I have of the Elliott Union. It amazes me it is 50 years old since you can look at it today and think it was built yesterday. Whether you remember the fountain out front or the old clock at the top of the Union, I’m sure you have great memories. Today some of those memories come alive and others will be just developed as the 50th year celebration takes place. I hope you get a chance to go sometime during the day.
I’d love for you to share your memories of the Elliott Union here too.