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OUAB creators celebrate century mark

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In a scheduling coincidence that gave one member of the Ohio Union’s Board of Overseers chills, the group met Thursday on its 100th anniversary.

The Board of Overseers created the Ohio Union Activities Board and watched over the original Ohio Union.

“I wonder what they discussed at that first meeting,” said Matt Couch, director of Student Life Orientation. “I wonder if they knew people 100 years from then would still notice.”

Until a retreat a few weeks ago, no one on the Board of Overseers, now called the Ohio Union Council, noticed the anniversary. It was not until Couch was asked to give a lecture on OUAB’s history on Jan. 8 that he found the date. OUAB’s history can be traced back to 1927, when the position of activities director for the Ohio Union was created to coordinate an increasing number of Union-sponsored programs, according to OUAB-provided documents.

“It was an odd coincidence and sheer luck,” Couch said. “The records from back then are pretty bad.”

Couch said some information gathered on the history of the Ohio Union and Board of Overseers was found only after flipping through old yearbooks in university archives.

Tracy Stuck, assistant vice president for Student Life, said a board member randomly picked the same date as the first board.

“It gives me the chills,” Stuck said.

In its first incarnation, the Board of Overseers watched over the first Union, now known as Enarson Hall, which cost $95,000 at a time when 3,000 students were enrolled in the university, according to Ohio Union Council historical documents. Those same documents say the General Assembly of Ohio paid for all construction costs of the original Union.

The new Union opened on March 29, 2010, and cost $118 million when more than 55,000 students were enrolled at OSU’s main campus. University funds and reserves, private donations, contract agreements and a Student Union Facility Fee assessed to students paid for the project.

“We were the first public institution to have a student union,” Stuck said.

The Ohio Union, which opened May 1, 1911, could only be used with a special invitation. The Student Activity Fee, charged to all male students, was $1 per semester, according to Union-provided documents.

Even though 500 women were enrolled at Ohio State in 1911, a women’s union, now Pomerene Hall, was not opened until 1924, according to Union-provided documents.

“The Ohio Union is so much more than a building for a lot of people,” said Ashley Sinram, chair of the Ohio Union Council. “It’s interesting how student organizations have such a rich history.”

The new Union, according to Stuck, hosts an average of 58 events and 12,000 to 20,000 students each day.

Stuck said the new Union is burying a time capsule later this year that will be filled with a list of every group and entertainer that used the new Union in its first year and pictures of the Union itself.

“We are the group that will start new traditions,” Stuck said. “It’s interesting to think what we are doing now that people will talk about in 100 years.” 

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