The Fifties

1950s women looking out from balcony


The dream comes to life. After dedicated students and faculty developed a Union idea, a successful student referendum and years of patience and hard work, a new building was being built at the corner of Anderson Avenue and 17th Street, just north of the old army barracks. Students on the campus of the Kansas State College were excited about their new Union. A policy-making body, the Union Governing Board was established in 1953, a year before the groundbreaking ceremony. As construction continued, Loren Kottner was hired as the first director of the Union in 1955. Nearing completion, the Union Program Council was formed and 114 students joined. The Union opens March 8, 1956. After more than two decades of planning, working and dreaming, the doors to a $1.65 million, 110,000 square foot facility opened. The K-State campus would never be the same. 


  • Union opened
  • Hosted our first Association of College Unions (ACU) regional conference
  • Holiday Smorgasbord events
  • Kottner named first director
  • Automatic pinsetters installed
February 1955 Loren Kottner was named first Union director. 
March 1955 The first Union Governing Board (UGB) meeting occurred one year prior to the opening of the new building. Leon Armantrout was selected as the first UGB chairperson. 
April 1955 Ed Gillette was appointed the first chairperson of the Union Program Council (UPC).
December 1955 Excited about the new Union, 114 students joined UPC. 
January 1956 Blue Key, a senior men's honorary, presented the Union with money for a fireplace. 
March 1956 The K-State Student Union opened. The original building consisted of 110,000 square feet at a cost of $1.65 million. The amount allocated from the student operational fee was $64,000 representing 14 percent of the first year's income. The theme of the Grand Opening was "Night at the Circus." The student variety show that was part of the grand opening banquet was emceed by KSC student Gordon Jump, who later starred in "WKRP in Cincinnati" and became the Maytag Repair Man. 
March 1956 To celebrate its opening, the Union played host to several exciting events in its first week. The Four Lads, a nationally known vocal quartet and recording artists, performed at the first dance in the Union. "Twelve O'Clock High," starring Gregory Peck, was the first film shown at the Union. Admission was 25 cents. The St. Patrick's Day prom was held in the Ballroom. 
June 1956 The military barracks that served as the temporary Union was removed. 
December 1956 The Union hosted the ACU Region 11 fall conference. 
May 1957 The UGB policies were approved. 
December 1957 The first Holiday Smorgasbord, a two-day event prepared by Union Food Service, was held. 
March 1958 Automatic pinsetters were purchased for the Bowling Center. Prior to this, student employees had to reset the pins manually after each ball. 
1959 Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science became Kansas State University.