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The Union enriches lives by providing inclusive and inspiring experiences.

History of The Union

50 years of Finding Your Place

Located in the heart of campus, The Union is one of many staple student-oriented facilities at JMU. This multi-building complex has undergone many evolutions over the course of its lifetime, but it can all be traced back to 1971 when the first section, Warren Hall, was constructed. Since then, a number of additions have made The Union what it is today, but there are plenty of moments from the building's history worth sharing, especially when it comes to student life. A lot has changed in 50 years, and there is still plenty of change to come, but The Union has always been a place for students to come together and find a sense of community.

When The Union was first built back in 1971, it was just one building: Warren Hall. Named after a former dean of the college, Percy Warren, this building was originally called the Warren Campus Center. It was the original home of the Student Activities department and was designed with the students of the time in mind.

A few of the spaces we know today had completely different purposes back in the day. For example, the space now used for the mail room and the Commonwealth One bank used to be the JMU Bookstore. And what we know as Madison Grill;was once a restaurant called J-Mads. Students could even purchase beer if they were over 18. It also featured ballrooms like it does today, as well as large meeting rooms that students could use. With the addition of Grafton-Stovall Theatre in 1979, the Union started to take shape, but as the campus grew and changed, so did its buildings.

The Union continued to grow well into the 1990s. Two more buildings were added to the complex: Phillips Hall (which is now the Dukes Dining Hall) and Taylor Hall, both of which offered more space for students to congregate. Many different offices moved in and out of the space over the years. The financial aid office, the registrar, and business office all called The Union home at one point in time. It may seem odd, especially when we look at what the building has become, but all these offices have a common goal: they're designed to help students.

Since its inception, the goal of The Union was to be a hub for student life and all its different components. In the past there a few different meeting spaces students could use to hang out with friends and forget the stress of school. Some of them are still around today, like TDU. Others, however, were relics of their time, like the 3rd floor TV lounge in Warren Hall. In a time when it was uncommon for people to own personal televisions, this space functioned as a place for students to come together to watch and chat to their hearts' content. It was also a place for rowdy discourse about current events. University Unions Director Dave Barnes recalls how explosive the room got during when the verdict from the OJ Simpson trial was announced back in 1995.

"Students were cheering, students were crying, I thought there was going to be a fight," he said of the event.

There have also been calmer moments that brought the student body together, like painting chairs in TDU. The space was once exclusively a billiards hall, but student interest changed it into a hangout spot. It began to take the shape of the space we know today, loosely resembling a coffee house and featuring a number of brightly painted chairs all done by students. It was a great way to get people in the doors, whether to make a chair of their own, or show off their handywork to their friends.

Despite the many changes it's undergone, The Union remains a staple of the JMU campus. Its motto "Find Your Place" is evident in every corner of the building and serves as the guiding ideology behind all that goes on within its walls. For the past 50 years, The Union has been a cornerstone for all things related to student life, and hopefully will continue to be for another 50.

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