Posted on Mar 9, 2016 in Campus News and News
In a special decommissioning ceremony on March 8, KU students, alumni and staff said goodbye to the Burge Union, which is slated for demolition in April to make room for KU’s Central District project. Several former Burge Union employees came to pay their respects to the building—and to the man often referred to as the “most gracious host on campus.”
Frank Burge was union director from 1952-83. Both of his successors were on hand, including Jim Long, who directed the unions from 1983-99, and current director of unions, David Mucci, who served as master of ceremonies. Student Body President Jessie Pringle and Lauren Arney, Memorial Corporation Board president, shared plans for the new union while paying tribute to the history of the Burge Union and its namesake.
Burge was beloved by students and could often be seen picking up bits of trash or washing off the sidewalks early mornings in front of the union. He famously loved sharing mini cinnamon rolls from Muncher’s Bakery, so plenty were on hand for the ceremony. In recognition of his dedication to students and service to the University of the Kansas, Burge was awarded the Fred Ellsworth Medallion, the Association’s highest honor, in 1982.
During his time at KU, campus grew to the south and west, and plans for a “satellite union” were discussed as early as 1968. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that funding was finally secured for the $2.8 million facility that would be constructed of tan brick and reinforced concrete. It officially opened in time for fall classes in August of 1979. In January of 1983, just days before Burge’s retirement, the 48,450-square-foot satellite union would be renamed the Frank R. Burge Union.
Unlike the Kansas Union, which has undergone several renovations and expansions through the years, the Burge Union remained largely unchanged. Utilitarian by design, it was home to the Crimson Cafe, KU Bookstore, University Career Center and Legal Services for Students. In recent years, a lounge for veterans was added amid meeting rooms and other amenities.
Campus, meanwhile, has continued to move south and west with recent renovations and construction on Daisy Hill, new buildings for the KU School of Engineering and the new DeBruce Center, scheduled to open mid-April which will be managed by KU Memorial Unions and will include dining options.
The Burge Union’s demise will make way for the Central District project, which will include, among other things, a new student union. Plans include a coffee shop, reflection room, lounge and space for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.
And although the new union has yet to be given a name, a plaque will pay tribute to “one of the most beloved public servants in KU history.”