A crowd-sourced fundraiser to bring KU’s historically black Greek life organizations a space of their own recently reached its goal.
After more than $50,000 was raised, the Divine Nine Plaza will be created. The plaza will honor the history of the organizations and give its student members and alumni a place to come together.
The “Divine Nine” is a nickname for a group of nine historically black fraternities and sororities, led by the National Pan-Hellenic Council, or NPHC. The plaza will celebrate the organization’s history with a monument for each of the nine sororities and fraternities and a marker depicting the story of NPHC.
Darius Jones, coordinator for KU’s fraternity and sorority Life, oversaw the project, which was funded on LaunchKU. The crowdfunding initiative of KU Endowment helps raise funds for projects and passions that benefit the KU community.
“My students informed me this idea has been discussed in previous years, but it never lifted off the ground,” Jones said. “When it was brought to my attention, my NPHC president at the time, Tyler Allen, wanted to know how we could make this happen. Student Senate’s Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Abdoulie Njai, also liked the idea of supporting NPHC with this initiative.”
Plans call for the plaza to be located in KU’s new Central District, between the Burge Student Union and the Integrated Sciences building. Construction is expected to begin soon.
The plaza will also bring greater visibility to the NPHC organizations.
“When people think of Greek life, they often automatically associate it with a house or a facility,” Jones said. “Having a physical presence on campus with these monuments will bring more awareness of our historically black Greek-lettered organizations. With this increased visibility, it is my hope it will help our community grow.”
Jones credits a variety of groups for helping make the project possible. KU’s Office of Student Affairs, including Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, and Jane Tuttle, associate vice provost, strongly supported the campaign. KU Endowment staff created the LaunchKU page and collaborated on the plaza.
“I’m extremely thankful for my NPHC students,” said Jones. “This was their vision they advocated for, and without that none of this would have happened. Lastly, I want to thank all of the donors and supporters of the campaign. We could not have surpassed our goal without the tremendous amount of support.”
For more on the Divine Nine Plaza fundraising project, check out the campaign’s page on launchku.org.
Another step in the evolution of the Central District at the University of Kansas is now complete. On the site of the old Burge Union, which opened in 1979, sits a brand-new building: a new Burge that can host events of any size and adds accommodations that make KU a more welcoming, inclusive campus.
“The big goal was to have a flexible conference space,” said JJ O’Toole-Curran, senior associate director at KU Memorial Union. “Student Senate wanted to have offices for student services, and the union wanted a flexible conference space with a large kitchen downstairs to serve as the catering hub for this side of campus.”
The focus on inclusivity continued with the additions of a lactation room and a Wudu/Ablution room. Reflection rooms for meditation or prayer by students of all faiths are also available.
“These facilities were important to Student Senate to make our campus more accessible for our students,” said Sharon Leatherman, assistant director of building and event services. “Very few unions have everything we have here.”
The Forum, with a Skyfold wall down.
The Burge Union’s central room is the Forum, the largest single-function room in Lawrence with over 10,800 square feet. For comparison, the Kansas Union ballroom is 7,000 square feet.
The room can be divided into four separate rooms with Skyfold soundproof walls that unfold from the ceiling. Student groups can reserve facilities for free, with reduced rates available for staff and faculty.
A Roasterie Coffee and Hawk Shop convenience store sells grab-and-go food for students.
A seating area in the main entrance offers a view of Allen Fieldhouse.
A “Quiet Zone,” where students can study in total silence.
Study pods, recently added in the Kansas Union as well, line the windows in a hallway.
2016 was an eventful year that marked major milestones and gave cause for celebration. From our Jayhawks in Rio to our 27th Rhodes Scholar, KU alumni had plenty of reasons to be proud of their alma mater in 2016, so we’re recounting the most memorable moments and biggest KU stories of the past year. With help from our crack team of KU experts, a.k.a. your hard-working KU Alumni Association staff, we’ve assembled and ranked the top stories of 2016. So without further ado, we present the best of KU:
…How are we doing so far? Can you guess the biggest stories of 2016? Our final 15 feature some beloved KU buildings–both new and old–a few famous Jayhawks and some fond farewells. Keep reading while we reveal the rest of the best…
After officially closing in March, demolition on the Burge Union began early this morning. In order to make room for KU’s Central District project and better-serve students, the Union will be rebuilt in hopes of adding offices for student-serving organizations, a reflection room for students of all faiths, ballroom and lounge space.
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.”