History of the UC

The University Center Complex and UC Satellite…
Following the journey from the beginning to the current times of serving as
the “living room”, “the hearthstone”, and the gathering place for
“Where It All Comes Together!”

The University Center originally opened its doors to the University of Houston community on February 13, 1967, with a facility square footage of 212,841 which served a student enrollment of approximately 20,000 students.

How did we get to the opening in 1967?

  1. In 1952, President W.W. Kemmerer initiated the first action to establish a University Center.
  2. At least eleven years of planning and thinking by many people on the UH campus continued coupled with a survey effort conducted in 1956 with the student body to seek their opinion as to what facilities should be included in such a Center.  In addition, focus groups then called “conferences” were held with students, alumni, faculty, administrative officers, consultants, and architects.  Further research involved the study of similar facilities on other campuses.
  3. Architects Pierce and Pierce of Houston were appointed in 1958 and the Southwestern Construction Company was hired as the contractor for the project.  An Interior Decorator, Mrs. Sally Walsh of Wilson’s Stationery and Printing Co., was also brought into the planning of the project.
  4. Construction began on January 20, 1965 with an original completion date of August 30, 1966.  The base construction bid at the time was $3,933,166.00.  The total cost of the University Center upon actual completion on January 30, 1967 was $5,000,000.00.  The cost of furnishings for the new University Center totaled $309,000.00.
  5. The UC’s construction was funded by student service fees which were set at $6 per semester.
  6. The University Center opened all its doors on February 13, 1967 with a Carnival ’67 theme.  The UC Program Council celebrated an Open House Week, held February 20-25, with various programs and workshops and campus organizations began to move into the new center. 
  7. The official Dedication of the UC was celebrated on March 11, 1967 at which time the UC key was passed from then President Phillip G. Hoffman to UC Board President Bill Walker and UC Program Council President David Amidon to mark the end of the dedication ceremonies.

Just as our current UC continues to provide gathering spaces and amenities today as part of our mission, the new University Center in ’67 was designed basically as a campus meeting ground for students, faculty and staff.  Here are the highlights of what was provided upon opening of the UC:

  1. A ballroom with a 1,200 person capacity for dancing and 600 person capacity for banquets and conference rooms for student organization meetings.
  2. A 500-seat cafeteria, a 500-seat snack bar with card playing and visiting areas, an information desk, ticket office, a bookstore, offices, a Post Office, Barbershop, sporting goods store, locker rentals and music practice rooms.
  3. A formal lounge for entertaining and receptions, a games area with billiard and table tennis, bowling lanes, TV rooms, a newspaper and magazine room, and music listening area and record library.
  4. Public artwork on display such as the sculpture designed by Sculptor Robert Fowler of Houston that still occupies the UC Arbor today.

The University Center in ’67 was a new home to several services offered for the UH community and guests that for the most part continue to be offered in our present day UC.  Highlights included:

  1. Check cashing, lost and found, night depository, ticket selling, a poster service and instruction in arts and crafts.
  2. The UC also provided scheduling and reservations, campus information, and food catering.

Back in ’67 when the new University Center opened, a University Center Program Council existed with (9) student chairmen as part of the core membership and a University Center Policy Board also comprised of a core membership of (8) students established the new University Center Policy.  Today these two groups, the Student Program Board and UC Policy Board, still exist with memberships comprised of primarily or all students and they continue to impact and drive daily programs, services, operations, and policies of the current University Center. 

As quoted by James Chudleigh in the newspaper back in ‘67 just one week after the opening of the new University Center, “…the center has begun to serve as the reference point for the student body – as its forum.  It accommodates formal lectures, committee meetings and hopefully many informal debates and discussions, in addition to recreation.  Virtually all extra-scholastic student activities will originate there.” 

In 1973 the University Center Complex was expanded when the UC Underground and the UC Satellite both opened their doors to the campus community.  These two facility additions increased the square footage of the total complex of facilities available for use. The UC Underground provided an additional 70,686 square feet of space and the UC Satellite provided an additional 36,827 square feet of space.  The entire complex serving the UH community and guests now totaled 320,354 square feet.  

In 1986 a survey was conducted to gather results which would guide University administrators in planned renovations and expansion projects.  A total of 1,925 survey copies were distributed to students during the spring semester which resulted in a return rate of 15%.  As quoted by Fred Henderson, Director of Programs and Marketing of the UC, “Students pay for the buildings so their opinions should count.”   Previous to ’86 there had been long-range plans scheduled for the UC and the UC Satellite to undergo a 3-4 year remodeling operation if approved however these plans were never realized to this scale.   

Since the University Center first opened its doors in 1967 it has served the UH community and guests and celebrated birthdays marking the 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, and 40th anniversaries. 

During the most recent celebration of the UC’s 40th birthday on February 14, 2007, the UC celebrated its 40 years of service to the UH community and guests primarily maintained with the original intention of the programs and services first offered.  Today’s UC has continued to broaden the vision to facilitate community building for all stakeholders of the UH community, but has remained particularly focused on programs and services for students and student organizations.  This has been accomplished in part by leveraging technological and cultural opportunities for growth, education, and connection. 

Over the years the University Center Complex has undergone smaller upgrade and enhancement projects to a variety of spaces including a renovation of the Houston Room in 2001 but has not realized a major renovation or remodel in its 40+ years of operation and existence.  The UC Satellite was substantially updated as a result of damage caused by Tropical Storm Allison when it converged on the Houston area in June 2001.

Today the University Center continues to serve the UH community comprised of over 36,000 students with a mission still focused on providing programs, services and facilities with an additional focus on learning and student development while continuing to enrich the campus life experience.  Students are still the primary focus on a day-to-day basis, students still pay student fees to support the existence and operations of the University Center and students still maintain a strong voice to impact the future of the University Center Complex – and will be an integral collective force in shaping what will be offered to future students who become a part of the Cougar Nation at the University of Houston.  

Please click here to see the 40th Anniversary student leader and staff reception held in February of 2007.