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Bruce Jacobs
Indiana Memorial Union

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

IU's Indiana Memorial Union Board celebrates its centennial

Oct. 7, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana Memorial Union Board, the programming and governing body of one of Indiana University's most recognizable and enduring landmarks, officially turns 100 in December.

Today a 500,000-square-foot, bustling gathering place for faculty, staff, students and visitors, the IMU contains a three-star hotel, several restaurants, a multilevel bookstore, a bowling alley, a movie theater, a beauty salon, an electronics store and hundreds of gathering spaces for high-profile lecturers, meetings, conferences and performances. The building also houses IU's student government offices within the Student Activities Tower, where up to 50 campus organizations conduct regular meetings.


Indiana Memorial Union

Print-Quality Photo

Union Board is composed of 16 student directors and four non-student directors who are responsible for campus programming that "entertains and educates" the IU community.

Over the years, the Union Board has fulfilled its mission of "bringing the world to IU" by hosting such guests as Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, Kurt Vonnegut, Cornel West, Maya Angelou, Nina Totenberg, John Mellencamp (who received an honorary D.M. from IU in 2000) and John Edwards, among many others.

"I believe Union Board is one of the last bastions of democracy in America," said Bruce Jacobs, executive director of the IMU. "The meetings are open to everyone every week. It's an absolutely fascinating dialogue -- the students present ideas and get feedback from their colleagues -- their discourse is absolutely wonderful."

The 2009 Centennial Celebration will be highlighted by IU's 36th Biennial Reunion for Union Board alumni the weekend of Oct. 30-Nov. 1. For detailed information or to register, see

Among other events to commemorate the anniversary will be recollections from former Union Board alumni and staff; scholarship recognition; a formal dinner Saturday evening featuring IU President Michael McRobbie as one of the keynote speakers; a meal at Nick's; a cookout in Dunn Meadow; and ilent and live auctions.

The week of Nov. 30 will commence five days of open-to-the-public celebrations at the IMU. Specific event details will become available on the IMU Web site. Currently planned for the week are:

  • Nov. 30, Monday Madness: Free bowling all day at the Back Alley
  • Dec. 1, Tasty Tuesday: A celebration of IMU food
  • Dec. 2, Wednesday in the Whitt: Free films all day in the Whittenberger Auditorium
  • Dec. 3, Thursday Temptations: Sugar and Spice, Buy one cookie get the next one half off
  • Dec. 4, Fabulous Friday: Cake, a time capsule and more in the circle drive just outside the Biddle Hotel and Conference Center

The IMU was originally started by John Whittenberger, class of 1911, for whom the IMU's Whittenberger Auditorium is named. Whittenberger sought a common meeting space where rivalries between students of all backgrounds could be put aside, and students could come together to celebrate shared interests. Originally known as the Indiana Men's Union, the building opened Dec. 6, 1909, with assistance from IU President William Lowe Bryan, with Whittenberger as its first president.

Winston Shindell was executive director of the IMU for 23 years, retiring four years ago. When he moved to Bloomington from Oklahoma for the position, he said he quickly fell in love with the campus and the town.

"The thing that really sold me was the philosophy and history around the Indiana Memorial Union," said Shindell. "The union was founded by a group of students, and student involvement has been key to it throughout the first 100 years."

While Shindell said he has witnessed some changes in programming -- the all-male Jordan Revue has been replaced by IU Sing and standup comedy, for example -- he said he has seen countless students find confidence and gain leadership skills, and ultimately, career success after graduation, through their involvement with Union Board.

Brent Pieper, director of development for the IU Foundation, is also the current president of the John Whittenberger Society, a group of Union Board alumni who have served at least one full term as director of the organization, and all Honorary Life Members of the society. Pieper was president of Union Board in 1996, and said he spent about 50 percent of his time in the Union Board offices as a student.

"What's so great about Union Board is that it's a really time honored tradition of programming on campus," Pieper said. "While program themes and the scope of programming might change, the student planning fundamentals are still in place, which makes people appreciate Union Board even more."

Pieper said that what makes the IMU so special is the traditions associated with it, as well as the "home away from home" it provides for students. "I like the fact that the sofas are there for students to sleep on," he said. "That's the beauty of the IMU. It's a place where people can be comfortable -- and that's part of what makes it so special."

Shindell said that while today's union has a new Student Technology Center open on the building's west Mezzanine Level and the latest projection and sound systems for the union's popular film series, courtesy of a donation from a Union Board Alumnus, the union's function as a comfortable, communal gathering place on campus hasn't changed.

"It always interested me when I was here to take tours of the building," said Shindell. "But my tours were a bit different; mine involved walking along and listening to students who were taking their parents or their friends through the union, just to hear what they had to say," he said. "When they started saying 'This is where we . . .' and 'This is our . . .' then you know they feel that sense of ownership and connection -- and that's very important for a university. The IMU is a place for community to occur."

Jacobs said one of his favorite things to do in the union is to step outside his office to see the students walking by and hear the many conversations going on between students in multiple languages as they go about their day. "There's an incredible energy here."

Union Board Milestones:

1915: Union Board organizes the first popular motion-picture screening.

1932: The IMU is officially erected and dedicated to the memory of the sons and daughters of IU who have fallen in the wars of the Republic. Union Board also begins organizing dances in collaboration with the Association of Women Students.

1952: Women are first admitted into Union Board through the merger of the Association of Women Students.

1957: West wing added containing a bowling alley, draft areas, solarium and outside terrace.

1960: East wing addition containing 186 guest rooms; 50,000 square feet of meeting room space; the Tudor Room and other banquet rooms.

1960s: The Miss IU beauty pageant is introduced. Union Board also begins sponsoring pop concerts, eventually bringing Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to IU.

1961: The Memorial Room is dedicated.

1983: John Whittenberger Society, an alumni organization for Union Board members, is formed to bring together past and present members.

1986: Dedication of the Commemorative Garden in recognition of the 75th Anniversary with 800 signature bricks donated by Union Board students, alumni and friends.

1990s: Completion of the first major renovation of the Indiana Memorial Union since the 1960 expansion

1997: Canvas Creative Arts Magazine launches to give IU students an avenue for artistic expression.

2009: A new computer lab opens in the IMU.

For more information about the Indiana Memorial Union, see

For more information on Union Board, see