OSU to rededicate Memorial Union, honor vets on Friday

The Memorial Union dedication in 1928 (archive photo)

The Memorial Union dedication in 1928 (archive photo)

Oregon State University will hold a rededication ceremony this Friday for its historic Memorial Union building, constructed more than 80 years ago to honor students from the school who fought in World War I.

The rededication ceremony, which honors all students, faculty and staff who have served their country, takes place at on Friday, Nov. 13, at 4 p.m. in the MU Concourse. It is hosted by the Memorial Union and the ASOSU Veteran Affairs offices.

Michael Henthorne, director of the Memorial Union, said it is appropriate that one of OSU’s most beautiful and iconic buildings was developed to commemorate the sacrifices of life during World War I.

“Knowing the background of the MU helps students understand that society places its hopes and dreams for a better future in the hands of those who are pursuing higher education,” Henthorne said. “When that hope is cut short by sacrificing your life for your country, we should always remember and show our appreciation for that sacrifice…for that promise left unfulfilled.”

Students Warren Daigh and Tony Schille – at what was then called Oregon Agricultural College – came up with the original idea of creating a student center that would double as a memorial for fallen soldiers connected with the institution. The men were veterans of the World War I, and their idea gained support from the student body in 1920.

Fundraising began at that time and continued through the 1920s. Actual construction didn’t begin until 1927, and the building was completed in fall 1928, although donations for building construction continued rolling in for the next several decades. It was the first student union in the state.

World War I did not, as some had hoped, end all wars, and the Memorial Union’s purpose expanded as OSU servicemen and women fought in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. Today, former and current OSU students continue to be involved in active combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it apt that students be reminded that the MU is more than just a student center, Henthorne said.

Katherine Canja, a member of the ASOSU Veteran’s Affairs Task Force, said she feels that the MU is a sacred space that honors sacrifice, but is also a focal point for countless clubs and organizations.

“It is a place that joins all of us….just as we see when we walk past the flags of the world,” she said.

For Canja, the rededication of the MU brings new attention, and new focus, to the student union.

“The MU may have been dedicated to service members from certain wars, but as of this Friday, the MU will be rededicated to encompass all service members who have, are or will be serving and for those who have sacrificed their life,” she said. “The MU will be a memorial for them, not any war. It is to remember the people who have done so much for our country, regardless or in the absence of any war.”

“I would imagine that there are great differences in attitudes about war and military service today than in the period after World War I,” Henthorne said. “The sense of pride and jubilation that was present in the country after “the war to end all wars” had been fought could not possibly be compared to the wars and conflicts of the current generation.

“Despite all that, the proposal to rededicate the MU came from the ASOSU Veteran’s Affairs Task Force and our all-student board of directors responded by approving the request to rededicate the MU,” he added. “I think that says something about where students today are on the issue of acknowledging service and sacrifice.”

Henthorne said he’d like students who visit the war memorial to consider what it really means to be of service to your country.

“Options are not limited to military service. There are many other ways to serve your country, but military service is a major way in which people serve their country and it is the type of service that often asks for the greatest levels of sacrifice and accounts for the largest loss of life,” he said. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who’ve chosen this type of service to their country, as well as to others who served in other programs.”

In addition to the rededication ceremony, OSU will be hosting a Veterans Day Ceremony Friday, Nov. 13, from 11 a.m. to noon, which will be held in the Memorial Union Quad.

The ceremony, sponsored by OSU’s ROTC Units and the ASOSU Veteran Affairs Committee, will include a keynote address by retired Army Technical Sgt. Don Malarkey of the 101st Airborne ‘Easy’ Company. Also featured at the ceremony will be a POW/MIA name reading, a 12-hour POW/MIA flag walk, a 24-hour POW/MIA vigil, and an F-15 Strike Eagle fly-over by the Klamath Falls National Guard.

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