State of the Union

University Union marks 75 years serving the UNT campus
Written by: 
Lisa Sciortino
UNT Student Union interior 1949
A dedication ceremony, seen in a photo provided by UNT Special Collections, was held March 31, 1949, for the Memorial Student Union building -- North Texas’ first Union. The University Union celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

For three-quarters of a century, the University Union has been part of most UNT students' daily routines.

Whether they are there to grab a meal, pick up mail, attend a meeting or catch a set by the renowned lab bands in The Syndicate, the Union -- which celebrates its milestone 75th anniversary this year -- is a hub for activities on campus.

Much about the Union has changed over the decades, including the building itself. The current University Union opened in 2015. Its four stories are awash in natural light and Mean Green pride -- right down to the Eagle-emblazoned door handles.

It's a far cry from North Texas' first Union, which was housed in a repurposed Army surplus center and the permanent Memorial Student Union building was dedicated on March 31, 1949. By the early 1960s, the student body had outgrown the space, so it was demolished and a new facility was constructed on the same site. An extensive expansion in 1976 saw the addition of an indoor stream, the Rock Bottom Lounge and many other popular features.

UNT Student Union exteriror 1949
The back porch of the 1949 Union overlooked the Slab, a popular spot for dancing. This building also was the birthplace of the famous Union Coffee Cake. (Photo provided by UNT Special Collections)

Memories made in the Union throughout its history endure among alumni.

Bob McMath ('67), former student government president, recalls being in the Union on Nov. 22, 1963, and hearing Walter Cronkite report that President Kennedy had died. "I glanced around the crowd of people glued to the TV," McMath told the North Texan in 2017. "When I think of the Kennedy assassination, that's what I think of."

Jerrie Nuckolls King ('73) can't forget the delicious coffee cake that was served at the Union.

"When my husband, Mark ('72), and I were students at North Texas, we used to race over to the Student Union Building, hoping there would still be some of their famous coffee cake available," she shared with the North Texan in 2023. "Some days we were sadly disappointed because it was already sold out."

Mike Flores began working at the Union in 1992 as an audio-visual tech coordinator. He is now director of maintenance and operations at the University Union.

Having spent several decades there, he says the Union is more like his second home. "When I walk around, I tend to look at some of the things that remind me of when I first started working here," Flores says. "The architecture is different from previous Unions, but the people you come in contact with are the same types of people. They just love being here."