History of the Driscoll Student Center
“Thus the University of Denver stands today. She can claim 91 colorful years. Behind lie Indian Wars and World Wars, gold rushes and mining busts. She has grown and prospered along with her namesake city and state of Colorado. Her future is hinged on an ever-growing city and state… But DU cannot look to mere events for her past and future. Always she must heed the words and actions she sees. For this is DU . . . a hundred thousand faces”. These words resonate truer today than when they were first expressed in the 1955 Kynewisbok. As the meaning of Student Life continues to evolve, the Driscoll Student Center honors the traditions of the past, celebrates the present, and mentors the future.
A Place of Our Own: Andrew Carnegie Hall, 1935-1950
In 1935, the University library, which was located at that time in Carnegie Library, was moved to the much more spacious Mary Reed. Utilizing a mixture of donations and student union funds, a student lead initiative to renovate the building began. The newly remodeled Carnegie Hall proved to be one of many cornerstones in the maturation of Student Life on campus.
Built in 1908, Carnegie Hall was the last of 108 such Carnegie libraries built around the country in the early 20th century.
Carnegie Hall provided students with a place of their own to discuss campus life and important issues facing students, listen to music, form long-lasting friendships, and host banquets, dances, and luncheons.
“Perhaps the greatest value in the present Student Union is the fact that it is showing and will further show the very definite need and advantages of such a facility on campus.”
The creation of the Student Union at Carnegie Hall ushered in a new era of Student Life at The University of Denver, but the endeavor had just begun.
A Dream Realized: The Student Union Building, 1950-1984
By the end of World War II, the greatest generation was heading home and eager for a fresh start. Empowered by the desire to learn and supported by the GI bill, student enrollment at the University increased.
It became quickly evident that Carnegie Hall was no longer suitable for a burgeoning student body. On May 2nd, 1949, construction began on a much more spacious and modern Student Union building. The plans for the new Student Union building included a 14,000 square foot dance floor, a ticket office, a patio, a snack bar, a cafeteria that accommodated 400 people at peak hours, a dining room, a 2,400 square foot game room, and a barber shop. After a year of construction that transformed DU’s campus, the Student Union officially opened its doors on September 30th, 1950.
After almost 100 years of Student Life on campus, the student body was finally rewarded with a Student Union building designed and governed by students for the specific purpose of supporting Student Life on campus. The Student Union building would serve as the primary hub for Student Life until 1984.
Inclusive Excellence has been a bedrock to the growth of Student Life on campus. In the photo to the right, two students celebrate International Day in the Student Union.
The Dream Perseveres: The Driscoll Student Center 1984-Present
In the late 1970s calls of “we need a new Student Union” could once again be heard throughout DU’s campus. The plight of the Student Union could not be overlooked, as noted by Dean of Students Bob Burrell, who stated “ A student center cannot look and be treated like just another building on campus… it has to be as much a program as a facility, bringing elements of the University together”.
Once again the administration was up to task, and in August of 1982, work began on the 6.7 million dollar construction and renovation project that modernized the existing Student Union building and connected it, via a skyway, to the state of the art University Center, later renamed the Driscoll Student Center. Relying heavily on student input the new student center included a bookstore, retail outlets, administrative offices, a ballroom, meeting rooms, game rooms, lounges, and a pub. In 1984, the University Center opened and has served as the hub for student life since that time.Currently, The Student Center houses the DU program board (DUPB), the student bookstore, administrative offices, a café and eatery, the Clarion, lounges, and Explore Denver.
Traditions of Student Life
May Days Festival
The first formal May Days Festival is one of DU’s longest standing traditions. The first formal May Days Festival was held in May, 1909, on DU's campus at University Park. Rooted in Roman Catholic traditions dating back to antiquity, the May Day Festival featured the crowning of a May Day Queen followed by a royal procession, a Maypole dance, a May Day parade, a relay race, and games and music.
Although the current May Days Festival shares little resemblance to its early 20th century counterpart, the spirit of the festival remains strong. The current May Days Festival includes, a food crawl, a casino night, free concerts, and various other activities meant to strengthen Student Life on DU's campus.
May Days 2015 consisted of two great events, such as a dedicated Casino Night hosted on University Green, as well as a ropes course. Other events from previous years include camel rides, zip-lines, and Music Fest, an awesome music event with some big name artists.
The first Homecoming was held on DU’s campus in 1926; however, the tradition dates back to the 1914 Thanksgiving Day Parade when DU faced off against rival University of Colorado. The first thirty years of Homecoming festivities featured activities such as, a parade, a sorority/fraternity house decoration contest, a homecoming dance, a bonfire, and the selection of a homecoming king and queen. In 1960, DU’s football program was discontinued, and thus, DU's 35 year Homecoming tradition came to a close. However, DU's Homecoming tradition was revived in 1968. Having increased in popularity and prestige, the annual hockey game between Colorado College and DU has become the highlight of Homecoming week, and today, Homecoming is still a cherished and widespread tradition amongst ardent hockey fans, students, alumni, and parents.
The Winter Carnival, established in 1961, is one of the University of Denver's longest and most sacred traditions. Taking place annually in February, the Winter Carnival includes a variety of on-campus and off-campus events. In the past, winter activities such as snowboarding, skiing, movies, cook-offs, and an on-campus sculpture event, have all highlighted the weekend festivities. Throughout its history, the Winter Carnival has called many ski resorts home, including, Winter Park Lodge, Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte Ski Resort. Currently, the Winter Carnival is organized and hosted by the DU Program Board and features events such as, tubing, ice skating, skiing and snowboarding, a concert, an alumni dinner, and a movie night. Since engaging students and promoting the core values of Student Life is fundamental to DUPB’s mission, the DUPB now offers needs based award funding to allow students with financial needs to attend Winter Carnival.