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This day in SD History: Contract awarded for new USD student union

The 1931 South Dakota Union building would be replaced by the Coyote Student Center in 1965
Clay County Historical Society
The 1931 South Dakota Union building (above) would be replaced by the Coyote Student Center in 1965

This interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

On November 21 in 1963, contracts totaling just over 1.6 million dollars were awarded to construct a new Student Union Building on the campus of the University of South Dakota.

A Student Center hasn't always been part of the USD experience. The building and academic landscape at the institution have evolved. In 1883, there were sixty-nine students enrolled for studies. That year, they moved from classrooms at the courthouse in downtown Vermillion, to the just completed "Old Main" building on the new campus.

By statehood in 1889, the school was officially recognized as the University of South Dakota. The student population had grown to 500. The same year, the College of Arts & Sciences was established, and a public board was appointed to govern USD.

For several decades, university students didn't have a place to call their own. That all changed in 1931 when the "Union Building" opened to great fanfare at USD. The building construction cost of $300,000 was financed primarily by donations. The Union Building provided amenities never before available to students. There were lounges, deep chairs, fireplaces, and free access to magazines and newspapers.

The construction contracts that were awarded on this day in 1963 built the next version of the Union. It was known as the Coyote Student Center. It opened in 1965 and housed offices for different departments and classrooms. It served USD students for nearly 40 years.

A third-generation Student Union was completed in 2009. The Muenster University Center or "MUC," is dedicated to benefactors Ted and Karen Muenster. This version of the student union houses a Student Activities Center, a campus dining facility, a coffee shop, a bookstore, a convenience store, and a number of lounge and TV areas.

But its predecessor, the Coyote Student Center, was launched with bid-letting on this day in 1963.

Production assistance for This Day in South Dakota History is provided by Brad Tennant Ph.D., Professor of History at Presentation College.