History of the UF Division of Student Affairs - Page 100

100 Reitz Union The original student activities building, Florida Union, opened in 1936. The concept of a student union at the UF dates back to 1922 when a campaign was launched to raise funds to build a YMCA Student Activities building on campus. In 1925, UF president Albert A. Murphree asked his close friend, William Jennings Bryan, a famed politician, lawyer, and orator, to serve as the chairman of the fundraising campaign for the new building. Jennings went on a speaking tour across the state of Florida, making 43 speeches to over 50,000 people. His efforts raised $40,000 and over $173,000 in pledges towards the building. The Great Depression, however, derailed fundraising efforts and most of the pledges were never honored. As the nation recovered, UF’s third president, Dr. John J. Tigert decided to shift emphasis of the proposed student activities building from YMCA focused religious activities to general student activities. Even though initial contributions were donated towards a YMCA center, a local court ruled that the money could be used for general student activities purposes. A grant of over $100,000 was procured from the Federal Government, with the stipulation that the remaining funds for the project would be raised by UF. In 1934, the UF student body voted to provide $15,000 towards the construction of the student activities building. Groundbreaking for the new building, which was expected to cost a total of $173,104, took place on April 19, 1934. The 30,000 square foot facility was opened in 1936 as the Florida Union. At the dedication, Dr. Tigert confirmed the appointment of D. R. “Billy” Matthews as the Union Director, a position he held until 1948. In 1937, the first Board of Managers of the Florida Union was appointed to serve as the Union’s policy making body. The Board of Managers continues to exist today, consisting of students, faculty, and staff (majority students, and chaired by a student). The board plays a vital role in providing advisory input and feedback in the governance and day to day operations of the union. The Florida Union building was designed to meet the needs of the approximately 2,700 all-male students enrolled at UF at the time. The building included meeting H i s t o r y o f t h e UF D S A