Memorial Student Center Reopened After 3-year Renovation And Expansion
Rededicated in memory of the more than 1,100 Aggies who lost their lives in military service to their country, the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University was reopened Saturday (April 21) after having been closed for almost three years for major renovation and expansion.
The MSC, as the facility is affectionately known to thousands of Aggies — past and present — was expanded to accommodate the university’s nearly 50,000 students, as well as the faculty, staff, alumni and campus visitors who use it for a variety of activities — and to provide for anticipated future needs, officials note. The facility now includes about 400,000 square feet of usable floor space, including 71,000 square feet of new space.
Thousands of Aggies and others packed much of that space as soon as the doors were opened–after the hour-long festive outdoors program ended with a moment of silence in honor of the MSC’s status as a memorial to the Aggies who made the supreme sacrifice to their country.
Rededication of the MSC was timed to coincide with Muster, the university’s annual April 21 date for remembering Aggies who died during the past year — and in recognition that the MSC was opened on the day of Muster in 1951. The current expansion and renovation is the third such endeavor needed to accommodate the Texas A&M student body that has increased more than fourfold during that 61-year period.
Muster is scheduled to be held across campus at Reed Arena with Aggies, family members and friends expected to pack the 12,500-seat facility for the 7 p.m. ceremony.
Costs for the $125 million MSC renovation and expansion are largely being underwritten by student fees and gifts by former students, university officials note, with many of the donors present.
Gov. Rick Perry, a 1972 Texas A&M graduate, joined with a host of student leaders and university and Texas A&M University System officials Saturday (April 21) in commemorating the MSC rededication.
Serving as keynote speaker, Governor Perry described the renovated and expanded facility as “an MSC like we’ve never had before,” adding that historically “this is where the heart first started beating for many young Aggies—and their home away from home.”
“It’s where countless friendships were started—for cram session, for example, and first dates that led to many marriages,” he noted.
He emphasized that the MSC is a memorial—underscored by the first word in its name, the Memorial Student Center—honoring the memories of those Aggies who sacrificed their lives in service to their country..
“It’s a reminder that the freedom we enjoy is not ‘free’,” the governor stated.
After the outdoor ceremonies at the facility’s new “Loyalty” entrance — with other new entrances named “Integrity,” “Leadership,” “Respect: and “Honor” in recognition of Texas A&M’s core values — students, faculty, staff, local residents and campus visitors had the opportunity to tour the facility at their leisure. For many of the students, it was their first look inside the facility that is considered the university’s “living room.”
MSC student leaders and members of the university staff who have been overseeing the project expressed confidence that students, as well as other members of the campus community and local residents, will be highly impressed by what they see and experience.
“When people go inside the building for the first time on Muster morning, I am confident it will feel like they are coming home. There are so many amazing updates and additions, but the spirit and feeling remain the same,” MSC President Elizabeth Andrasi observed prior to the dedicatory ceremony. “The MSC is a place of camaraderie, a central point to meet that transcends every major and class year. It is welcoming to all. As president this year, I could not be more honored to have the opportunity to be the one to welcome everyone in again.”
In addition to the MSC being renovated and updated throughout, it now features a new ballroom — one of the largest in Texas — that can be configured to accommodate up to 1,000 people for banquets or other special events or partitioned off to form as many as five smaller facilities. Another major addition is the 12th Man Hall, a glass-enclosed entryway and new leisure space, along with an enhanced Flag Room, the area that has traditionally served as the facility’s main leisure and study area.
The MSC is a formally designated memorial to Aggies who have died in military service to their country, in addition to being a major hub for a variety of campus activities. A new interior wall more prominently displays the names than ever before of all the Aggies who died in military service to their country. It also includes space for additional names — but with institutional hopes that no new inscriptions will ever be needed. Another long-standing feature of the MSC has been a display of replicas of the seven Medals of Honor presented to Aggies for above-and-beyond valor during World War II, most of them awarded posthumously. The medals, along with drawings of the recipients and written accounts of their deeds that led to presentation of the nation’s highest such honor, are even more prominently displayed than previously.
While the Saturday observance focused on the memorial aspects of the MSC, a seven-day grand opening celebration is set for Sept. 2-8 — shortly after the start of the school year and after students have had the opportunity to plan in detail for a variety of related activities.