Cost: $2 Million
By the middle of the 1950s, students at Central began clamoring for the construction of a new student union to replace the existing union on campus. Keeler Union (now Powers Hall), built in 1939, was designed with a campus population of only 900 in mind. The swelling number of students in the 1950s convinced school officials of the need for a new building. In 1958, they authorized $2 million for the construction of a new union building that would be built behind Warriner Hall. The building was designed by Roger Allen of Grand Rapids and built by the Miller-Davis Company of Kalamazoo. The two-story, 85,000 square foot structure was four times the size of the old student union and featured a central dome of concrete measuring one hundred feet in diameter.
The new student center was not only a unique architectural addition to campus, it also offered a host of amenities, many of which are no longer available. There was a semi-circular ballroom capable of housing up to 700 diners or 900 dancers and a new University Bookstore. There was a twelve-lane bowling alley, a game room with eight pool tables, and a television lounge. The University Center also featured a Creative Arts Workshop with kilns, pottery wheels, painting supplies, and a completely furnished dark room. Some parts of the University Center were designed with a stylized Native American motif, such as the Reservation, a large dining hall capable of seating over 400 diners. Other services could also be found in the UC such as a barber shop as well as also two large student government offices, four conference rooms, and three private dining rooms.
The new University Center was dedicated on October 9, 1960 at a ceremony that featured a speech by Dr. Early Harper, past president of the National Association of College Unions and the director of the University of Iowa's Union Building. Dr. Charles Anspach, president emeritus, and Dr. Norvall Bovee, Vice President, were also in attendance. A free dance for students was also held in the ballroom on October 8 as part of the opening ceremonies. Although students celebrated the new facilities, including the air conditioning throughout the new center, some looked back on their experiences in the much older, but much more intimate, Keeler Union. The Reservation, especially, was criticized for being too large by some students.
The UC has undergone significant changes since it opened in 1960. In 1969, the Board of Trustees approved $2.5 million for renovations to the University Center. Improvements included an expansion and remodeling of the grill area and the addition of a small, 300-seat auditorium on the top level of the conference wing. Eight lanes were added to the bowling alley. The game room, second floor cafeteria, and the bookstore were expanded as well. Many of the amenities in the UC, including the bowling alley and barber shop, have been removed or relocated to other parts of campus.
The Bovee University Center was dedicated on September 15, 1984 honoring the chief financial officer of the University from 1956 to 1970. Norvall C. Bovee was a member of Central's administration for thirty years, starting in 1940. He came to Central from Eastern Michigan College and served as the assistant director of Keeler Union, then served as its director beginning in 1941. In 1946, he was appointed Business Manager. He spent the years 1948 to 1956 as the Controller, then became the University's first Vice President of Business and Finance in 1956, a position he held until his retirement in 1970.