Celebrating 120 years and a promising future

On Sept. 30, 1891, Union College held class for the first time. Today, 120 years later, Union will celebrate a new milestone—plans to build a new science and mathematics complex.

At 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1891, a bell, mounted in a 10-foot tower between the administration building and South Hall, rang out across Union College’s prairie campus for the first time, calling students to gather for worship.

Seventy-three students tramped through the rain-soaked, muddy field to that first chapel service in the new, partially finished administration building. Most of those students came from Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska.

Those first students braved many inconveniences to earn an education at the new college. Since North Hall, which would become the women’s residence, remained largely unfinished, the women occupied the first two floors of South Hall while the men lived on the upper two floors. Each room was sparsely furnished, but did include a chair, which each student had to carry to classes and evening worship services each day.

The school, built to serve a growing Adventist population west of the Mississippi River, was ready in 18 months. All construction expenses were paid for in cash, thanks to the generosity of Lincoln area farmers who donated land, both for the campus, and to be sold to raise money for buildings. Lincoln residents and Adventists from the surrounding eight-state area also give liberally so the campus could be ready for the fall term in 1891.

Today, exactly 120 years later, Union is celebrating another milestone—construction of a new science and mathematics complex. In a special ceremony as part of the annual Parents Weekend festivities, the college will ask for a special blessing from God as preparatory work begins for the new facility.

The evening event will include a picnic for students, parents and employees under a tent pitched on the lawn south the building site, while just across the street, evidence of construction work is already apparent. On Wednesday, workers demolished a house and cleared the lot at the corner of 49th and Bancroft to make way for a new parking area. Current plans call for the lot—which will replace parking lost when construction begins on the building next spring—to be completed by early January.

“The history of Union College is filled with stories of God’s leading and blessing,” said John Wagner, interim president of Union College who also served as president in the late 1980s. “He has now blessed us with the opportunity to move our campus forward by building a new, flagship facility which will help Union continue to grow.”

While today’s science and mathematics majors don’t have to carry their own chairs to class like those first 73 students, Jorgensen Hall, the 66-year-old science and mathematics building, does not provide them with the proper learning space and research facilities needed for modern science education. The new facility will provide the space and high-tech labs necessary to continue to provide a high-quality learning experience.

Union College has launched the $14.5 million “Our Promising Future” capital campaign to raise the necessary funding for the project. To date, alumni and friends of Union College have pledged more than $11 million to support the new facility.

To learn more about Union’s past, order a copy of Union’s history book, A Light Upon the Hill. If you want to be a part of Union’s future, visit www.ucollege.edu/ourpromisingfuture.