Quarter-long celebration planned for Tresidder Union's 50th anniversary

Tresidder Memorial Union's 50th birthday this year will be commemorated with a variety of activities during fall quarter. An exhibit about Donald Tresidder, a party for students, afternoon teas and a '60s-themed open house are designed to educate and inspire students to embrace their union.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tresidder Memorial Union, Stanford will party like it's 1962.

Kicking off in mid-September, there will be a quarter-long celebration of Donald Tresidder –the Union's namesake and Stanford's fourth president – and the role the Union has played on campus since its construction 50 years ago.

An exhibit about President Tresidder will be on display on the first and second floors of the union beginning Sept. 15.  On Sept. 18, there will be an open house with 1960s-era prices and employees dressed in the fashions of the day.

During New Student Orientation, on Sept. 22, there will be a party for students on the union's back patio. "Afternoon teas" are planned once a month throughout the quarter in Tresidder's second floor lobby, during which students will be invited to perform poetry, music, monologues and more.

A panel discussion about the role of student unions on college campuses also is in the works. Panel members will include faculty and students.

The Sept. 22 party is for students only; all other events are free and open to the public.

Get to know Donald Tresidder

Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions, said one of the main goals of the 50th anniversary celebration is to introduce students to Donald Tresidder (1894-1948). Often referred to as "a students' president," Tresidder graduated from Stanford Medical School and headed to the Yosemite Park and Curry Co., overseeing the construction of the Ahwanee Hotel, before taking up his post at Stanford in 1943. He remained at Stanford until his death of a heart attack in 1948.

Tresidder had called for a new student union to be built to replace what is now the Old Union, and in 1962 Tresidder Memorial Union was dedicated in his memory.

The exhibit will delve into Tresidder's personal life – he had a wife, Mary, but no children – and his relationships with photographer Ansel Adams and with Helen Pickering, the Stanford Daily editor at the time, along with other aspects of his life. Photographs and select artifacts, such as Mary Tresidder's diary, will be on display, along with a video of students talking about the union and an audio recording of Pickering sharing memories of Tresidder.

"We really want students to know about this person who was loved by students," Smith-Laws said.

'No student union without students'

The Sept. 22 NSO party on the patio will be "over-the-top fun," according to Smith-Laws. It will include a DJ, giveaways and a birthday cake.

The party and the afternoon teas are intended to inspire students to take pride in their union, Smith-Laws said.

"This celebration is about them, too," she said. "There is no student union without students."

Designed by Palo Alto architect Bill Busse after an old house Busse liked on campus, Tresidder Memorial Union has gone through many changes over the years. While the CoHo coffee house, barber shop and convenience store have remained since the beginning, there used to also be soundproofed rooms for students to listen to records, a bowling alley, art gallery and outdoor heating on the patios.

"It was way ahead of its time," Smith-Laws said.

Though Tresidder now houses more independently run food services and administrative offices, it's still the model for many new buildings on campus that also include a combination of meeting rooms, offices, retail and cafes, Smith-Laws said.

The entire 50th anniversary celebration is meant to spark greater understanding and appreciation of Tresidder Memorial Union's role on campus. Since its opening, it has been the hub – a place for students to come together to work and play – and throughout its evolution it should be students who dictate what it should be, Smith-Laws said.

"It's a gathering space, it's a community builder, it's a bonder. It's a place to be seen. We want people to walk away with a better understanding of that," Smith-Laws said. "I want students excited about their union. Whatever your student union is, is whatever you make it."

Robin Migdol is a writing intern with the Stanford News Service.