Fun As a Timeless Commodity

By Marcia Faye
Student Union Handbook Cover
Student Union Handbook Cover

Melanie Standish (PSYC 3rd year), president of the Illinois Tech Union Board, may be a member of Generation Web; but since history is one of her strong interests, she relished the opportunity to spend hours in the IIT Archives digging up facts the old-school way for a recent project. She prepared an exhibit on the history of the Union Board that was on display at the inauguration reception for President Alan W. Cramb and during Homecoming weekend last fall. Standish says that one of the first clamshell file boxes she sifted through in the archives yielded a wonderful surprise: the cover of the first Student Union Handbook.

“Someone made that,” she says, her voice carrying a note of wonder. “It’s really neat that it was hand drawn because everything is electronically done today. The drawing was done in 1953 by John S. Inman, then chair of the Student Union Commission. It’s of Main Building because it housed the student union then, which is really cool.”

The purpose of the Union Board—then as now—is to provide a wide variety of fun extracurricular activities for students, and Standish included a number of items in the exhibit that reflected this. Besides the handbook cover, she had selected an article from TechNews about a November 23, 1938, planning meeting to discuss the first student union; part of a report on the cultural purpose of the Union Board presented to Illinois Tech President John T. Rettaliata in 1965; and the first Union Board newsletter, Spoken Here, featuring a photo of Chicago’s The Second City comedy troupe. Her archival research led her to have her own conversation with university leadership.

“I wrote my own mission statement this year and sat down with President Cramb to discuss it. I think that his goals for the university are similar to my goals for my organization,” says Standish. “The inspiration for my meeting was an article in an archival newspaper I found about how the gentleman who wrote the first Student Union Handbook presented it to the president,” she explains. “I felt that was a really good idea.”  

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IIT Magazine Audio Extra: Listen to University Archivist Ralph Pugh discuss unique student clubs from Illinois Tech’s past at