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The Community Center of the College
Shaping the College Union Movement

UW-Madison alumnus Porter Butts envisioned the concept of a college union as "the community center of the college" and devoted his time to creating a space at the University that embodied this idea. When the Memorial Union opened in 1928, Butts was named its first director. He served in this role for 41 years while also teaching at the University. In 1929, Butts outlined the four objectives of the Wisconsin Union:

  1. The Union exists to make the large University a more human place. In the words of president former University President Glenn Frank, "The Union is a living room, which converts a University from a house of learning to a home of learning."
  2. To provide the physical facilities where personal relations among students and teachers may naturally find expression, a comprehensive and well-considered program for the social life of the University.
  3. The Union stands as the University's recognition of the importance of the leisure hour.
  4. The Union is a genuine student cooperative enterprise, aiming to give students experience in governing and managing their own affairs.

Throughout his career, Porter Butts was a pioneer in the college union movement, serving as the president of the Association of College Unions (ACU) in 1932 and consultant for 115 college union buildings throughout the world. Butts was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1991, the same year he passed away. Butts was posthumously granted the Wisconsin Visual Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.