UT’s University Center Celebrates 50 Years

The University Center on the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Thursday, Sept. 9.

Festivities will include commemorative T-shirts, food specials and a celebration program. At 3 p.m. in the UC Ballroom, UT Associate Vice President Betsey Creekmore will present “The Value of ‘IF’: A Historical Perspective of the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center.”

There also will be two showings, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” a 3-D movie playing in theaters when the center opened in 1954. Special 3-D glasses will be distributed to the audience.

“There is a display on the second floor about the history of the UC,” said Jim Dittrich, director of the center.

“We brought in some information about the university as a whole as well as facts about life in the U.S. and in the world from when the center first opened,” he said.

When the UC was still under construction, the summer 1953 issue of Tennessee Alumnus magazine reported, “Never in UT history have students, faculty and alumni groups had a place to hold meetings, seek recreation, eat or relax – all rolled into one building.

“The center will be the largest and most complete building of its type in the Southeast.”

Although times have changed, thousands of people still come through the UC everyday.

“Our latest building census showed 11,000 to 14,000 users a day. Of course you can’t even count them on football game days,” said Dittrich.

Dittrich, who has served as associate director and then director of the center for 17 years, said the building has hosted former United States presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, former vice president Al Gore, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell, and “lots of long lines for football ticket distribution.”

The center’s official name — Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center — honors the wife of the donor who funded its construction. The John Scruggs Brown estate provided about $1.5 million to the university to establish a memorial for Mrs. Brown.