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Artist Patrick Wilson and his creation, "Solar Storm."

Artist Patrick Wilson and "Solar Storm," his specially commissioned creation for the new Student Center on the Crookston campus.

UMC opens new student center

Published on September 28, 2005

Bede Hall was built on the Crookston campus in 1921. It was named after Retta Bede, a popular Northwest School of Agriculture (NWSA) home economics teacher, and it served as the dining hall to the 155 NWSA students. But Bede Hall is no more. It was demolished on March 1, 2004. In its place, however, sprouts the Student Center, a sleek new building that's twice as large as Bede with a reddish roof, arched entryway, and several gigantic windows that never fail to draw natural light in.

The Student Center is officially opening its doors this Friday (September 30). A dedication ceremony, complete with ribbon-cutting, will be held at 1:30 p.m. following a campus and community picnic in front of the two-story, 37,550-square-foot building. Speakers (and ribbon cutters) will include University of Minnesota, Crookston, chancellor Charles Casey; U regent Clyde Allen; Vice President for University Services Kathleen O'Brien; and Vice President for System Administration Robert Jones. At the ceremony, student body president Deann Roers will receive a symbolic key to the new facility.

"The facility serves as a connector for our campus," says Pam Holsinger-Fuchs, interim vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment. "It not only connects our campus physically but it will connect our students [to each other] as well."

In addition to having plenty of places to study and meeting rooms, the revamped student center houses a bookstore with an expanded selection of books, computer supplies, clothing, and gifts; a student-run coffee shop; post office; health clinic; the Campus Ministry; and numerous offices: Dining Services, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Career and Counseling Services, Crookston Student Association, International Programs, Multicultural Programs, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Service Learning, Student Activities, and Study Abroad.

Northern lights indoors

Solar Storm, the new aluminum and Plexiglas sculpture that hangs on the first floor of the Student Center, is artist and California resident Patrick Wilson's second public piece. Steel cables suspend the almost 800-pound sculpture, and it has undulating light that shines on the Plexiglas in 14-minute cycles.

"I was trying to make it look exactly like the northern lights," said Wilson in an interview with the Grand Forks Herald. "I wanted it to capture some of the scientific causes behind the lights. It creates imagery in your mind."

Wilson, who landed the commissioned through a UMC competition in 2003, is the son of Laurie Wilson, counselor and coordinator of UMC's Office for Students with Disabilities.

Although Bede Hall is gone and its namesake deceased (Retta Bede served the campus from 1925 to 1957 and died in 1982 at the age of 91), the Bede name lives on in the new building. The Bede Ballroom is on the second floor. To further retain its predecessor's past, the Crookston campus community has restored five lights that once hung in Kiehle Building to place outside the ballroom, and made a table in the first floor Prairie room lounge from salvaged pieces of the ballroom in Bede Hall, which was named Bede Ballroom.

"Aunt Retta had a wonderful sense of humor and was a master of quick repartee," says Virginia Thirlkel. "When the old dining hall was dedicated in her honor, she was truly pleased. At that time, I told her I thought that was quite and honor, and she said, 'Well, we're both old and falling apart!' She would also be pleased, as we are, to know that the ballroom in the new building will bear her name, and that the china hutch that moved from the old building to the Heritage Room in Kiehle Hall will be known as the Bede hutch. That the school chose to continue her name in these ways is a tribute in itself."

Other events happening on September 30 include a 3 p.m. dedication of the Golden Eagle Grind coffee shop and the 4 p.m. dedication of "Solar Storm" (see sidebar). There will also be free public tours of the facility throughout the day.

To learn a more about the history of Bede Hall and its replacement, see UMC's new Student Center.

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