Returning from war—1950s
Frank De Haan ’50 was discharged from the Army in January 1946, married his sweetheart, Dolly, and enrolled in Union College. The couple lived on 46th Street, close to campus and Dolly’s job at St. Elizabeth Hospital. “After the war, you couldn’t buy a car,” he said. “We went everywhere by bus; it cost us a nickel.”
De Haan studied agriculture. Since Union didn’t have a full agriculture program, he split his time between Union and the University of Nebraska. De Haan recalls taking one bus downtown and another to UNL. Eventually, he saved enough money to buy a scooter for a faster commute.
Many of his fellow students had also been in the service. “We were quite a group,” he said. “Most of the male students in my class were veterans. A few had been part of the D-Day Invasion, and some had been injured. A lot had seen serious battles.” He recalls school leadership struggling to adjust to the realities of enrolling veterans. “They were used to teaching kids,” he said. “It was a shocker for them to deal with grown men who had already experienced so much.”
Jorgensen Hall was brand new the year De Haan enrolled, and there was a large campus vegetable garden. He remembers going to school in the original College Building and attending services in the newly-remodeled original College View Church. “That church is gone now, but we loved it,” he said. “We used to laugh about walking to church with the wind blowing in our faces, and when we turned around to go home, the wind would still somehow be blowing in our faces.”
After graduation, his growing family moved to Maryland, where De Haan managed a farm in Gaithersburg for the next 30 years. Now at 90, he remains loyal to the school that was so good to him. “I was there on the GI Bill. We lived on that, and I graduated with no debt.” He says his years at Union provided him with a good foundation. “We had a great experience at Union as a young couple. We’d like to go back again.” De Haan and his wife remain in touch with the school and support its mission. “Our schools are so important,” he said. “We are proud to be Unionites.”
Spanning old and new—1970s
“I loaded up my 1967 Chevelle and moved into South Hall in fall 1970,” Terry Owen ‘74 recalled. It was an era of change for the school. East of Calvert Street, 56th Street was still gravel. Students went to classes in the original College Building, as the Everett Dick Administration Building was still under construction. He remembers seeing the old clock tower being replaced with the current landmark in 1971. The original Valentino’s restaurant on Holdrege Street was a popular student destination, and he swam laps and played water polo in the metal pool building. “It was drafty,” Owen says. “Icicles would form inside in the winter.”
Owen is the middle of three family generations to attend Union. “My dad went to classes in the original College Building, so it was a neat experience to go to school in the same rooms,” he said. His daughter, Lacey Owen Merkel (‘01), and sons, Jonathan ‘06 and Zachary (‘00), attended classes in the Everett Dick Administration Building, completed the year after their father graduated.
“We were at Union during a time of political and cultural upheaval,” he remembered. “It was early in the space age, women’s lib was a big deal, the country was at war, and it was the dawn of the computer age.” He remembers the clash of new and old Adventist values, too. The Wedgwood Trio visited campus, singing sacred music on Sabbath and popular music on Saturday night, including John Denver cover songs. “The college president got up at chapel on Monday morning and apologized that the music was so wild,” he laughed. “It was the start of a new era.”
He married Brenda Voth ’75 in 1973 and the couple lived in Kern Court apartments on campus. After Owen finished dental school, they moved to Chadron, Neb., and founded Owen Dental Care. The family practice now includes his wife, who is the office manager, and their two sons, who are both dentists.
Union holds a special place in the Owens’ lives. “Regardless of all the political, social and cultural issues going on, and whether we were getting our education in buildings new or old, there was always a spiritual component that spoke to our hearts and made impressions that bore fruit later in life,” he says. “We recognized our need for a relationship with our Savior, and that’s what really mattered most about our years at Union. It’s our prayer that will never change.”
Student population explosion—1990s
When Paul ’99 and Jenney Flanagan ’99 Britain arrived at Union in fall 1995, there were fewer than 500 students on campus. But that wouldn’t be true for long. By the time they graduated, the student body nearly doubled.
By 1999, the school boasted its popular Best of Both Worlds program, in which students could enroll at Union and attend classes at UNL for majors not available at Union, the PA and nursing programs were hitting their strides, and the English as a Second Language program drew exchange students from other countries.
Jenney recalls the early days. “Freshman year, we knew everyone. Union was friendly and easy to come into as a freshman. Staff and students were accommodating and wanted everyone to be involved.” Despite the rapid population growth, they say the school maintained its personal feel. “It took a few years for the student body to grow; it kind of crept up on us,” Paul said. “It was still easy to get to know people. Class sizes didn’t change much, and it wasn’t hard to get into classes you needed. There were just more people to get to know.”
Sports and leisure were big on campus and for the Britains. Paul played basketball and Jenney joined the inaugural women’s volleyball team. “It was fun, but we weren’t very good,” she laughs. They remember eating in the Chat, where big screen TVs showed football games, and watching cartoons projected onto the cafeteria wall on Fridays.
Jenney recalls that her first email address was one assigned to her by Union, and technology was an attraction. “Union was the first college west of the Mississippi to have a computer terminal in every dorm room, and that was a big deal,” added Paul. “We were coming into college as technology was changing. It was an interesting time to be a student.”
The Britains live in Evansville, Wis., with their four children. Jenney, who studied psychology, is a physical therapist, and Paul, who graduated with degrees in communication and public relations, is a firefighter. He says his on-campus job at Marketing Communications offered practical applications. “My classes were good and I learned a lot, but my job was just as important. It was where I applied my skills and helped me get a job,” he said. Paul shared that the roots of his education still run deep. “I do quite a bit of writing in my job, and some of the Blakeisms [referring to Chris Blake, associate professor of English and communication] still come out; I also remember things that Karl-Heinz Schroeder [retired professor of history] said. That stuff is still with me, and it helps make me who I am.”
Returning from war—1950s
Social media and technology defined the college experience for Unionites who attended in the 2010s, like communication major Teddy Griffin ’13.
“By the time I got to college, Facebook was starting to gain popularity with groups. It had always been used for one-on-one personal connections, but we started seeing Facebook explode into featuring events, pages created for student groups from ASB to clubs, and even graduating classes. For the first time, we were able to keep connected as a large group.”
This meant more exposure to events and happenings, and a way for students to share their point of view. “Everyone was a part of it together, and that meant we could all contribute and see how everyone else saw events from basketball games to commencement,” he said. “It was a deeper point of connection for students.”
Technology also changed the way students related to classes, professors and each other. “The number of binders and legal pads was dwarfed by computers and tablets,” said Griffin, who is now the manager of strategy activation at Sonora Regional Medical Center in California. “The flow of information changed.” Students found easier ways of taking notes—like taking photos of PowerPoint presentations rather than hand writing—and teachers used more technology in classes. It was easier for students to share notes and for teachers to distribute lecture notes and example problems worked out in class. Even relating to each other changed. “We went from having to wait for office hours to talk with teachers to being able to email them to being able to text them,” Griffin shared. “We didn’t have to worry about hours of operation—we could get quick feedback, and that changed the way we went to school.”
Despite technological advances, the human connection still remained. “A pervasive theme of Union is that it’s a family,” Griffin said. “There’s a special bond that happens when you’re in a school of this size. You aren’t necessarily meeting new people in every class or every semester. Instead, the people you work with and go to school with become family. We’re working together to benefit each other and help support one another. When one succeeds, everyone succeeds. Union encourages inclusive, selfless action and spirit. Everyone is in it together. It’s a special bond that Union creates, and we’re all part of it.”
Lauren Bongard Schwarz ‘04