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Crowds endorse LU’s newly renovated Setzer Student Center in Grand Opening

Ribbon Cutting - H. LeTulle

Hundreds of Lamar University students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and dignitaries from across the state and beyond gathered under clear skies to celebrate the grand opening of the newly renovated Setzer Student Center, the culmination of an 18-month project that took the facility from dated to state-of-the-art.

Described as the “students’ living room” on campus, the new facility boasts new meeting spaces, updated access and technology, dining and shopping options and many outdoor improvements. Following a ribbon cutting, attendees streamed into the building for a first look at what had been hidden behind construction fencing for many months.

“The project has transformed the look, feel and function of both the Setzer Student Center and the campus Quadrangle, the picturesque heart of campus,” said Terry Mena, associate vice president of student engagement and dean of students.

Regent Bill ScottJoining in official remarks before a ribbon cutting were Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall, local regent and TSUS Vice-Chairman Bill Scott, President Ken Evans, Vice President of Student Engagement Vicki McNeil and LU Student Body President Dillon Nicholson.

LU’s first Student Union was built in 1942 for what was then Lamar State College of Technology. The second Student Union was completed in 1953 in response to rapid enrollment growth as GIs returned from World War II. That building would be renovated and expanded, beginning in 1969, under the leadership of then-President Richard W. Setzer.

AudienceSetzer, a professor of economics, came to Lamar in 1951, serving as dean of the School of Business, dean of the college and vice president of academic affairs. He became LU’s president in 1967, but died suddenly in 1969. After his death, the Board of Regents voted on April 29, 1969 to rename the Student Union the Richard W. Setzer Student Center, or the “Set” as it is often called. Since that time, the “Set” has provided a place for students to meet, to enjoy leisure and to develop leadership skills.

Jean Setzer of Windsor, California, daughter of President Richard W. Setzer, joined in cutting the ribbon. 

“I had the opportunity to witness the reconstruction of the Student Union which was to become the Setzer Center, the building whose bones have become a part of this building we dedicate today,” Scott said.

President EvansPlans for the latest large-scale SSC renovation project began when students recognized the need for major improvements to the aging Student Center. The university conducted many focus groups and meetings to get feedback from the students to ensure that the new design would meet the diverse needs of the entire university population.

During the spring 2012 semester, the Student Government Association, led by then-president Andrew Greenberg, passed a student-wide referendum to finance renovation and remodeling the Setzer Student Center. The vote was passed with 81 percent approval. The Setzer Center closed for major renovations in October 2016, with the many functions performed there provided in alternate locations across the campus during construction.

“There are a lot of people who had their hands in this process to make this happen,” Evans said. The former building had “serviced the needs of the campus for a long time. But, it was tired. It needed attention. It needed a transformation, and indeed that is what has happened.” 

Evans called the building a “hub where people meet together … and it makes a monumental difference in their lives.”

Crowd starting toursEvans pointed out how the quadrangle “has been as dramatically transformed as the building” after a campus team, under the leadership of First Lady Nancy Evans, worked with designers to maintain a focus on the areas stately oak trees while “opening up the space to move around and provide ample seating to be able to enjoy the space.” At the opposite end of the Quad is a recently installed sculpture by Texas-native artist James Surls, funded through a construction set aside created by Chancellor McCall to bring significant art to campus.

Evans also pointed out the anticipated opening of LU’s other current major construction project – the 90,000-square-foot Science and Technology Building – slated for November. “None of this happens with out people,” he said. “It’s the quality of the faculty and the quality of the students that makes Lamar what it is.”

“I have seen a dedication from the administration to better the university both as a campus and as a university,” Nicholson said. “I’m truly excited for my peers and all incoming students who get to experience their college years with these facilities.”

Chancellor Brian McCall“Good things are happening at Lamar University,” said Chancellor McCall as he described how together the Wayne A. Reaud Administration Building, The Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship, the Science and Technology Building, and Setzer Student Center comprise a $200 million investment in the campus. An additional $100 million in construction is taking place on the campuses of Lamar State College-Port Arthur, Lamar State College-Orange, and Lamar Institute of Technology, he said. McCall praised Representatives Dade Phelan, Senator Brandon Creighton and the Texas State Legislature for its support of these projects.

More about the New Setzer Student Center

The Setzer Student Center brand-new space was designed with students in mind. The Student Organizations Workroom gives LU's 150 student organizations space to work on events and activities.

SSC Grand OpeningOn the second floor, updated offices include space for the Student Government Association, Event Services, Student Organization Services, the Cardinals Activities Board, New Student & Leadership Programs, the Dean of Students, and the Vice President of Student Engagement.

The building now has 18 meeting rooms that can host groups from 13 to 60, game rooms for video tournaments, the Live Oak Ballroom with capacity for 375, a second-floor student lounge and a veranda overlooking the Quad.

For dining and shopping, the SSC now has a food court featuring Jason’s Deli, Chick-Fil-A, and Panda Express, the Market at the Setzer Center for quick snacks and drinks, a full-service catering kitchen for special events and Barnes and Noble Bookstore with LU apparel, textbooks and school supplies.

Throughout the building, integrated audio-visual technology, digital signage and enhanced Wi-Fi will support student activities.

Beyond the building, new walkways, raised patio decks, café tables and chairs and beautiful landscaping beautify the heart of campus.