The idea of a building serving as the social center for the campus at Bowling Green gained in popularity through the 1930s and 1940s. Early in the 1940s, President Prout authorized the construction of such a building in the heart of the campus. The population and services of the university continued to expand, however, and, in 1949, university administrators formed a student advisory committee to assist the
administration in its formulation of plans for a new, larger building. In 1954, the University's Board of Trustees appropriated $1.6 million dollars to construct the new building. Much like the other buildings constructed on campus during this period, the financing of this project was through the sale of bonds on the open market. Finally, the construction of the building ended in 1958. Since that time, the University Union has been a center of social activity to the academic community.
The building has undergone several renovations since 1958 to allow for the continuation of this role through the years, and, in 1997, the university approved plans for a major renovation. BGSU alumni Robert M. and Ellyn Bowen Thompson donated $3 million to this renovation project. The building doubled in size to approximately 125,000 net square feet,
featuring meeting rooms; an array of retail services, including the University Bookstore and a convenience store; more than a half-dozen lounge areas; a 250-seat movie theater/auditorium; a food court; restaurant-coffeehouse; ballroom, and offices for student organizations and services. When the facility re-opened on January 13, 2002, it was re-named the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.
Inscriptions on the East side (bookstore wing):
“The essence of education is change.” - William T. Jerome, 1965
Inscriptions on the East side (foodcourt wing)
“This Student Union belongs to all of us. It represents our commitment to community and life-long learning. Our Union is where education and friendship meet.” - Sidney A. Ribeau, 2001
Inscriptions on the North side:
“Thousands have passed through these halls of learning. Thousands upon thousands want the same opportunity. We must not fail those who have passed this way. We must not fail those yet to come.” - Ralph G. Harshman, 1961
Inscriptions on the West side (over entrance doors):
“No matter where you go, we will keep in touch, and you always will be welcome when you come home again.” - Paul J. Olscamp, 1994
Inscriptions on the West side (over southwest corner/Black Swamp Pub)
“The great task of the University is to weld imagination and experience.” - Hollis A. Moore, 1970
Inscriptions on the South side:
“We are linked to this institution by invisible bonds that do not wither or dissolve.” - Ralph W. McDonald, 1958
Listed below are additional highlights in the history of the building:
- 1958, construction completed at a final cost of $2.75 million and officially dedicated.
- 1966, two fires in building cause $100,000 damage.
- 1971, improvements made in building lowering the level air pollution the building produces.
- 1976, Board of Trustees appropriates $40,000 for renovation of the building.
- 1977, renovation of building completed. Improvements include repainting the walls, laying new carpeting and new furniture for the meeting and lounge rooms. Also, most changed was the Carnation Room which obtained new carpeting, space for a disco, coffee house, television program, and lunchroom overflow crowd. Additionally, the Grand Ballroom received a painting and a new Public Address system; also painted was the Cardinal Room while the student co-op office moved to the space formerly occupied by the Graduate Student Senate office. GSS moved to McFall Center, and the Alumni Room, Dogwood, and Ohio Suites received new carpeting, received new tables, and new chairs.
- 1977, changes in management undertaken lower the operating cost of the Union. Vending machines installed, Cardinal Room fast food hours were extended, the Falcon's Nest's menus coordinated with dining hall menus, and social gathering places closed off.
- 1979, Falcon's Nest cafeteria line converted to delicatessen.
- 1986, major renovation undertaken at a final cost of $425,000. Improvements included the construction of a glass atrium on the front of the building, the reworking of the lighting, repainting, addition of new floors, and the replacement of the furniture.
- 1987, plans for $386,000 renovation of Falcon's Nest approved. The plans extend the length of the Falcon's Nest, the addition of a pizza shop, bakery shop moved to a more central location, lobby renovated, info desk relocated.
- 1988, renovation completed. Improvements made, in addition to those mentioned above, include conversion of the bakery to an island deli, beverage area condensed into a one-stop area, charbroil grill and milkshake machine added.
- 1997, plans for a major $30 million renovation approved by the Board of Trustees with construction to be completed within five years.
- 1999, design development work is in progress for renovation and expansion project and is approximately 75% complete.
- 2002, renovation and expansion project is substantially complete.
- 2002, phase II of union renovations, costing $424,000, completed in spring of 2003.
- January 13, 2002, gala opening of Bowen-Thompson Student Union.