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The Shawkey Student Union was a popular hangout for Marshall students for nearly 40 years.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 43rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.

HUNTINGTON -- Morris P. Shawkey was president of Marshall College from 1923 to 1935. Born in Pennsylvania, Shawkey earned a teaching certificate at Oberlin College in Ohio and came to West Virginia to teach in 1895. He served in the West Virginia Legislature and as superintendent of schools in Kanawha County before becoming state superintendent of schools in 1909.

On Shawkey's watch as president, Marshall doubled its enrollment and won accreditation for both its Teachers College and College of Arts & Sciences. It was also Shawkey who managed to convince the state to appropriate funding to erect the James E. Morrow Library, finally enabling the school's library to move out of its cramped quarters in Old Main.

But despite those considerable accomplishments, Shawkey is best remembered for envisioning and championing the construction of a building that ultimately would carry his name - the Shawkey Student Union.

Built in 1933 at a cost of $25,000, the new Student Union was funded by a combination of student fees and private donations. In his campus history, "Marshall University: An Institution Comes of Age, 1837-1980," Dr. Charles H. Moffat writes that the building was named in honor of Shawkey "at the behest of alumni and the Huntington service clubs."

While Shawkey had envisioned a place "where students and faculty might meet on common ground," it's unlikely that many of the thousands of Marshall students who flocked to the Student Union over the years thought of it in such lofty terms. For them, it was a place to meet with friends, grab a bite of lunch, catch up on the latest campus gossip, make a date for Saturday night or maybe sit in on of the seemingly endless card games that went on for hour after hour.

Despite its enormous popularity - and the fond memories it recalls for so many - the day came when the Shawkey Student Union was no longer adequate to meet the needs of a growing campus. In 1971, the university dedicated its new Memorial Student Center and the old union building was demolished.

For more from this series, go to www.herald-dispatch.com. Click on News, then Lost Huntington series.


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