Sixty years on, donors keep Memorial Union Building buzzing

Monday, July 24, 2017
Crowd of students inside the Memorial Union Building

Union Food Court in the Memorial Union Building is a popular spot for dining, studying, socializing and events. (Photo: Scott Ripley, UNH Communications and Public Affairs)

For 60 years, the Memorial Union Building has been the heart of the Durham campus and the center of student activity.

It’s where free-time meets function — it’s both a familiar place to hang out or meet up, but it's also the hub where the daily business of being a college student happens. It’s the home of student governance and leadership, and it's the place where you can watch a movie and grab a burrito. Generations of students have described it as their home away from home, the place where they can find a cozy corner in which to work or socialize.

For Dave Zamansky ’93, assistant director for student leadership at the MUB, students walking into the building should feel as if they’ve just walked into their living room.

“This is the spot on campus where students can and should feel an ownership. This is their eatery, their post office, their study area, their social hangout. We do everything we can to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease here,” he says.

Every year, thousands of students pass through the long hallways and four floors of the building. The MUB is headquarters for more than 200 recognized student organizations, from the student newspaper and radio station to the Black Student Union and the New Hampshire Outing Club. It houses the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Commuter and Non-Traditional Student Services and Fraternity and Sorority Life.

And donors — especially alumni who spent hours in the MUB as students — show their “MUB Love” every year by supporting the place that’s more of a feeling than a facility.

“It was just a really special place where you always knew there would be someone to talk to and the conversation would be something more than mundane.”

The impact of donor support is evident in nearly every area of the building — from furniture and fixtures to extensive leadership programming as well as public lecture series and entertainment.

MUB Director MaryAnne Lustgraaf points to the Lessons in Leadership speaker series as one of the programs that receives donor funding and is beneficial to students. Throughout the academic year, alumni who were student leaders at UNH come back to share their experiences with current students.

“That’s a great program, because it helps connect students with alums, and that could lead to internships, or, at the very least it helps students learn about future career paths they might have thought about,” says Lustgraaf.

Donors help support the physical structure, too. Lustgraaf offers a gentle reminder that the MUB is a 60-year-old building; it represents a strong tradition, but it is also an aging facility.

“We’re funded mostly by student fees, so donor support helps keep those from increasing,” she explains, even as maintenance costs continue to rise.  

For alumni like Shelagh Newton Michaud ’95, a gift to support the MUB supports the part of UNH that, for her, was the biggest source of her college education.

“I spent more time in the MUB than I did in any of my classes,” says Michaud, who served as student body vice president during her senior year and held leadership positions in residential life (Congreve and Stoke) and student government starting in her sophomore year. The political science major went on to earn her law degree and is now a senior attorney practicing at CullenCollimore in Nashua. “I didn’t have nearly the same attachment to my major as I did to student government and the lessons I learned spending countless hours in the MUB.”

“It was just a really special place where you always knew there would be someone to talk to and the conversation would be something more than mundane,” recalls Michaud. “You got to interact with people from all across campus there — athletes, poli sci geeks, science nerds, just all sorts of people from all different areas who gathered there.”  

That’s exactly the role of the MUB, says Zamansky.

Your Philanthropy Creates Possibilities

Explore the many ways you can support UNH at

Our development staff would be happy to work with you.

UNH students walking on campus

“We want to make sure that every student finds their path at UNH, that’s our mission. It doesn’t have to mean joining a student organization, but we feel the MUB is a place where students can find their place at UNH and get involved in some way,” says Zamansky. “We know that students who aren’t engaged in that way are at a greater risk for not coming back each year. We want them to feel more pride and feel that they are part of this place, that they’re part of something bigger, and that they are connected here.”

That was certainly how Michaud felt about her second home, and that’s why she directs her gift to the MUB and student activities. “The MUB was a place where you were free to experiment, explore your interests and passions, find your voice and find the things that you were good at. If we messed up, we knew someone was there to catch us, because there were so many of us working together.”

Support from alumni like Michaud and hundreds of others each year helps the MUB continue its programs and events.

That’s good news for students like Tito Das ’18, whom MUB administrators consider the new generation embodiment of MUB Love.

Thankfully, it’s a moniker that Das embraces fully.

“I do everything there — hang out, study, attend organization meetings, organize events, go to events, work, eat — everything!” says Das, who works as the manager of Wildcat Link (the online student organization directory) and also works part-time as a member of the MUB operations staff.

When he’s not working for the building, he’s working in the building, as president of the Desi Students’ Association, or studying for his classes as a chemical engineering major.

“It might sound cheesy, but the MUB is a giant family that welcomes everyone with open arms! My friends keep asking me why I don’t go back home to India. I am home — I’m at the MUB.”

He notes that in everyday campus life, there are few places where students with such a diversity of passions all come together, but the MUB is such a place.

Tito Das, at the UNH Memorial Union Building
Tito Das '18 (Photo: Jeremy Gasowski, UNH Communications and Public Affairs)

“I work with the president of the Ski and Board club and procrastinate with the RAs. I hide from my boss with the student body vice president and pull all-nighters doing homework with the president of the UNH chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers,” he explains. “Only in the MUB do you find this melting pot of people from all walks of life — those who live at the MUB because they are involved in everything and those who only come to eat at Union 'cause those salads are boss. This is what makes the MUB special; there is something for everyone and someone for everyone.”

And he knows that donors are a big part of what makes that possible.

“The fact that donors support this place is amazing to me. They make so much possible for students like me who rely on this place to be their home. UNH is part of the education industry; the MUB is in the industry of making experiences and memories. It’s called the heart of the campus for a good reason — donors keep that heart beating every year for students like me.”

Lustgraaf couldn’t agree more.  

“These students aren’t just employees, they’re always here," she says. “We want them to feel this is their place, that their names are on the door.”