The Illini Union was the result of a merger of two student organizations: the Women's League, formed in 1898,1 and the Illinois Union, organized for male students in 1909.2 Both groups realized the need for a center of student activities, but not until 1919 were rooms rented in the YMCA building.3 By 1927, the organization had evolved into an independent corporation called the University of Illinois Union, Inc.4 Membership in the Illinois Union, open to students and faculty, was voluntary.5
By 1909, the class of '09 had begun to raise funds for a Union building.6 When the Foundation was organized in 1935, one of its goals was raising funds for a Union building. The University obtained a grant of $524,820 from the Public Works Administration and a loan of $656,000 from the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, to be paid off with funds from student fees.7 Construction of a building, on the site formerly occupied by University Hall,8 was begun in 1939.9 In February, 1941, the building designed by Howard L. Cheney and John C. Leavell, was opened.10 Furnishings and equipment were purchased with contributions from alumni, faculty, and friends.11
In June, 1938, an Advisory Committee on the Management and Operation of the Illini Union Building was established to administer plans for the construction of the building, and the name of the organization of student men was changed from the Illinois Union to the Men's League.12 In January 1941 the name of the Advisory Committee was changed to "Illini Union Board". The Board administered the Union with the Men's League and the Women's League.13 In 1942, the Committee on Student Affairs, acting for the Board of Trustees, dissolved the Men's and Women's Leagues and merged them into the Illini Union Board.14
In 1963, a 6.9 million-dollar addition to the Union was completed.15 The Union provides a cafeteria, snack bar, dining rooms, art gallery, browsing library, bookstore, bowling lanes, guest rooms, billiard room, information booth, ticket office, lounges, rooms for dinners and meetings, Campus Information Services, and space for offices for student activities and campus organizations. The Union Student Activities program sponsors cultural, social, and recreational programs.16 The Director is responsible to the Dean of Students for "the cultural, social and educational undergraduate programs of the Illini Union Board" and "student activities conducted in the building."
1. Illinois University Women's League, "Illinae Leaves," 1929, p. 20.
2. "Leaves", p. 22.
3. "Ten Years; Illini Union", c. 1951, p. 3, RS 37/7/0/1.
4. Ibid., pp. 3, 4.
5. Ibid., p. 4.
6. "The Illini Union at the University of Illinois," Oct., 1941, p. (3).
7. Ibid., p. (13).
8. "The Illini Union", c. 1965.
9. "Ten Years", p. 4.
10. Ibid., p. 5; "The Illini Union at the U of I", 1941, p. (14).
11. "Ten Years", p. 4.
12. Ibid., p. 4, 5.
13. Ibid., p. 5.
14. Board of Trustees Transactions, 42nd Report, August 29, 1942, p. 81-82.
15. "The Illini Union", c. 1965, p. (3).
16. Ibid., p. (3).