April 21 is always a special day in Aggieland. It is the day each year when tens of thousands of Aggies on campus and around the world observe Muster — a day for remembering Texas A&M students and former students who have died during the past year. This year it also will mark the rededication of the Memorial Student Center, which is the university’s “living room” — and much more.
Gov. Rick Perry, a 1972 Texas A&M graduate, will join with student leaders and university and Texas A&M University System officials Saturday (April 21) in formally rededicating the MSC, as it is affectionately known by Aggies past and present.
The rededication ceremony is set for 10 a.m. at the new Loyalty (southeast) entrance to the MSC, with students, faculty, state, local residents and campus visitors then having the opportunity to tour the facility at their leisure.
The MSC has been closed for almost three years while undergoing major expansion and renovation — a $125 million endeavor largely underwritten by student fees and gifts by former students.
Many of the university’s students, who now total almost 50,000, will be getting their first look inside the facility that has approximately 400,000 square feet of usable floor space, including about 71,000 square feet of new space.
MSC student leaders and members of the university staff who have been overseeing the project express confidence that those students, as well as other member of the campus community and local residents, will be highly impressed by what they see and experience.
“When people go inside the building for the first time on Muster morning, I am confident it will feel like they are coming home. There are so many amazing updates and additions, but the spirit and feeling remain the same,” says MSC President Elizabeth Andrasi ‘11.
“The MSC is a place of camaraderie, a central point to meet that transcends every major and class year. It is welcoming to all. As president this year, I could not be more honored to have the opportunity to be the one to welcome everyone in again.”
In addition to the MSC being renovated and updated throughout, it will have a new ballroom — believed to be the largest in the area — that can be configured to accommodate up to 1,000 people for banquets or other special events or partitioned off to form three or five smaller facilities. The 12th Man Hall, an impressive glass-enclosed entryway, also has been added to the facility. In addition to the new areas, there will be a host of other functional areas, including an enhanced Flag Room, the facility that traditionally serves as the main leisure and study area for Aggies who consider it their “living room.”
The MSC is a memorial to Aggies who have died in military service to their country, in addition to being a major hub for a variety of campus activities. A longstanding feature of the MSC has been a display of replicas of the seven Medals of Honor presented to Aggies for above-and-beyond valor during World War II, most of them awarded posthumously. The medals, along with drawings of the recipients and written accounts their deeds that led to presentation of the nation’s highest such honor, will be displayed in more dramatic fashion than ever when the MSC reopens.
The MSC opened in 1951 — likewise on the day of Muster — and underwent two previous renovations and expansions to accommodate the student body that has since doubled and then more than redoubled in size.
April 21 ceremonies rededicating the MSC will begin at 10 a.m. on the plaza outside the Loyalty (southeast) entrance to the building near Joe Routt Blvd. and Houston Street. Rededication ceremonies begin with a march-in by the Corps of Cadets, followed by student leaders and faculty and institutional representatives, placing of a memorial wreath and the singing of the “Spirit of Aggieland” by the Singing Cadets. Members of the Corps of Cadets’ elite Ross Volunteers will lead the procession into the MSC for self-guided tours by students, alumni, members of the campus community and others attending the ceremonies.
Campus activities continue in the MSC Flag Room with the Muster Reflections Display, a unique way of honoring the lives of Aggies by displaying personal items of the Roll Call honorees as a memorial to them. The Muster Camaraderie Barbeque is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the MSC.
Formal activities conclude with Muster at 7 p.m. at Reed Arena, where a capacity crowd — some 12,500 — will assemble for the traditional ceremony honoring Aggies who have died since the previous annual Muster and to hear an inspirational address by an individual, typically a former student, selected by the student committee that oversees the overall event.
The Muster speaker this year is John Hoyle, a 1957 Texas A&M graduate who later served on the faculty for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2009.
The April 21 rededication will be followed by a seven day grand opening celebration Sept. 2-8.