Bowling Green celebrates DSU opening

President Gary Ransdell, Harriet Downing and Alex Downing, the wife and son of former WKU President Dero Downing participate in a ribbon cutting and dedication for the newly renovated Downing Student Union on Aug. 29. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Trey Crumbie

Students, alumni, faculty and administrators stood outside the entrance to the ground floor of Downing Student Union in 90-degree weather to celebrate the community opening of the building Friday.

The student center, which has undergone a $49 million renovation for the past two years, opened last Monday.

The community opening served as a ceremonial event before the WKU football game versus the Bowling Green State University Falcons.

Many prominent WKU officials were in attendance including President Gary Ransdell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gordon Emslie, Vice President for Student Affairs Howard Bailey and Student Government Association President Nicki Seay.

Several speakers reminisced on the history of the 44-year-old, multi-story building and its current impact.

“Four years ago, when we started this project and started thinking and coming up with ideas, there was a keyword that consistently stayed with us and it was transformation,” Bailey said. “We wanted to transform into what modern day students were going to need.”

WKU students have paid for $36 million of the renovation via a $70 dollar fee each semester. The renovation began as an SGA initiative in 2011.

Ransdell commented on how long the building has been a part of WKU’s campus.

“When I was a student, when this building originally opened, Dero Downing was my president,” he said. “So it was an honor for me to hang out in the building that bore his name and I know our students today still have that same honor…”

Dero Downing’s son, Alex Downing, was also in attendance for the celebratory event. Downing said his father was honored to have DSU named after him in 1969.

“He loved to hear stories from students and alumni about their experiences in this building, about the people who they met here and the relationships that they built,” he said.

Following the cutting of a red ribbon, the community was invited to tour the inside of the building. 

John Osborne, who retired from his position as vice president for Campus Services and Facilities in May, said he was extremely happy to see the renovation finally completed after overseeing most of the renovation.

“I was there from the idea, through design, planning and construction up to this point,” Osborne said. “And I often said that this was the one I wanted to see completed before I felt like I was really retired.”