By Zach Charleston – Contributor
The year was 1973. U.S. troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam, the World Trade Center in New York became the tallest building in the world, and the groundbreaking ceremony for UNO’s Roskens Hall was about to begin.
It was in that year that UNO had the largest enrollment in the school’s history.
It was also the year Gov. J.J. Exon and Omaha Mayor Edward Zorinsky joined University of Nebraska President D.B. Varner and UNO Chancellor Ronald W. Roskens in an effort to add the $3.7 – million building to UNO’s campus.
The ceremony for Roskens Hall was held on a mid-October morning. Chrome-plated shovels were used to dig the first hole in what would soon be the site for the five-story catalyst for higher education.
A $3 – million contract was signed with Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co., and the building’s construction was expected to be finished in 1975.
The lecture hall on the lower floor was predicted to be a new page in higher education, the first of its kind in the Midwest
The-state-of-the-art hall then held 388 seats and contained electrically powered turntables used for “teaching stations.”
A recessed plaza constructed outside of the lecture hall to be used as an outdoor classroom or an informal meeting area. Multiple entrances to the hall made public programs an easy accommodation.
Kirkham, Michael and Associates, Inc., was the company in charge of the 93,315-square-foot structure. The building was designed to be accessible to all people, including those with physical disabilities.
“When the College of Business Administration building was completed in 1975, it was not only a beautiful addition to the UNO campus, but also represented the university’s commitment to providing an excellent and up-to-date learning environment for students and faculty,” UNO archivist Les Valentine said.
Now, the once cutting-edge facility is undergoing changes due to the increasing enrollment at UNO. Roskens Hall will expand and improve classroom space. In fall 2011, the remodeled building will open its doors as the new home for the College of Education.
The hall will include multiple innovative laboratories, state-of-the-art facilities for numerous clinics and shared public spaces that will allow students and teachers to interact with one another. The hall was named after Roskens, who served as UNO’s chancellor from 1972 until 1977.
Roskens had a distinguished career in education. During his tenure, the campus experienced unprecedented growth and development. He took the leading role in several college departments and took part in the physical improvements to the campus.