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YMCA building returns to its former glory

Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 16:09

The lyrics of “Y-M-C-A” usually create a cacophony of large arm motions trying to mimic the shape of the actual letters, but neglected is the meaning of the letters. Newly renovated but masked by mystery to most students, the YMCA building on campus stands renewed and ready for use.

YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association. Unless given a specific reason to enter the building on campus, most students tend to just admire its beauty from the sidewalk as they walk by, subconsciously wondering why the building is there in the first place.

“The YMCA is one of my favorite buildings on campus, and shows how a good design can retain the best of the past for the benefit of the future,” said David Woodcock, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Texas A&M.

Woodcock said that it was the first building on campus with a social, rather than an academic or residential, use. The YMCA had buildings on many campuses and in many towns and cities, and combined rooms for formal meetings and informal gatherings, with special purpose rooms for physical and spiritual well-being.

The original YMCA building on campus was equip with a swimming pool, bowling alley and chapel. All of those features have been changed and renovated over time to create office space in the building.

Over the years, the many renovations caused the entire building to become structurally unsound. The only pool on campus is now located at the Recreation Center and the chapel was closed when the All Faiths Chapel opened across the street.

Parts of the old building can actually be found throughout the renovations, including tiles from the swimming pool on the elevator floor signs.

The building was flooded last February, which caused severe damages.

“It destroyed the 41 brand new computers in the lab. Obviously there was a lot of cleaning up to do,” said Gary Varner, head of the Department of Philosophy. The cleanup began immediately after the flood, but all of the repairs were not completed until the middle of the summer.”

Since the building has undergone changes to better ready it for other extreme weather conditions, it houses several new offices. It is now occupied by the Department of Philosophy and Humanities, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Learning Center, Student Success Center, Office of Faculties/Associate Provost, the Faculty Senate, and the International Faculty and Scholars Services.

Communications manager in the division of administration, Karen Bigley, said that the YMCA is a historically significant building on campus and prominently featured along military walk.

Due to the building’s location alongside Military Walk, it has historically been used on A&M’s campus for one more traditional purpose.

“Since the YMCA was the social center of the campus and backed onto Military Walk where most of the cadets lived, the tradition of practicing ‘yells’ would naturally have begun on the steps of the building,” Woodcock said.

Woodcock also said that this took place as a tradition from the late 1880s to the 1950s. He said that it remains in his hopes that the Corps of Cadets will add an annual march from south to north to recall the daily tradition from so long ago.

Although the building has lost its original purpose, it still maintains a lifetime of history to offer students and is a true part of the University.

Woodcock said the renovations of both the building and Military Walk were made possible through the support of others.


“Thanks to the support of the administration and the generosity of alumni, Military Walk and the YMCA represent the best of that past,” Woodcock said.

 


Traditionally, before the YMCA was closed, yell practices were held on its steps after an Aggie football win at home. With the reopening of the YMCA building, that tradition is returning to where it originated.

“It is a part of tradition to do post-game yell practices on the steps of the YMCA building,” said Geral Harris, assistant director of student activities and Yell Leader adviser. “We will be doing yell practices there like they have in the past.”

 

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