If you go

What: UMC 60th anniversary celebration

When: Through Nov. 11

Where: CU's University Memorial Center

Event schedule and more info.: umc.colorado.edu/UMC60

JC Ancell started working at the University of Colorado's University Memorial Center when he was just 17, scrubbing the floors and bathrooms as a part-time custodian in 1967. He worked his way through various jobs, finally retiring in early 2002 as the UMC's associate director.

Ancell, now 63, saw a lot of history in his 34 years at the UMC, but its history goes back even further.

This week, the UMC celebrates its 60th anniversary with a look back in time at how things used to be on the Boulder campus. Events range from 1950s and '60s-themed bowling, an exhibit on the UMC's history called "Time After Time" and roller skating in the Glenn Miller Ballroom.

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the Colorado Governor's Office will rededicate the UMC as Colorado's official veterans' memorial

"The UMC is the gathering place for campus," said Andrea Zelinko, the UMC's assistant director. "It is where students, staff and faculty can meet, study, learn, eat, socialize, have fun, collaborate and more. We are excited to celebrate 60 years of being the heart of campus, highlight changes and accomplishments and look forward to an exciting future."


60 years, lots of changes

In 1947, then-Colorado Gov. Lee Knous proclaimed the planned CU student center a memorial for veterans. Construction began on the UMC in 1951, and the doors to the new student center opened in 1953. It was officially dedicated Sept. 26, 1953, with its shiny new ballroom named for Glenn Miller, a World War II veteran and musician who attended CU in the early 1920s.

Ancell remembered a story that got told often about the UMC's elaborateness when it first opened.

"It was really the gem of the CU campus," Ancell said. "In fact, the president of the university at the time was a little bit embarrassed by the opulence of it, so he had to move the old furniture from the previous student center into that building so that when it opened up it didn't seem so hotsy-totsy."

Extravagant or not, the UMC was so popular that in 1964, a little more than 10 years after opening, student fees financed the addition of a new bookstore, conference facilities, additional dining areas and offices.

The late 1960s and 1970s brought with them boycotts, sit-ins, protests, rallies and political demonstrations near the UMC fountain. Students plotted and planned inside the UMC, which was designed to be the "campus living room," Ancell said.

"It would be on the national news at least a couple of times a month," Ancell said. "Those were very political times. The UMC was not only where students were meeting with their professors and student groups, but marches were started there, boycotts were planned there. It was really an exciting, exciting place to be."

In 1986, the UMC's food service areas were remodeled, and in 2002 the UMC grew to the north and west with 50,000 square feet of new space.

In 2010, crews renovated the food service areas again, and they are now preparing for a spring 2014 overhaul of the Glenn Miller Ballroom, which has been left virtually untouched since the UMC opened 60 years ago.

The ballroom and other areas of campus hosted big-name musical acts, brought to Boulder by CU's Program Council.

Ancell remembered the stadium shows, concerts and movies he helped organize, either as a student member of Program Council or as its adviser after he was hired full-time. Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, B.B. King and others all visited Boulder, and the Program Council showed 80 different movies a semester for $1 a ticket, Ancell said.

"Program Council became a very big deal and very successful," Ancell said. "All that programming was originating in the UMC."

Before 1987, the UMC served beer to students who were 18 and older. One of the more popular programs were the Friday Afternoon Clubs, where students could drink beer and watch live music.

The UMC's 60th anniversary celebration includes an encore of the Friday Afternoon Clubs this Friday in the North Dining Room, though root beer floats will be served instead of beer.

The food of the UMC has also changed drastically over the years, said current associate UMC director Jimmie Baker. In its earliest days, students feasted on comfort foods like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, served up cafeteria-style. But over the years, students asked for more modern dining options, and today they choose from foods at the Alferd Packer Grill and vendors such as Subway and Jamba Juice.

'More than bricks and mortar'

Baker, who came to CU in 1981 as a student, became a full-time UMC staff member in 1986, holding various positions ranging from housekeeping crew member to UMC operations manager. He's stayed so long because he likes how vibrant the UMC and its students are.

"It's a really active place," Baker said. "Myself and my coworkers, we enjoy working with students. They bring a dynamic energy that you just love being around. It keeps your drive going and makes it a place you want to be and come to every day."

Ancell's ties to the UMC run even deeper. Through Program Council and the UMC, Ancell got to experience rock and roll at its peak. Ancell wondered: Why would he ever leave? His last stadium show before retiring was the Dave Matthews Band.

In addition to being where he got his first job, Ancell met his wife, Maryellen, in the UMC on Program Council.

After their wedding in 1978, they held the reception in the UMC's Glenn Miller Ballroom.

"My life was the UMC," Ancell said. "It's more than bricks and mortar to me."

Contact Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta.