The May House - Students' Union years 1936–1957
The first student center on campus was the Women's Student Union, affectionately known for years as the May House. As its official name implies, the facility was reserved for use by women only. The house, originally used as a family dwelling, was built in 1892 by John May, a resident of Platteville, and was located where Ullsvik Hall is today. The State Teacher's College purchased the house from the May family, remodeled it, and on June 3 and 4, 1936, used the occasion of an alumni reunion to open it officially.
The college catalog of the area stated that the May House was used as a place, "the young women of the college may go to rest, study, read or visit during their free hours." It had a reception room, fireplace room, powder room, and four study rooms, one for each class. It was also used by "various college organizations and groups for parties, teas, and other social gatherings." In the fall of 1953 the May House was opened to men as well. As reported by The Exponent, now the men could also use its "record player," "play the radio," and have a refreshment. This prompted its name to be changed to the Students' Union.
Pioneer Student Center - Ullsvik Center years 1959–2002
In the mid-1950s the Board of Regents of the State Colleges initiated a program to build a student center on each of its nine campuses. Hence, in the fall of 1957, the old May House building was moved off the site, and in December ground was broken for a new student center on the same site. That building, the Pioneer Student Center, was dedicated on April 30, 1959. It was the first of nine student centers to be opened in the state college system.
The new, larger Student Center served multiple functions. On its main floor the students could use its cafeteria and lounges; the recreation areas were located downstairs, such as the Rendezvous Game Room, affectionately called the "Vous." The meeting rooms were housed upstairs. Because it was intended to be a student center for both the Institute of Technology as well as the Wisconsin State College, it was located on the east side of the latter campus, only two blocks from the old Institute of Technology's campus.
This Pioneer Student Center building, with a few additions, remained the student center for the next four decades. It was enlarged in 1964-65, when a six lane bowling alley, lounge, and snack bar were added to the lower level and the Beaux Arts banquet room (now known as Velzy Commons) and office space was added to the main floor. In 1988-89 more office space was added and an outdoor patio was enclosed creating a two story atrium (site of the Nohr Gallery). In July 1997 the Pioneer Student Center was renamed the Ullsvik Center, in honor of Dr. Bjarne R. Ullsvik, who from 1958 to 1975 was the president and later chancellor of what became UW-Platteville, and his wife, Lucille. Ullsvik coordinated the merger of the Wisconsin State College at Platteville and the Wisconsin Institute of Technology into UW-Platteville. Under his leadership, 22 major buildings were constructed, 38 academic majors were created, and student enrollment rose from 1,300 to 5,000. Dr. and Mrs. Ullsvik will be long remembered for their warmth and hospitality, open-door policy, and concern for students.
Pioneer Student Center - The Markee years 2002 - current
In the late 1990s, it was determined that a new student center building was necessary to meet the needs of the university, one that would serve the larger university community as "a crossroads in the center of campus" for students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The ground breaking occurred in September 2000 and after a year-and-a-half of construction, the new Pioneer Student Center was dedicated on April 29, 2002.
The Pioneer Student Center combined the traditional aspects of a student center with an emphasis on technology. Dining facilities, retail spaces, meeting rooms, student organization offices, and administrative offices were joined by the Bears Den computer lab, Hempel Collaboratory, Testing and Assessment lab, and UW-Platteville's first wireless network and video display system, used to keep students and patrons up to date on events and services at UW-Platteville.
The Beaux Arts banquet room at the Ullsvik Center continued to be used as UW-Platteville's premier multifunction space after the opening of the Pioneer Student Center. On April 25, 2003, the area was renamed the Robert I. Velzy Commons, in honor of former student center director, Robert Velzy. Velzy served, not only as student center director extraordinaire, but also as a psychology professor, and Greek organization advisor providing a variety of outstanding contributions that shaped the campus life of the University. In 2006-07, the Ullsvik Center including Velzy Commons, was renovated and enlarged to add several student services, University Advancement and Alumni Services, University Administration, Administrative Services, and academic department offices, as well as classrooms to the facility, which reopened as Ullsvik Hall in 2008.
On April 7, 2011 the Pioneer Student Center was renamed the David J. and Lou Ann Markee Pioneer Student Center, in honor of Chancellor Emeritus, Dr. David J. Markee, who served as chancellor from 1996 to 2009, and his wife Lou Ann Markee, who served as campus interior designer during the planning and early years of the new student center. Known for his student-centered leadership, during Markee's tenure student enrollment grew by nearly 50 percent, eight new buildings and several building renovations were completed, international programs were expanded including the addition of the Confucious Institute, and web-based academic undergraduate and graduate degree programs were established. Both Dr. and Mrs. Markee are graduates of UW-Platteville and truly embody the Pioneer Spirit.
The student center, now affectionately referred to as "The Markee," continues to serve UW-Platteville, facilitating and fostering broader, more creative interactions amongst the students, faculty, staff, alumni and guests of the university.