MUB stands for sacrificing for country: Legion chaplain

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Paul Nelson, chaplain at Hancock's American Legion post, is enlisting support for the Memorial Union Building, seen here, to be renamed the Veterans Memorial Union Building.

HANCOCK — One local veteran is looking to ensure people remember why Michigan Technological University’s Memorial Union Building has its name.

Paul Nelson, chaplain of the American Legion post in Hancock, is circulating a petition to ask the Michigan Tech Board to formally change the name to the Veterans Memorial Union Building.

The MUB, built in 1952, was dedicated to students, alumni and faculty who had served in the military.

In a letter to the alumni foundation of the then–Michigan College of Mining and Technology during the fundraising drive for the building, President Grover Dillman said the new facility purposely broke from old practices of honoring veterans with “handsome but useless structures.” A better tribute, he said, is a facility that sees constant use.

“Although no structure made by man can adequately honor those who have served, a building combining utility and beauty is an approach to adequate expression,” he wrote.

A panel bearing the names of Tech graduates or students who died in World War I and World War II was on the first floor for many years before moving to the second floor when the building was remodeled.

When the Memorial Union Building dedicated a new panel with the names of Tech grads or students who died in wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan in 2014, Nelson gave the invocation.

At the time, he said most of the students at Tech don’t know what the MUB memorializes — a sentiment with which he still believes.

“Modern thinking on college union buildings is that they should be upbeat,” he said. “It would be rather simple to simply rename the building. That would help people get a better understanding of what it is.”

Nelson, a professor emeritus of economics at Tech, served in the Army in the 1960s. At that time, students were well aware of the military and the draft, he said.

With the volunteer army, it’s more remote for today’s students.

“Most of our students don’t even know a soldier,” he said. “They see the (Reserve Officer Training Corps) students, but the idea of the military is so far out of their consciousness. They don’t have the draft to worry abut, they have a career to think about, but they lose sight of the fact that wars were fought with people just like them.”

Nelson said he has solicited support from other local organizations such as the American Legion in Lake Linden and MTU’s Veterans Club.

He addressed the issue at December’s board meeting. He is hoping to have more written endorsements before making a formal request to the board.

“I think it would be a great idea to let the whole campus know what it’s a memorial to,” he said.