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Heart of the Campus

Heart of the Campus

How a push in the right direction led to the creation of the cultural hub of the UCF student body.

Spring 2016 | By Roy Reid, ’88

There’s typically a look of disbelief on students’ faces when I describe what life was like at UCF during my freshman year in 1983.

Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard were two-lane country roads, and the campus seemed to end just past the library, theater and bookstore. Student life was centered around a loose conglomeration of one-story buildings that is currently known as Ferrell Commons, but we knew it as the Student Center. It housed various organizations as well as most of the on-campus dining options. With a student body of nearly 20,000, it was clear that UCF needed a more comprehensive student union.


The mid-1980s was a special time to get involved in student organizations because any effort was bound to contribute to the legacy of the school. Mine began when my fraternity brother Nelson Kirkland, ’85, sat me down for an interview to join the Orientation Team, or O-Team as it is still called today. Led by Jimmie Ferrell, for whom Ferrell Commons is named, the O-Team was a crash course in learning how UCF worked. And perhaps the most significant door that it opened for me was the opportunity to serve the university as student body president.

In the summer of 1986, I made the decision to run and was advised by then-SGA president Ira Smith, ’86, to meet with Denver Stutler, ’87, another student who had expressed an interest in the student union cause. Over breakfast, Denver and I discussed how we could secure funding for a union building; it would take a two-year commitment. We agreed that I had a stronger chance of winning the Spring 1987 election and that he would serve as chief of staff. J.J. Mandato, ’88, stepped up as the vice presidential candidate, and we found ourselves in the enviable position of running unopposed. While I would like to think it was something special about us that drew people in, I know that our focus on this key issue is what captured students’ imaginations.

Immediately, we began working to secure the administration’s support for making the student union a priority. President Trevor Colbourn gave us his approval, and from there we lobbied the Florida Board of Regents (predecessor of the Board of Governors) and others in Tallahassee. Our case for the creation of the UCF Student Union earned a substantial financial commitment, ensuring that the facility would become a reality.

Construction began in 1991, a few years after our graduation. And looking back, I can only credit our early success to the hard work of many individuals, inspired by leaders that taught the importance of vision, servant leadership and relationships.

In 2013, I returned to UCF to work as the executive director of communications for the College of Business Administration. Almost daily I go to the Student Union, and when I talk to students and see how much of their campus life takes place inside that building, I am grateful for the encouragement that I received to get involved and contribute to the legacy of our university.