History’s Foundation: Holmes Student Center


Holmes Student Center

By Olivia Willoughby

Pointing high up in the sky, this building can’t be missed.

Whether it was for orientation or to wait impatiently for the Huskie Bus, a student has been here at least once.

With its first two floors built in 1961, the Holmes Student Center might just be the tallest building in DeKalb County, Mitch Kielb, director of the Student Center, said. Kielb said the building was named after Leslie A. Holmes, the fifth NIU president.

Holmes also is responsible for NIU owning another campus in Illinois.

“He was the president that acquired a campus in Oregon in 1951,” Cindy Ditzler, director of the Regional History Center, said. “It’s for Lorado Taft, a well-known artist. The campus is used for outdoor education. That’s 60 acres of land that NIU owns.”

Kielb said the Student Center has changed a lot since he graduated in 1976.

“The main floor computer lab used to be what was called the ‘Browsing Room’ where students sat and read,” Kielb said. “The current TCF Bank and One Card offices were just a vending lounge. The Center Cafe was called the ‘Pow Wow.’”

In the late ‘60s, the tower of the building rose with the addition of a hotel.

Norm Jenkins, assistant director of the Student Center, said not many people know about the hotel rooms the building has to offer.

“Floors eight to 14 are scattered hotel rooms with nine on each floor,” Jenkins said. “We have three beautiful suites and the rest of them are standard hotel rooms.”

In addition to these suites, Jenkins also said students a part of any Student Association-recognized organization can book any meeting room on any floor for free.

“A lot of student organizations have meetings here,” Jenkins said. “Part of the student fees supports this, so we figure there’s no reason to charge students.”

The biggest room in the Student Center is the Duke Ellington Ballroom.

“Duke Ellington was a famous piano player, conductor, composer and playwright,” Jenkins said. “Back in the early ‘70s, his last performance ever was in this room.”

One of the last additions of the Student Center was its pyramid at the top of the building, added in the early ‘90s. Due to some deterioration, the tower had to be re-cladded, Kielb said. With this fix, came the lights.

“The lights were added with the re-cladding project to give the tower a distinctive new feature,” Kielb said. “After re-cladding the tower, there was a ceremony on the mall at night where President LaTourette flipped a switch and the pyramid lights came on.”