A Personal History of the University Club
Composed by Walter E. Weibrecht, second president, Board of Governors, on the occasion of his retirement from both the presidency and the university in 2001
The University of Massachusetts Boston University Club was founded in 1970 as the Faculty Club, five years after the opening of the campus in 1965. Many people felt the need for such an organization at least in part to foster a sense of community at our very young and very urban campus. The Park Square location in which we found ourselves in those early days presented the considerable allure of the city right at our doorstep. If people were to be encouraged to remain on what passed for a campus in those days, a focus for social interaction in an environment slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of campus activity seemed to be a good idea. The founding faculty and administrators and those who followed them to campus in those early days were concerned with every aspect of the creation of a university. Those were exciting times in which traditional ways of doing things were sometimes discarded in favor of new ideas and sometimes embraced as hallmarks and links to kindred institutions everywhere. It was in this spirit that we felt that our university should have a faculty club in keeping with those we remembered at the institutions from which we had come.
The way in which the Faculty Club came into being and the manner in which its affairs were managed reflected both state regulations and the tight rein with which the central administration managed campus affairs. The Amherst campus already had a thriving faculty club at that time. Based on their experience we learned that state monies could not be used for a faculty club. Hence, the University of Massachusetts Boston Faculty Club was set up as a nonprofit corporation overseen by a board of governors comprised of twelve individuals from both the faculty and the professional staff. These governors were elected by the members of the Club from among their number. In the first fifteen years or so of its existence, as a courtesy, the board of governors always counted the chancellor's wife among its members. This practice was discontinued in recent years when the chancellors' spouses were not available. The officers consist of a president, secretary, and treasurer. These officers are currently elected by the board of governors, but this was not always the case. When the board was originally set up, the president, Anny Newman of the Russian Department, and the secretary, F. Donald Costello, Director of Admissions, were elected. However, the treasurer was Ann Verret, secretary to Thor Olson, the first Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance on the Boston campus. It was she who, under the watchful eye of her boss, kept the books and handled the money. When Ann Verret left the University, another A&F staffer, Heinz Bondy, was tapped as treasurer. It was not until December 1978, after Heinz Bondy had left, that Walter Weibrecht of the Chemistry Department, second president of the board, assumed the duties of treasurer by default.
Membership in the Faculty Club was restricted to faculty and professional staff persons. Dues were determined according to salary level. The minimum monthly dues for those earning up to $10,000- per year were $2.50 per month. Dues rose in $0.50 increments within $5,000- salary ranges with those earning more than $25,000- paying the maximum amount of $4.50 per month. This dues structure has remained unchanged up to the present time. The minimum period of time for which one can join the club is six months. In the case of annual memberships dues are collected twelve months of the year even though the academic year does not include the months of June, July, and August, and the club provides no services to its members during those summer months. A payroll deduction authorization form for collection of dues is appended. Those wishing to pay annually by check may do so as well.
There had been building sentiment over the years to make the Faculty Club's membership more inclusive. To this end the membership was polled in November 1990 and voted by a wide majority to extend membership to classified staff. An unofficial name change to "University Club" was made to more accurately reflect this new spirit of campus-wide community.
At the time of the Faculty Club's establishment in 1970 the Boston campus found itself housed in buildings in the general area of Park Square in Boston. Aside from 100 Arlington Street which we owned, all other space was rented. As the university grew so did the demands on space. The fortress-like structure at the corner of Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue, now known as the Park Plaza Castle, served as the main library. The fourth floor of the castle tower contained a generously-sized room which housed the museum of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston. That organization was allowed to keep its museum in that space as part of the rental agreement. The Ancient and Honorable in turn graciously shared its space with the Faculty Club. At the outset the club operated as a "locker club". Members stored the beverage of their choice on the premises and went there at their leisure to relax and socialize. A program of every-other-monthly evening soirees was soon added. These consisted of a catered, sit-down dinner enjoyed to the accompaniment of a chamber music performance, often by students from the New England Conservatory of Music. Approximately 40 people who paid $30- per person for the meal and entertainment were normally in attendance at these affairs. I still remember those soirees with great fondness. Dues paid the wages of the attendant who was present during the normal operating hours in the late afternoon and early evening, weekdays. As funds allowed, sturdy though attractive couches and comfortable chairs were purchased. This was the extent of the Faculty Club's activities for the first four years of its existence.
Things changed dramatically with the opening of the Harbor Campus in January 1974. While usage of the locker club dwindled, an important new offering was initiated. The club was given space for a dining room on the third floor of McCormack Hall with direct access from the cafeteria kitchen. The buffet-style luncheon program was catered by the university's food service company as it is to this day. The dining room manager, Christine Ryan, who was hired at the outset was, like so many support staff, a member of the local community. From the day that she walked in the door the room was hers. She was a beloved personality who served the club for more than 20 years. Others who assisted Christine over the years included Sheila Sweeney, Bob Murray, and Carmen Pagan. Carmen has since taken over as dining room manager and has gained the respect and appreciation of the membership through her quiet efficiency and unfailingly pleasant nature.
When the luncheon program outgrew its original space in McCormack Hall, space was found for it on the eleventh floor of the Healey Library where it has remained. Prices for lunch have been kept artificially low with members paying $5.00 and nonmembers $6.00 for a hot entree, salad bar selections, and beverage. The difference between receipts and the cost of food and labor is made up out of the dues. The club had a special wine and malt license from the City of Boston for a number of years. At that time there was also a pub on campus. As people became more and more concerned about the potential dangers associated with the consumption of alcohol on campus, the pub was closed and the Faculty Club ceased to offer alcoholic beverages to its guests. The luncheon program has been very popular and has provided a value service to the campus. The setting offers stunning views of the Boston skyline and of the harbor islands. The lack of kitchen facilities, however, has made for a much less than ideal working environment for the staff.
With the completion of the new campus center the University Club's dining program will enter a dramatic new phase. The Board of Governors helped with the design of the dining and function rooms. We are very enthusiastic about their location which affords easy access from the building's central kitchen facilities. The meeting rooms in the Campus Center will also relieve the pressure on the present University Club room to close for large functions and meetings. It will be wonderful not to have to inform the university community each month of interruptions in the luncheon service due to meeting space demands.
The club's luncheon program has been well received by the university community and operates in the black, so to speak. Dues and cash receipts in the dining room have slightly outweighed expenses, especially over the past five years. This has led to a small surplus which has been building in the club's bank account. While other activities such as the locker club have been tried from time to time, the only one which has been sustainable has been the luncheon program. The new space in the Campus Center will open up exciting possibilities such as table service and menu choices.
With regard to the work of running the Board of Governors the situation has been less robust. As mentioned earlier, I took over the duties of treasurer in addition to those of president in the late 1970s. Several years thereafter with the retirement of F. Donald Costello, I also assumed the duties of secretary, because no one on the board would take the job. Once the luncheon program was up and running, there really weren't any major decisions to be made and the board sank into a state which might be described as one of genteel inactivity. It has been my pleasure to serve my colleagues in this way. However, with my retirement, planned for May 31, 2001, the board finds itself at the threshold of the 2001-2002 academic year with no officers in place. This is a situation which must be remedied before this school year is finished. The University Club serves an important function on campus and no doubt has a role to play in the future life of UMass Boston. It is hoped that future boards and their officers will build on the foundations which have been laid over the past 31 years.