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A Look Back


Horizons - Summer 2019

July 7, 2019

As the Horizons team spent time looking through old Acacia yearbooks, we noticed a recurring theme that holds true after all these years: the MEMORIAL STUDENT CENTER has become the beating heart of the student life experience. Here are some gems from the past.

Memorial Student Center building plaque displayed on the exterior brick of the building

1. 1948

Graceland broke ground on the Memorial Student Center, which was to serve as a memorial to all youth of the RLDS church who served during World War II.

Two male students look over their studies at a table in the MSC.

2. 1950

“England meets Missouri and Wisconsin at a table in the new Student Center bookstore.” This photo from the 1950 Acacia may have been one of the first international gatherings in the MSC, but it was certainly not the last. Now, the building is host to many events that bring together students from all over the world.

A group of students dresses a Christmas tree on the MSC during the 1951 holiday season.

3. 1951

“The days just before the Christmas vacation are ones of merriment at Graceland. Music frosts the air as social clubs do traditional caroling, and everyone hums along the paths. The Christmas season officially opens as the whole student body decorates an enormous tree in the Memorial Student Center.”

-1952 Acacia

A small group of students sit at a table in the MSC Main Room visiting.

4. 1960s

The MSC snack shop was created as part of the 1961-62 addition to the building’s east side. It was built to seat around 100 people in a more restaurant-style setting than the previous snack shop, which had existed at the MSC’s west side. In October 1962, COSA announced a contest to name the new snack shop. The Council on Student Life selected the name “Swarm Inn” in January 1963, based on the suggestion “The Swarm Room” by Edwards House freshman Les Hall.

Gracelanders attending a church service in the MSC in 1961.

5. 1960

“Decorations of impressionistic art, soft candlelight, lovely music and the company of that ‘certain someone’ combined to make the Pops Concert a lasting memory for many Gracelanders. A delightful program was presented by the Concert Choir and Graceland-Lamoni Orchestra.”

-1960 Acacia

Students enjoy the Pops Concert at Graceland's MSC.

6. 1961

Graceland has held many church services in the MSC over the years, including this communion service expressing commitment to the insights gained during Religious Emphasis Week in 1961. Today, people still gather in the MSC for faith-based events.

Male and female students roller skate together on the MSC wooden floor.

7. 1966

“Round and Round they go, it’s another rousing MSC skate! One of the more firmly rooted Graceland traditions … A skate was the place to spend a slow Tuesday night.”

-1979 Acacia
(photo from the 1966 Acacia)

Graceland students dance together in the MSC Main Room.

8. 1967-68

The first approved, on-campus dance was held on Friday night, May 17, 1968, at the MSC. The Morticians, a popular band made up primarily of former Graceland students, performed.

Exterior entrance to the MSC Main Room in its early days

9. 1970s

In the center of campus, the MSC — both indoors and outdoors — has been a place to gather, lounge, celebrate and enjoy the Graceland experience from the time it was built. These students in the 1970s are seen enjoying a sunny day near the place where so many students have spent so much of their time.

A group of male and female choir students perform on the MSC stage in the 1970s.

10. 1972

The MSC stage held many generations of choral and other musical performers for various events since its creation all the way up through Day of Giving celebrations in recent years.

An early group of students representing COSA

11. 1975

COSA, Campus Organization for Social Activities, is responsible for coordinating all campus-wide, student-initiated social activities, such as movies, concerts, coffee houses, etc. Entertainment in general! Some of the years’ highlights have been: Jesus Christ Superstar, Mash, Lady Sings the Blues, Howdy Doody, The Way We Were, The Roger Wagner Chorale in concert, Pops Concert 1974, Showboat, and many more. This photo from the 1975 Acacia shows COSA workers for that year.”

-1975 Acacia

Students congregate by the mailboxes in the MSC.

12. 1978

The MSC houses the campus post office, which has been a gathering and meeting place for students for generations. This image from the 1978 Acacia shows the student engagement that takes place on a daily basis as students walk through the building to check their mailboxes.


We made quite an interesting discovery in the 1962 Acacia. One of the Concert Lecture Series performances that year was the Don Shirley Trio. Shirley’s story inspired the 2018 film Green Book, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture this year!

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