Three years, seven months, and 22 days after the groundbreaking of the Bone Student Center revitalization project, more than 100 people gathered May 7 in the shadow of the center’s new three-story addition for the rededication of the nearly 48-year-old building.
The 30-minute celebration highlighted the on-time and on-budget construction project that has transformed the center of student life on campus. The event culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the program’s speakers: University President Dr. Larry H. Dietz, Board of Trustees Chairperson Julie Annette Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Levester “L.J.” Johnson, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Danielle Miller-Schuster, and Student Trustee Jada Turner.
Miller-Schuster emceed the event and set the stage by looking back at the groundbreaking.
“On that September 15, 2017, we gathered together, wiped away the perspiration, and celebrated the coming transformation of a 45-year facility, a building that carries the names of two revered University presidents— Drs. Bone and Braden. We reminisced about some of the facility’s former dining venues, recalled many of the famous talents that had crossed the Braden Auditorium stage—and made fun of the building’s architectural moniker—a style once aptly called ‘brutalist,’” she said. “Well—there is nothing brutal about the Bone Student Center anymore. Today, we formally unveil excellence and applaud the tremendous effort invested to achieve that excellence—even while in the grip of the most daunting world health crisis of our lifetimes.”
The final major update of the revitalization was completed in February when the Star Ginger opened inside the The Birds’ Nest, making it the sixth and final retail dining venue at the Bone Student Center. Other major updates included the aforementioned three-story addition; major renovations to the west side entrance and the Brown Ballroom; the addition and relocation of many partner spaces including a new Starbucks; and the expansion of student gathering spots inside and outside the center.
The project has been a long time coming. Dietz recalled meeting former Normal Mayor Paul Harmon in 2011 when he arrived at Illinois State as the new vice president for Student Affairs. Harmon told Dietz how he participated in about every task force involving the Bone Student Center renovation over the years but nothing ever happened.
“He said, ‘My understanding is as vice president for Student Affairs that unit might fall into your portfolio. Is that true?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’” Dietz said. “And he gave me this stack of notebooks (detailing renovation plans), which I remember to be so tall. He said, ‘For gosh sakes, would you do something?’ Former mayor, I think we’ve done something.”
Dietz also took time to thank a long list of individuals involved in the planning and construction of the center and noted his pending retirement.
“When I announced on November 20 of last year that I would be retiring on June 30 of this year, I offered that the final seven months of my tenure might indeed be among the busiest months of my career. I think that prediction is coming true on many fronts, but I must say I find a sense of gratification in completing several projects before I retire. The Bone Student Center is one of those projects—and the gratification comes not from completing the revitalization on my watch, but for the opportunity to publicly express my gratitude to the legion of dedicated people who brought this venture to fruition.”
During her speech, Jones noted that the funding for the project did not require new dedicated student fees or added taxpayers’ costs and reflected on the center’s impact on the community.
“The Bone/Braden complex is not only a student center; it is a community center. Once the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, the Bone Student Center will fully return to its customary vibrance, welcoming up to 5,000 visitors each day, posting 4,000 meetings and events annually, and contributing to Illinois state’s annual local economy, economic impact in the excess of $830 million.”
Johnson said student needs were placed at the forefront of the revitalization project.
“Understanding that the Bone Student Center serves as a central location for students throughout their entire journey at Illinois State, we were intentional about the services we want to provide throughout the building,” he said. “Now their relationship with the Bone begins earlier at the beautiful new Admissions Atrium. … I’m thrilled to once again announce that students can visit the Student Involvement Center, now enhanced with more space and technology to assist students in exploring their interests on campus. … Students can also explore their interests even further by visiting Career Services to learn more about their major and get guidance to prepare for their future internships or career. By offering all these services, the Bone Student Center is truly serving students throughout their entire collegiate career.”
Turner highlighted the personal impact the Bone Student Center has had on her experience at the University.
“It was where I went to connect with friends, who turned out to be my best friends. We would go to University Program events together, or study at Einstein’s while enjoying an awesome strawberry smoothie. The Bone serves as a central location for us to meet up and hang out. It’s been exciting to watch the transformation of the Bone throughout the revitalization. And I am so happy I’m here today for the completion of this project so that I can take advantage of some of the new services and spaces as a student.”