Verdict is in on the Anderson Student Center

I’m old enough now, and jaundiced enough, to be happily surprised when someone or something delivers – or comes close – on a promise. Such is the case with the Anderson Student Center.

Over the past two years, I worked on several videos about the new center, prior to and during its construction. Father Dennis Dease and other UST administrators were consistent and insistent in their description: It would be, they claimed, the campus living room.

Here we are three months later and, it turns out, they were right. It took less than a day for students to discover the ASC and less than a week for them to act like they’d been living in it for years.

The ASC is where they eat and greet, text and talk, read and relax and plug in and hang out; it feels more like a family home than a living room. Well, not exactly a family home, at least not the parts that attract me:

  • The spiral staircase: Even at 71 years old, and five feet six inches, I feel like somebody, perhaps a long-awaited sage or seer, walking down those steps from the third floor to the atrium. They allow for a grand entrance or a very aerobic climb back.
  • The View: The food is good. The choices are many. The service is prompt and polite. The 10-meal lunch card for $62.50 feels like a bargain. My personal favorite to date is a Philly steak sandwich, with lightly sautéed fresh red and green peppers and onions, and I can get that with a fresh garden salad of my own making.
  • The actual view (from out the window): Sitting at a window table in the restaurant gives the diner a panoramic view of the quad and the library bell tower to the east, or to the north, the football field and well-kept family homes along Cretin Avenue. These are views I’d present to parents about to spend thousands of dollars on their child’s education. “Every floor, every side of the building seems to offer a cool view,” says Gary Schulzetenberg, associate director of Web and Media Services.
  • Full-length restroom mirrors: You’re so vain, this whole design is about you. Yep, I’m smiling as I think about standing in front of that mirror, only when no one is around, checking out my stuff: stomach in, pants hitched up, shirt tail tucked in, hair combed. I’m ready now.
  • John P. Monahan Plaza: I’ve already been out there, on March 14, for lunch: 65 degrees, hazy sun, light breeze and a heart-healthy salad. Who could ask for more? Well, maybe a cheeseburger and fries.
  • The flat-screen message boards: They give the center a clean, high-tech look, including a synopsis of the latest weather conditions and forecast. “The technology is very evident,” says Schulzetenberg, “and will only get more effective as people learn how to use it to its fullest.”

Schulzetenberg agrees with me that the student center is a true showcase and one of the best undergrad recruiting tools that St. Thomas has.

Of course, it’s not perfect – not to us curmudgeons and cranks. The hand dryers in the restrooms are loud enough and strong enough to resemble the takeoff of a 747. And sometimes it takes a long time for the order numbers to appear on the boards in Scooter’s, apparently more of a technical problem than a staff issue.

But those are nits. The nub is: It’s a heckuva building.