WKU Archives


image preview

Creation Date



Other Names - DUC 1969-2013
Downing Student Union, 2014-
Date Built - 1970
Dedicated - Oct. 10, 1970
Cost of Construction - $4.1 million
Gross Square Feet - 193,547 (1970)
Architects - Ben Johnson & Frederick St. Clair, Owensboro

Dero Downing was born September 10, 1921 at Fountain Run in Monroe County, Kentucky, and grew up at Horse Cave in Hart County. He enrolled at WKU in 1939 where he played basketball and earned both a bachelor's and master's degree. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he returned to Western as a mathematics teacher and coach at the College's Training School. He later became director of the Training School, college registrar, dean of admissions, dean of business affairs, and vice-president for administrative and business affairs. When Kelly Thompson resigned on May 21, 1969 Downing indicated his willingness to serve if asked. The WKU Board of Regents elected him president on August 22, 1969. He served until his retirement in 1979. Upon his resignation as president in 1979 Downing became president of the College Heights Foundation, a position he held until his death on April 4, 2011.

Selected education and honors:

AB degree from Western, 1943
MA degree from Western, 1947
Ed. S. degree from Peabody College, 1958
Downing University Center named, 1970
Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Kentucky Wesleyan, 1970
Honorary Doctor of Laws from Murray, 1972
Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Morehead, 1974
Honorary Doctor of Laws from Eastern, 1979
President emeritus from Western, 1979
WKU Sofia-Downing International Center named, 2002
WKU ROTC Hall of Fame, 2007

Downing University Center aka DUC is a 172,000 square foot, air-conditioned building. "The first floor will contain student shops, mechanical rooms and storage areas. The main floor will include a cafeteria seating about 500 persons, a grill accommodating about 560, a 750-seat theater and the main entrance lobby. On the third floor will be a university store, browsing library and reading room, offices of the Associated Students, music and television rooms, a rehearsal room, meeting rooms, and classrooms. Bowling lanes, billiards, table tennis and shuffleboard facilities provided on the fourth floor. ["University Center Bids Due in Sept.," Park City Daily News] It replaced the Garrett Conference Center as the Student Union.

For more information regarding student union buildings see Cedar House and Garrett Conference Center.

1997 - McDonald's, Chik-fil-A, Freshens, Topper Café were added

1999 - renovations on 4th floor due to major storm in 1998, also entire building received new lighting, a dance floor with a sound system, an expanded outdoor eating area, and a huge arcade. This was the first major renovation since 1970 when the building was completed.

2003 - enclosed walkway around south end of DUC with brick and glass, expanded dinning space by 400 seats, added second floor space

2005 - construction of Student Success Center which includes Academic Advising Center, Career Services Center, and Students with Disabilities Services

2012-2014 - renovation of entire building, building renamed Downing Student Center

Park City Daily News:
"$12.5 Million in Steel and Concrete," Aug. 4, 1968
"$3.98 Million Low Bid on WKU Center," Sept. 20, 1968
Mink, Jenna. "Dero Downing Dies at Age 89," April 5, 2011
"University Center Bids Due in Sept.," Aug. 4, 1968
"WKU Center Bids Total $1.2 Million," Sep. 13, 1968

Louisville Courier-Journal:
Brown, Mike. "New Western Center Draws Students," Nov. 23, 1970
"New Center in Western Kentucky's Future," Nov. 2, 1968
"Western to Build $4 Million Center," Aug. 4, 1968


Western Kentucky University


Image Location