"A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Volume 74 | Issue 3
May 2006

Union Spotlight: Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center at Radford University


Heth Hall, built in 1973, served as Radford University’s college union until August 2005, when the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center opened. Although it was located in the center of campus, Heth Hall was essentially a facility in which activities took place. It lacked food services, student lounge spaces and easy accessibility. After years of discussion surrounding the possibility of renovating Heth into a true college union, it was decided that a new facility should be built. Planning and design of the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center began in 2001.

The facility is affectionately nicknamed “The Bonnie” after Bonnie Hurlburt, former dean of students and a Radford graduate who spent four decades at the school before retiring in 2002. During her tenure, she was a strong advocate for student input on university decisions.

Unique features

The $8.5-million Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center serves as the on-campus community center. A game room includes automatic bowling lanes, billiards tables, table tennis, and a snack bar, Piper’s Grill. The 250-seat food court has two restaurants, Chick-fil-A and the Max @ RU. In addition, a stage with a large projection screen and data projector is often the site of live music performances, speakers, or programs that require multimedia presentations. A 250-seat auditorium has high-tech video and audio equipment, creating a movie-theater-like atmosphere for students to enjoy. Lounges are located throughout the facility and provide students with a comfortable place to gather their thoughts, study, meet and hang out with friends.

Several campus offices relocated to the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center upon its opening. They include the Student Government Association, Black Awareness Programming Board, and the Student Leader Resources Center, which offers advising, leadership programs, computers, a copy machine, office and programming supplies, a leadership library, student organization mailboxes, and work spaces for the 200 recognized student organizations on the Radford campus. A large mall in front of the facility provides outdoor seating and ample space for student clubs and vendors to set up tables, host events, and promote their diverse programs and fundraising drives.

Students’ role

Students played a large role throughout the pre-planning and construction process of the Bonnie Hurlburt center, helping choose the design, furnishings and color. This participation, in turn, gave students sense of pride, ownership and appreciation for the building upon its completion. Students perform a variety of roles at the college union, serving as building operations assistants, information desk attendants, office assistants, game room attendants, and multimedia technician assistants.


Students serve on the Campus Activities and Black Awareness Programming boards, the two primary programming boards on campus, responsible for planning major programs and events.

New programs continue to be developed. They include casual programs making use of the multimedia set-up to watch favorite television events. More lunchtime programming is expected to be introduced, and the frequency and variety of alternative late-night programs will increase. In addition, the games room will soon offer weekend tournaments, family hours, and discounted hours for the bowling center, billiards tables, and table tennis.

Radford University
Radford, Va.
Four-year, public, rural
Full time enrollment: 9,500

Bonnie Hurlburt
Student Center
Director: Ken Bonk
Size: 50,000 sq. ft.
Floors: 2
Built: 2005
Student Staff:
Graduate assistants: 6
Part-Time: 60