Behind the Glass: A Preview of the O'Keeffe Student Union


At 12:30 on November 16,  The King’s College opened the doors to The O’Keeffe Student Union, made possible through the donation of Clara O'Keeffe, providing a new space for students to study and spend laytime.

Prior to the ribbon cutting, a few faculty members stated their excitement, read Bible verses and mentioned many of the people that put the work into making the O’Keeffe Student Union possible.

One of the speakers, president of King's Dr. Gregory Thornbury, spoke, putting an emphasis on the many people whose time was given up to work on the O’Keeffe Student Union. Some of the names that he mentioned were Victoria Scott, who donated the chess set; Eric Bennett, who, according to Thornbury, had been asking for such a space for quite some time; and Richard Switzer who, along with his team, did much of the “heavy lifting,” as Thornbury put it. Thornbury also mentioned the American Bible Society, as they donated much of their furniture to King's when they moved to Philadelphia.

Students enjoyed free pizza as they celebrated the opening of the new space.

Eric Bennett, the Vice President for Student Development at King’s, hopes that the Student Union will be a place for students to both be productive and destress.

“We wanted it to be a place where students would feel comfortable to come to do writing,” said Bennett. “Not entirely a student lounge for a college but much more like a coffee shop.”

One of the counters in the O'Keeffe Student Union (Photo by Michael Sheetz)

O’Keeffe includes, amongst other commodities, a spacious office for The King’s Council, an economy kitchen with a microwave rather than an oven, two bathrooms, counter with space for individual study, outlets, and lounge space. The ping pong table is in an elevated space near the back and there will be internet service available, as it is throughout the rest of the campus.

What impressed Bennett particularly is the size of the Student Union - it adds an extra 3,200 square feet for student use.

“It’s a lot of space for New York,” Bennett said. “I think it’s cooler than most of the student lounges across most of North America. It just feels so classy, you know what I mean? It’s very sophisticated, very Kingsian.”

The opening of the Union also provides an opportunity for students to display their artistry, as three walls are being dedicated to hanging student art.

Mark Burger and Abigail Jennings, cofounders of the Arts and Aesthetics Society, selected various student art pieces to hang on the walls of the Student Union. For the most part, these pieces consist of photography.

Burger and Jennings hope that these walls will be a way for artistically minded students to express themselves at King’s.

“The goal for these walls is for the Arts and Aesthetics Society to own them. Every semester they’ll rotate art. They can do anything they want, it’s their space,” said Bennett.

The King's Council's new office, located near the back of the O'Keeffe Student Union (Photo by Michael Sheetz)

The display of student artwork is a manifestation of Jenning’s two-year passion. She said that Media, Culture and the Arts, one of the majors at King's, is often seen as an easy major at the college and hopes to shift this opinion.

Jennings does not see art as comparable to business or politics, two other areas of Kingsian academic pursuit. She wants others to see the hard work -- and for it to be understood as such --  that students put into the art they pursue outside of their classes.

One piece that Jennings expressed a particular excitement for was a set of 12 small photos lined up against each other. Their uniqueness stems from them having been taken on an iPhone rather than a professional camera.

Jennings and Burger hope to be replacing this artwork every semester or year, respectively, so new students will always have the opportunity to express themselves.

Along with the opening of this new space comes the closing of another: the Slozet, the small, former student lounge located on the fifth floor of campus.

“We have no storage space and we just got a donation of furniture from the American Bible Society and then there’s all this new furniture so we’ve been moving stuff around to store in there as we didn’t have a place that we could put it,” Bennett said.

Signage at the entrance to the O'Keeffe Student Union (Photo by Michael Sheetz)

According to Bennett, current plans are to turn the Slozet into a classroom for next Fall.