August 22, 2017 at 1:15pm
Dane Lisser

Millikin University celebrates opening of University Commons

Millikin University celebrated the opening of its new front door to campus, the University Commons, on Monday, Aug. 21. Throughout the day celebration, guided tours of the University Commons were provided, highlighting some of the technological and conceptual innovations in the building.   

Millikin President Dr. Patrick White and Millikin student leaders provided remarks at the opening celebration in the Doug and Diane Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance. President White and Millikin students shared words of thanks and appreciation regarding the University Commons and what it means for Millikin.

"This is an amazing building in concept and operation because it brings together the library, the dining hall, the Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance, the Center for International Education as well as the Office of Student Development and so many other things into one University Commons," President White said. 

The $31 million University Commons is located in the heart of Millikin's campus. With the exception of Shilling Hall, an original Millikin structure erected in 1902, the new University Commons, an 87,000 square foot building, is the largest building project in university history.

The University Commons was created through a blending of both old and new as the original Staley Library structure, completed in 1976, was completely renovated and a large addition was constructed on the south side of the building. With input from the entire campus community, the University Commons was designed for campus and community-wide events.

President White University Commons

"This is our main street, our front door to campus, and we are so very excited about the many things that will be happening here," President White said. "I'm so excited in part because the building is singing, it's in operation, and it's flowing. This will be a space for conversation, discussion, learning and teaching for many years to come."

Millikin University officially broke ground on the new University Commons during a ceremony held on Nov. 6, 2015. Construction on the facility began in early 2016. Millikin officials worked for several months with Hastings + Chivetta, a St. Louis architectural firm, to finalize designs for the Commons, soliciting input and feedback from the campus community.

Retired Caterpillar Foundation and Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman, a 1975 Millikin graduate, and his wife, Diane, provided support to create the new Commons. Their contributions helped to fund three areas: The Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance; a Center for International Education; and the Long-Vanderburg Scholars program which recognizes high scholastic achievement among those students who have a demonstrated commitment to diversity, leadership, and community service.

University Commons

Angie Bravo, a junior human services major from Tinley Park, Ill., was part of the group of students who helped make decisions about the University Commons.

"As a freshman, I could never have imagined being a part of opening the University Commons," Bravo said. "I was able to give my opinion on certain decisions, and this helped me feel included as a student as well as offering the opportunity to grow as a professional."

Other funding for the Commons was achieved primarily through donor gifts. Three families also made seven-figure commitments to fund construction: MU Trustee Debi Breeding Johnston '89 and her husband, Bob; the late Robert Moorehead '46 and his wife, Charlotte Beesley Moorehead '47; and David J. Rathje '58 and his wife, Debbie.   

University Commons

The new University Commons is the largest of three building projects included within Millikin University's $85 million "Transform MU" capital campaign.

"One of the things that stands out about the building is how much technology is in the University Commons," President White said. "We have a media arts lab, the WJMU radio station, and many workshop and collaborative spaces where students can use the technology to connect to the wider world. This is a classroom building as well as a building for organizations and activities all over campus. This is a multipurpose building in the center of our campus." 

University Commons

The University Commons is home to:

  • The Math Center
  • The Media Arts Center
  • The New Technologies Lab
  • WJMU Radio Station
  • The Writing Center
  • The Doug and Diane Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance
  • The Office of Student Development
  • The Office of Student Success
  • The Office of Inclusion & Student Engagement
  • The Staley Library
  • Student Dining

For more information about the University Commons, visit

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