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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

June 8, 2006

At the Memorial Union, the marketing director deserves a gold star

by Dan Kuester, News Service

The Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union can be a pretty somber place.

The moody lighting, the names of fallen soldiers and the church-like stained glass windows all give the hall a serious feeling.

Memorial Union marketing director Kathy Svec doesn't see it that way. Svec is responsible for the hall and she does see it as a place of remembrance, but also as one of the special spots on campus.

A grand memorial

"We [Iowa State] are really unique in having such a grand feature," she said. "It's not just a wall and a hallway that many schools have. It's a very grand memorial. And it's special among Memorial Unions in being so prominent."

Svec, whose hobby is Ames history, speaks easily about the students who led the drive to build Gold Star Hall and the Memorial Union in the 1920s and their efforts to raise money when the Iowa legislature turned down funding requests.

Eventually, of course, the hall got its funding. At the time, the Union was a modest part of the grander Gold Star Hall. Now, the roles have reversed with the hall just a small part of a growing and vital Memorial Union.

But the hall remains important. Because of its uniqueness, it is occasionally highlighted in local media stories about the war in Iraq. And the hall was recently the subject of a story in the online journal 'Inside Higher Ed.'

And Svec is always the resource when it comes to the hall.

She's got stories

She can tell stories about the stained glass illustration depicting a co-ed tennis match, and another showing the first ISU president arriving on campus in a Cinderella-style coach. She even has the inside scoop about a myth that still circulates about a ghost who lives in Gold Star Hall. Her name is Hortense Wind and she is the only female who is memorialized in the Gold Star Hall.

"We think she's just lonely for some girl talk," Svec said.

Anyone who has spent 13 years as marketing director should know a great deal about the hall, as Svec does. But Svec's connection with the hall goes back farther than 13 years. And even farther than the 27 years Svec has spent at the Union in various jobs.

She has been coming to the Union since her days at Ames High School when she served at banquets as a part-time job. Svec's father was a faculty member for 40 years in the chemistry department and also worked at Ames Laboratory.

Svec's love of the Union and its history is great for the university, according to Svec's boss and the director of the Memorial Union, Richard Reynolds.

"She is, in essence, a phenomenal resource for the students, faculty and staff at Iowa State University," he said.

Svec, who got a bachelor's degree from ISU and a master's degree from Florida State in art education, said her work in the Gold Star Hall is just a small part of her job.

"I hit the desk in the morning and don't stop running until punch-out time," she said.

Little wonder.

Full plate

As the person responsible for keeping the campus and community aware of the events, meetings and other activities that happen at the Union every day, she certainly has her hands full.

She is also responsible for managing printing projects, overseeing the graphics staff, preparing for student orientation, coordinating with other Union managers to help market the building, replying to the e-mail enquiries she gets each day through the Memorial Union's Web site and all the other various jobs that seem to fall into her lap.

"Some of the people who contact us through the Web site want to know about reserving rooms in the Union," Svec said. "Other people want to know things like 'What does that quote say over the revolving door?'"

"It's really a mixed bag," she said.

When she's not working with the Memorial Union or Gold Star Hall, Svec is a board member of Ames' Main Street Cultural District promoting downtown Ames as both a shopping destination and a cultural center.

Her involvement means longer days, but she enjoys it and it helps in her position at the Union.

"Kathy knows many of the leaders in the local and state arts community which is an asset, as the Memorial Union plans events involving local performing artists, acquires additions to its permanent art collection and books shows each year for its two exhibit spaces -- the Gallery and Pioneer Room," Reynolds said.

Days as the marketing director for the Union and spare time working for Ames make for some long hours.

"It's an interesting juggle, but it's also a lot of fun," Svec said. "I really feel connected, and that's important."

Kathy Svec

Kathy Svec


Kathy Svec, marketing director for the Memorial Union, has been coming to the Union since her days at Ames High School when she served at banquets as a part-time job. Her love of the building and knowledge of its history is an asset to the university.