UW News

June 24, 2004

Welcome mat is out: ‘U Dub Club’ emphasizes open-door policy with new name

UW News

Quick quiz: Which members of the campus community get to use the UW Faculty Club?

You could hardly be blamed for answering only “faculty.” But in truth, this multi-use campus center is open to all staff members as well as dues-paying alumni and visitors from other universities — and it has been for many years.

And now, the Faculty Club’s membership has voted overwhelmingly to change the organization’s name to reflect that open-door policy. The Faculty Club will henceforth be known as the University of Washington Club.

Menus and more: To learn more about the University of Washington Club, visit online at http://depts.washington.edu/faclub

Colleen Rorhbaugh, the club’s manager, who was its only full-time employee when she started in 1977 and has worked there proudly ever since, said she thinks many rank and file staff members don’t know they are welcome to join the club.

Membership costs $135 a year, and for that, members can attend the club’s social, culinary and educational events — many are all three at once — and rent meeting rooms at the club for milestone occasions. But she hopes the name change will help to make it clear that “others on campus are welcome to join in.” It’s also a place where campus people meet in the sort of social situation in which professional networking often blooms.

“As long as I’ve been here the building has been called the Faculty Center and the inside is the Faculty Club,” Rohrbaugh said during a chat early this month in the club’s comfortable lounge. But after the members voted, she asked the UW Board of Regents to approve the name change, which they did.

John Coulter, the UW’s executive director of Health Science Administration and a longtime member of the club’s governing board, said the board was solidly in favor of the change. In fact, most discussion of the matter centered on what the new name should be, he said.

As for including staff in the club he said, “I don’t think it was any big deal, it’s been in the bylaws for years, but nobody ever thought, why not make a special notice to everybody?”

Alexandra Chordas, assistant manager and herself a 13-year employee of the club, said, “With the name change, the vision is to be more a part of the (campus) community as well as have them come in.” And though working space is a little crowded in the smallish building on Stevens Way, Chordas said there’s plenty of room for additional customers.

The name change was voted on by the club’s membership this spring. About 1,200 ballots were sent out and about 300 were returned with votes. Of those, 248 approved of the name change, and 43 voted against it. Retired members of the club are not eligible to vote.

Over the years, Rohrbaugh said, many well-known names on the UW campus have made the Faculty Club part of their campus travels. Artist Jacob Lawrence used to frequent the lounge, as did former UW President Charles Odegaard, communication professor Henry Ladd Smith and generations of others.

And even now, Rohrbaugh and Chordas said, the club has many lively regulars, including Fendall Yerxa, who at age 91 still stops by regularly to read the New York Times. And on four mornings a week, part-time employee Lucy Tobin comes in to serve coffee. Now in her 80s, Tobin used to work at the renowned Frederick & Nelson’s Tea Room. At the club they call her The Latté Lady.

The building itself is a campus character, too. Built in 1959 and designed by modernist architect Paul Hayden Kirk and Victor Steinbrueck, renowned architect and co-designer of the Space Needle whose drawings of Pike Place Market have come to be iconic images of vintage Northwest life. Rorhbaugh said the club’s design has won awards for being an excellent example of the Northwest International style. Along with the name change, the club also will get what Rohrbaugh terms “a minor facelift” to tidy it up after years of wear and tear.

Rohrbaugh and Chordas exude friendliness and pride in their work and in the club. Its activities include travelogue presentations where the menu is matched to the area being discussed, gourmet dinners before major campus cultural events, classes, barbecues, happy hours, menu surprises and more. She said they are particularly proud of their student employees and their executive chef, Gregory Fazzini.

As for the name change, it’s a simple, cosmetic change that carries the symbolism of an invitation to the campus to join in. With a hint of idealism, Rohrbaugh said, “I’d like to have this become the entertainment center for the UW.”

And if University of Washington Club doesn’t trip easily off the tongue, a shortened version already has come into use, as Rorhbaugh describes with a smile.

“(Regent) Dan Evans said the name doesn’t sing, and I didn’t think quickly enough to say, ‘But U-Dub Club does!’”