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Buildings of UH: Roy G. Cullen Building


Rolando Acosta/The Cougar

Amid the constant construction on our ever-changing campus, it can sometimes be comforting to find a strip of grass or piece of architecture that will assuredly be there the following semester. For UH, this stable structure is the Roy Gustav Cullen Building.

Roy G. Cullen premiered at UH in 1939 as a creation of Lamar Cato along with the Science Building that sits adjacent. Roy G. Cullen, the Science Building and Ezekiel Cullen, designed by Alfred Finn, are collectively known as the Cullen Family Plaza: the original buildings of UH.

Connecting these pieces of UH history is a large decorative pool called “the fountains,” known for its pillars of gushing water and open green spaces. The area is even better known by Cougars as a place where students can be found lounging between classes, eating, sleeping and occasionally practicing interpretive dancing and yoga — seriously, I’ve seen it multiple times.

The Cullen Family Plaza — and all the dancing that has presumably taken place since its birth — exists thanks to philanthropist and businessman Hugh Roy Cullen, father to Agnes Cullen Arnold. Cullen donated money to the University to build the first permanent building on UH campus, and was also a chairman of the UH Board of Regents.

By the time of this death in 1957, Cullen contributed over $11 million to the University. In fact, according to the Texas State Historical Association, Cullen had donated an estimated 90 percent of his fortune.

Furthermore, once one actually decides to stop sunbathing in the Houston humidity, the interior of Roy G. Cullen is one that reflects the years it spent as a cobblestone of UH. Complete with heavy wooden doors and a handful of stray old wooden desks, this building is typically filled to the brim with Cougars taking English courses — whether it be required or voluntary.

Roy G Cullen Bld 3_edited

Rolando Acosta/The Cougar

The lengthy hallway of Roy G. Cullen Building is often littered with students sitting comfortably on the floor outside their designated classrooms, fastidiously attempting to finish the required reading they curse themselves for not finishing the night before.

If one is lucky — and sadistic — one can occasionally see a fellow student get hit by the heavy classroom door as they sit on the floor, consumed by their procrastination. Silly Cougars.

Students can sometimes be heard complaining about the chilly air conditioning and occasional squeaky desk, but it is important to remember the history that surrounds these old buildings. Roy G. Cullen and the rest of the Cullen Family Plaza stand as a testament that no matter how the campus may change, UH was partly made possible because someone passionately believed in the capabilities of a once-tiny university.

Cougars should always remember the engraved words on the outside of Roy G. Cullen: “Cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge. It is the only security that freemen desire.”

Opinion editor Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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