BGSU Grand Ballroom

BGSU Grand Ballroom

MC5 performing in the BGSU Grand Ballroom on May 21, 1969. Image
from The BG News 05/23/1969

Built for $2.75 million in 1958, the Bowen Thompson Student Union houses the Grand Ballroom, a 500 capacity home to a wide range of events and public speakers. For example, on March 2, 1972,  the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and future President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, gave a speech to 100 people. Less than a week later, on March 8,  comedian and satirist Pat Paulsen gave a speech in the ballroom as a presidential candidate to a full house.

The BG News May 16, 1969 
The BG News May 16, 1969 

Another interesting week in the Grand Ballroom occured 3 years prior, in 1969, when the Michigan rock group, and members of the White Panther Party, MC5,  performed just three days before a Playboy Party took place in the Grand Ballroom, sponsored by the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and the University Shop.

A review of the MC5 performance by the student paper, BG News, on May 23rd, 1969, focused on the political aspect of the the band, and not having a lot of favorable words for the music itself:

"The MC5 are part of the White Panther program, and that's what makes them different. From a strictly aesthetic standpoint, their music is not as good as any number of groups in the country, but that's not what they are concerned about. They are concerned with bringing people together through a cultural revolution, and even the titles of some of their songs suggest this: "Kick Out The Jams," "Come Together," and "Motor City Is Burning." 

In a news conference after the event Rob Tyner of the MC5 told reporters "When we say revolution, we mean change. We don't like the way things are going down, and with an enlightened program, we can make people solutions to the problems, Instead of the problems themselves," he added "The revolution is growing by leaps and bounds... It will win because the young people are far-out; they know what's happening."

From the BG News, May 27th, 1969

The Grand Ballroom was the stage for an entirely different scene three days later for Delta Tau Delta's 'Playboy Party and Dance Contest'. The University Shop donated $250 in prizes to the dance contest winners and Gale Olson, Playboy bunny and Miss August 1968 was the 'honored guest' and signed autographs.  The BG News reviewed this event as well, in the May 27th, 1969,  article "Bunny Hops In Union", mentioning nothing of the dance contest, or the band that played, the Buccaneers, and only talking about Olson, and mostly about her looks, stating "Long brown hair, a mini, mini skirt, white go-go boots, attractive and looking younger than her 21-years" the only real deviation from her appearance was mention of her marital status: "Miss Olsen shocks people when she reveals that she's been married for the past eight months." This was not the first Playboy Party on BGSU campus, but the first in the Grand Ballroom, and it was not the last Olson to be a Playboy bunny, her daughter, Crystal McCahill, was Miss May, 2009. 

Ad from the BG News on April 22, 1987 

Continuing in this tradition, the Grand Ballroom would lend the podium in later years to guests working both in counter-political, and sex-related industries. 
As part of an entire week of events on campus celebrating the 1960s, Timothy Leary, whom The BG News referred to Leary as the 'infamous drug prophet',  spoke to a packed house of 1,000 people in the Grand Ballroom for an event called "Life from the 60's to the 80's - Where Do We Go From Here?" on Wednesday April 22nd. "I haven't changed from then; I've changed my language some, but language is the key to evolution and growth," said the psychologist and former director of Harvard University's Psychedelic Research Project. "I still believe in T.F.Y.Q.A. - think for yourself and question authority." Other events during 60s Week included a recreation of a 'beat' coffeehouse with artists playing Bob Dylan songs, and a festival called Daze of Rock, with music by the 1960s cover band City Heat.

Image from the October, 25th, 2005, BG News

In October of 2005, former adult entertainment star and sex educator, Annie Sprinkle, preformed her "Bosom Ballet"to a full crowd in the Ballroom. Sprinkle starred in over 150 mainstream pornographic films, before becoming a Pleasure Activist, feminist speaker, and author to a series of books about sexual intimacy. During the performance Sprinkle spoke of being a cancer survivor and removed her wig to show her bald head. One audience member said of Sprinkle, "It's nice to see someone brave enough to do that." A review in the October, 25th, BG News said of the event "It was a night that will always b remembered, for one strong woman who has lived a life not recognizable to the common standards." An opposition article on, a conservative political website, asked of then BGSU president Sidney A. Ribeau, "Is this the breast possible speaker you could have hired to cover this topic?"

Photograph from The Blade April 28, 2020

In 1969 members of the the White Panther Party graced the stage in the Grand Ballroom, and just over 50 years later, Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party and friend to the White Panther Party, spoke at the 20th Annual Black Issues Conference on February 27th, 2020, to a packed house. Associate Dean was at the event and said "He was the voice of real difference, and it couldn't be contained, and it caused people a lot of discomfort. I thought it was great." 

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