From MLK to Dali: New exhibit features history of Lang Hall

At first glance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and Salvador Dali may not seem to have much in common. But over the last century all traveled to the Cedar Valley to deliver speeches at UNI’s historic Lang Hall. 

The Lang Hall Auditorium has played the role of proud host to some of America’s most influential figures since 1902. From educational and civil rights activists to artists and writers, many brilliant minds have imparted their wisdom and stories to UNI’s campus community. 

They include educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington (1911), muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell (1917), Robert Frost (in both 1940 and 1960), author Kurt Vonnegut (1967, 1977, 1989) and Maya Angelou (1978). 

Thanks to an effort spearheaded by Christopher Martin, a professor in UNI’s digital media and journalism program, and associate professor of history Thomas Connors, a new display showcases the history of notable keynote speakers.

“This project began as a way to memorialize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but as I talked with UNI’s historian Dr. Tom Connors, we realized that there were many outstanding speakers through the years we could highlight,” Martin said. “We really thought it was important to share this important history with all our prospective students and visitors.”

As the oldest building on campus housing classrooms that remain in use, Lang Hall has been used to connect students to the larger world beyond campus for over 100 years. The building was known for many years as simply the “Auditorium Building” and later the “Old Aud” before it was named in honor of Professor William C. Lang in 1994. Each day as students attend classes in Lang Hall, they become a part of the legacy of excellence. 

The display was designed by UNI architect Jose Luis San Miguel with help from designer Lindsay Althoff, a UNI alumni. It can be viewed outside the main entrance to the Lang Hall Auditorium.

Photo by Lindsay Althoff