Archive for Friday, August 8, 2008

Pioneer of student cooperative housing dies

August 8, 2008


Luther Buchele, a Kansas University alumnus often credited with spearheading the student cooperative movement at KU, died in a car accident last Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He was 88.

Buchele, who earned a bachelor's degree in zoology in 1946 and a master's degree in bacteriology in 1948, is perhaps best-known as one of the pioneers of student co-operative housing, not just at KU but around the country.

Fred McElhenie, a now-retired housing administrator at KU who wrote a book on early KU housing, said that although Buchele may not have created the first co-ops on campus, he was certainly responsible for making them a popular option. He helped found seven co-ops at KU.

And although the housing option is no longer available on campus today, the legacy remains.

"The biggest impact he had on housing at KU was he provided the blueprint for the scholarship halls on the east side of the hill," McElhenie said.

Co-ops are traditionally houses with between 10 to 30 students who share responsibility for upkeep of the house. They became popular during the Depression as a way for students to save money and again in the 1960s and '70s during the hippie movement.

In a self-written history on his family's Web site, Buchele said it was his experience with farmer cooperatives in southeastern Kansas as a child that led him to laud and support student co-ops at universities. A member of the Jayhawk Co-op during its early years in the late 1930s, Buchele wrote of the unforgettable experience to be gained from living with a varying group of students.

"Life in the student co-op exceeded my wildest expectations, for among the members were socialists, brilliant scholarship students and students working on advanced degrees," he wrote.

During his time at KU, Buchele served as president of the KU Student Housing Association and was active in the Central League of Campus Cooperatives. He also was editor of the North American Student Cooperative League's newsletter. He later moved to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Buchele has a still-active co-op at the University of Michigan, and a floor on Ellsworth Hall is named for him.

Diana Robertson, director of student housing for KU, said although the first scholarship hall at KU was founded in 1925, the current system the university uses could be traced back to the co-ops Buchele helped start.

"That movement is very much a part of our modern scholarship halls," she said. "Each student has responsibilities to earn discounts on their housing."

Memorial services for Buchele were Tuesday in Harbert, Mich. He is survived by his wife, Joan, and four children.


OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 8 months ago

They say none of them survived, but isn't Sunflower House on Tennessee St. one of them?

pace 9 years, 8 months ago

That was a guy who did something. Sorry he is gone but joyous that he was here.

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