For most of its history, the University of Northern Iowa had as its primary mission the preparation of teachers. Its curriculum was focused on this mission, and education courses were taught in nearly every building on campus. But, following the modification of the curriculum to include liberal arts degrees in 1961, the college began to see a need for a building in which education courses could be concentrated.
In July 1965, the Regents approved funding for planning for Unit 1 of an education center. In August 1967, the Board approved a project request for $1.98 million for the new building. About three-quarters of the budget came from appropriations and one-quarter came from a federal grant. In September 1968, architects Thorson, Brom, Broshar and Snyder of Waterloo presented plans for the Education Center to the Regents. Unit 1 would be a six level structure that would provide flexible teaching space, administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, a media center, and clinics. It would include about 81,000 square feet. Construction was optimistically scheduled to begin in the spring of 1969.
The Regents approved the master plan for Unit 1 in May 1969. They then approved a $2.45 million project budget for Unit 2 in July 1969. The two story Unit 2 building would have two large lecture rooms, clinics, and classrooms. It would include about 66,700 square feet. Construction began on Unit 1 in the summer of 1970 with an occupancy date set for fall 1972. Work began on Unit 2 in 1971 with an occupancy date set for fall 1973.
Portions of Unit 1 opened for the fall semester 1972, while construction crews continued to work in other portions of the building. One of the features of the new building was a communications system described by Professor Robert Hardman as "the most complex television system in the state of Iowa". The system would allow classroom-by-classroom viewing of media in many formats. Unit 2 opened for the fall semester 1973.
A number of problems arose after the opening of the new center. Bricks on some of the landscaped berms near the building caved in when the earth underneath them subsided. At least one professor disliked the lack of windows in the classrooms, the white "blackboards", and malfunctioning fire alarms that disturbed her classes. And, probably most important, the university lacked funds to operate the communications system. The equipment was on campus, but the university did not have the personnel to operate the system. The system did not become operational until early 1976.
With the system implemented, the university planned a week of dedication activities for April 5-10, 1976. That week featured presentations by Professors Ralph Scott, Howard Vander Beek, Charles Dedrick, Donna Thompson, and Basil Reppas, as well as alumnus Gordon Cawelti, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The formal dedication ceremony on April 8, 1976, included Mrs. H. Rand Petersen, president of the Board of Regents, President Kamerick, Provost James Martin, and Dean of the College of Education Howard Knutson.
The building complex was known simply as the Education Center for its first twenty years of service. But on May 13, 1990, it was re-named the Schindler Education Center in honor of Dr. Alvin W. Schindler, a UNI alumnus from the Class of 1927.
Professor Schindler devoted most of his career to teaching at the University of Maryland. His wife, Dora Hood Schindler, a member of the Class of 1924, donated $1 million to UNI in memory of her husband.
Schindler Education Center has undergone two significant remodeling projects. In 1987, the east deck was replaced, and from 2015-2017 the entire building was remodeled inside to meet current educational standards.
Compiled by Library Assistant Susan Witthoft; edited by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, July 1996; substantially revised by Gerald L. Peterson, with research assistance by Student Assistant Emily Candee and scanning by Library Assistant Gail Briddle, November 2002; updated, February 10, 2015 (GP). Updated by Library Associate Dave Hoing. November 2017; photos and citations updated by Graduate Assistant Eliza Mussmann April 4, 2023.