Bees have been associated with our patron saint, St. Ambrose, because of a legend that his father found his infant son's face covered with bees. This was taken as a sign of his future eloquence, or speaking with a "honeyed tongue."
For the first 50 years, our athletics teams were called the Saints. In 1937, students mounted a campaign to change the nickname. The Ambrosian News, the student newspaper at the time, took up the issue and asked students for suggestions. As you can imagine, there was a wide variety of possibilities:
Student Warren Lage '40 suggested the Bees. Lage explained that, in addition to bees being historically associated with our patron saint, "the qualities of a bee, such as its industriousness and its ability to sting" might exemplify characteristics that might be associated with our athletics teams.
Students voted to name our teams the Bees. Almost immediately the nickname got a nickname, and the Bees became the Fighting Bees and, with the addition of women's varsity sports, the Queen Bees.
Generations of Ambrosians have gathered in the Beehive for conversation, recreation, group study and projects, social events and campus events. Though the name "Beehive" remained, the place moved around as the campus grew.
The original Beehive opened Feb. 8, 1948, as the new campus hangout in the basement of the library-administration building, now McMullen Hall. Managed by Father Fred Verbeckmoes, who had opened a bookstore in the basement of Davis Hall the year before, the Beehive was decorated with green and red block floor tiles and a yellow ceiling with red and green stripes on the beams. Booths and a bar could accommodate up to 90 patrons.
In the spring of 1960, work began on a $100,000 project to create a new college center in the northeast corner of Ambrose Hall that had originally served as the gym when Ambrose Hall was built in 1908. A circular staircase, which remains today, connected a newly created balcony to the lounge area and conversation pit below. To carry out the Beehive theme, a two-story wall was constructed outside, using open cement block that was meant to resemble a beehive.
The new Beehive opened as part of the 1961 homecoming celebration. Mrs. Loretta Salsbury, director of the Beehive, and Mrs. Edna Deardoff, her assistant, greeted the students. They scheduled meetings, made announcements on the public address system and occasionally provided a "fourth for a game of cards." After a few years in the position, Mrs. Salsbury commented, "I keep things under control. Without a woman, this place would be terribly wild. You need patience, a sense of humor and stamina to deal with students, especially boys, but I love it." Over the years, Mrs. Salsbury and the other women who served with her became confidantes of generations of students away from home.
Although the Beehive remains in the lower level of Ambrose Hall, the Rogalski Center, which opened in fall 2004, now provides the campus' "living room."
Scene Magazine, Spring 2013:The Beehive gets a makeover