Co-op celebrates 120 years with free food, giveaways

Bharath Lavendra

The University Co-op will celebrate 120 years since its founding with a “120th Year Birthday Bash” featuring free food, giveaways and an interactive photo booth Thursday.

The Co-op was founded in 1896 by Greek professor William Battle as a place for students to buy textbooks. It operated as a true co-op, charging two dollars for membership and offering the opportunity for members to get rebates on purchases at the end of the school year. Today, all students, faculty and staff are automatically members of the Co-op.

Biology junior Cameron Kerl, a student member of the Co-op’s Board of Directors, said the Co-op is not only more than just a textbook destination but an organization that has a long history of giving back to the UT community.

“This semester, we funded a record number of student organizations,” Kerl said. “The Co-op has returned more than $34 million to the University of Texas in gifts, grants and rebates since 2000.”

Cheryl Phifer, the Co-op’s newly appointed President and CEO, said she was attracted to the University Co-op because of its charitable aspect.

“All the other companies I’ve worked for have been publicly traded, and while profits are important, shareholder value is the main thing,” Phifer said. “I liked that everything we produce goes back to the University.”

The Co-op’s first contribution was a $10,000 donation towards the completion of Gregory Gymnasium. The Co-op’s corporate secretary, Julan Swain, said this contribution was the start of a long history of giving to the University and the University’s athletic programs.

“The Co-op has always been source of tradition for the UT campus,” Swain said. “When you want to express your pride for the University, you want to wear burnt orange — you want to be a part of this burnt orange family — and that’s why [people] come to the Co-op first.”

Thursday’s event will feature a new photo-sharing app known as Arcivr. William Kelleher, promotions manager for the Co-op, said the app will help the Co-op aggregate attendee-submitted pictures and download them in high resolution.

“Rather than using a hashtag or a location to find pictures that people took at the event, Arcivr provides a place for users to upload those pictures, share them with other event attendees and be able to download high quality copies of them,” Kelleher said.

Arcivr will join other businesses such as Favor, Alamo Drafthouse and Tiff’s Treats at the 4 p.m. event Thursday at the Co-op food court.

This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect that William Battle was a professor who taught Greek, not law.