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Combining the old gymnasium and the Simerly Student Union, this building is a hub of student activity. Inside one can find the Bookstore, an updated dining hall, several classrooms, Campus Safety, student programs, a U.S. Post Office, Chalmers Conference Center, Pioneer Arena, and the newly constructed Chick-Fil-A.


  • Photo of a student on the basketball team in the old gymnasium
  • Basketball Team
  • Members of the basketball team in the old gymnasium
  • A basketball player in action in the old gymnasium
  • Girls Swim Team, 1928
  • Pool in old gymnasium
  • Original exterior of the old gymnasium
  • Early exterior view of the gymnasium
  • Simerly Student Union, 1970s
  • Girls Swim Team, 1920s-1930s
  • Boys Swim Team
  • Club Fair inside of the Simerly Student Union building
  • Dedication ceremony and renaming of Simerly Student Union, 1977
  • A glimpse of the student dining hall inside of Simerly Student Union
  • Aerial view of the connected gymnasium and Simerly Student Union
  • Fisheye view of Simerly Student Union
  • Reconstruction of Niswonger Commons, 1990s
  • Construction of Niswonger Commons, 1990s

Niswonger Commons incorporates two historic buildings (the gymnasium and Simerly Student Union Center) on campus to create an updated center for student activity. Almost 100 years ago where Niswonger Commons now stands used to be the Tusculum Gymnasium. The ‘old gym’ was constructed in 1927.1

The original gym housed several of Tusculum College’s sports teams including the swim team and the basketball team. In 1968, a loan was negotiated for a new Student Union building to replace an earlier structure located between Annie Hogan Byrd and Katherine Hall.2 Construction was completed in 1970. The initial vision was to provide a space that included a cafeteria, snack bar, recreation rooms, a bookstore, and several offices and banquet halls.1

In 1977 the building was renamed as the Simerly Student Union building in honor of Robert Jennings Simerly and his mother Mary Benton Mitchell Simerly. The Simerlys had developed connections with Tusculum through a Presbyterian secondary school that had ties to Nettie McCormick and Charles Oliver Gray.1

Niswonger Commons officially combined the two buildings into a new structure in 1999. The building is named after one of Tusculum's contemporary benefactors, Scott M. Niswonger. 

1Fuhrmann, Joseph T. The Life and Times of Tusculum College. Greeneville, TN. Tusculum College, 1986.

2Sexton, Don. A Heritage of Two Centuries of Memories. Greeneville, TN. Tusculum College, 2006.

All photos from Tusculum University Archives