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Kregse Auditorium

Kresge Auditorium is one of the few buildings on campus which is called by the name of its benefactor rather than a number. Yet Kresge is not a recognizable figure in the pantheon of MIT lore. Others who have given their name to buildings are far better known: former MIT presidents Julius A. Stratton ’23 (student center) and Howard W. Johnson (the athletic center), for instance.

Sebastian S. Kresge (1867-1966) opened a small shop in Detroit in 1896 which promised to sell nothing for more than ten cents. This was the first “dime store.” The S. S. Kresge Company had expanded to 85 stores with annual sales of more than $10 million by 1912.

By the early 1960’s the face of merchandising had changed such that department stores were becoming increasingly more popular. Harry B. Cunningham, then president of Kresge, decided to adapt the dime stores to create a new chain of discount department stores, called K-mart.

In 1924 Kresge created a foundation in his name which would “promote the well-being of mankind.” The Kresge Foundation has since donated nearly $1.5 billion to science research, buildings, Detroit-area programs, and grants in other areas.

This is the second in a weekly series answering questions about life at MIT. To submit a question to be answered in an upcoming column, please email <features@the-tech.mit.edu>.