A welcome home: Armstrong celebrates grand opening of new Alumni Center.

On Friday, June 6, eight decades of Armstrong alumni gathered on the patio of Burnett Hall to celebrate the grand opening of the new Alumni Center. As a four-piece bluegrass band performed, approximately 100 alumni -- both young and old -- reminisced as they prepared to usher in a new era for current and future graduates.

“Since the first students completed their degrees in 1937, we have had a proud tradition of Armstrong alumni working together to support each other and their alma mater,” said Armstrong alumni director Cheryl Anderson. “Today marks a historic new chapter in the story of Armstrong alumni.”

The new Alumni Center, located off the entrance lobby of Burnett Hall, will not only act as the headquarters for Alumni Affairs, but will also serve as the university’s “front door,” offering a warm welcome to visitors from near and far.

“I can’t think of a better place for the alumni office to be,” said current Armstrong Alumni Association president-elect Patty Parker, who graduated from Armstrong in 1995 and worked as the university’s alumni director until her retirement in 2007. “The alumni are what Armstrong is all about, and they are finally at the front of campus to greet all who come.”

For Parker, and many others at Armstrong, the Alumni Center’s grand opening held a deeper meaning, serving as a celebration of a place alumni can proudly call home. The event attracted recent alumni like Katie Balcom, who graduated in 2012.

“I was back in town,” she said, “and I decided to come see what Armstrong was up to, since they were so good to me in the four years I was here.”

After graduating with her degree in English Professional Communication two years ago, Balcom went on to attend graduate school at Valdosta State University. Her presence at the grand opening ceremony demonstrated that alumni may leave Armstrong to further pursue their dreams, but their heart always remains. Nothing demonstrated this fact more powerfully than 16 past presidents and one president-elect who lined up to cut the yellow ribbon strung across the lobby of Burnett Hall.

“The men and women standing before you have envisioned, hoped for and worked for a place like this for many years before I set up my office,” Anderson told the audience in attendance. “As the past presidents of the Alumni Association, they dedicated years of their lives to helping Armstrong’s alumni grow stronger.”

With support from university president Dr. Linda M. Bleicken, Armstrong alumni have found a permanent home on campus. At the ribbon cutting, Armstrong alum and vice president for advancement William Kelso acknowledged the critical need for an alumni center.

“As a 1988 Armstrong graduate, I recognize the value of this institution,” said Kelso. “You are all the reason why Armstrong is beginning to make much more of a significant impact in the community, and I am just proud to be here with you today.”

The new Alumni Center is just the first phase of Armstrong’s plan to create a truly welcoming space on campus. The next phase of the project will be the construction of the new Alumni Plaza and Gardens. Stretching from Abercorn Street, through Burnett Hall, and out into the Academic Quad, Alumni Plaza and Gardens will rededicate existing courtyards, terraces and gardens and create new ones in honor of alumni.

The focal point of the Alumni Plaza will be a new fountain between Burnett Hall and Abercorn Street with a design inspired by the central fountain in Forsyth Park, where Armstrong’s campus was located during its first three decades. Gateway signage, which will be in place by August, will not only welcome current students and alumni to campus, but will also be visible to the 25,000 cars that drive past the university on Abercorn Street every day.

“This university will build a gateway that you all will be proud of,” Kelso told the audience. “This is an exciting time for the Armstrong community.”