From the students who planted the seed and kept the dream alive; to
the administrators, board members, faculty and staff who supported and
advanced the vision; to the alumni and friends who invested in the idea and made it a reality—Miami University's Armstrong Student Center is
a remarkable collaborative achievement.
"The student center is a learning place … The student center is fun … The student center is a place to remember each other. The Armstrong Student Center is a place to turn dreams into the reality of potential. Let's build it and enjoy it for generations to come."
- Mike Armstrong `61
So it was fitting that the Oct. 6 Armstrong Student Center Groundbreaking more closely resembled a family gathering than a formal ceremony. On an idyllic Oxford fall day, several hundred Miamians—current students, alumni, faculty, friends, university administration, and more—gathered near the campus Hub to celebrate the spirit that made the day possible.
"This center will be the heart of the student experience, enhancing everything that happens here academically, providing for personal friendships and social activities, but most especially, building those intangibles that make our graduates so successful—learning to lead and initiate," President David Hodge said. "This project would not have been possible without those very qualities."
The day's speakers included President Hodge; Don Crain '70, chairman of Miami's Board of Trustees; Mike Armstrong '61; Dr. Barbara Jones, vice president for student affairs at Miami; Nick Huber '12, Miami student body president; and Matt Schroeder '12, student representative to the Board of Trustees. Also in attendance were former trustees and student body presidents, who played an integral role in driving the vision for a new student center at Miami, as well as representatives of project architect William Rawn Associates, including founding principal William L. Rawn III.
Setting the tone for the celebration was a procession of more than 150 student leaders, who symbolically processed past Elliott and Stoddard Halls and down Slant Walk with tin buckets of dirt that they spread over the groundbreaking site. According to Hodge, the opening, which was accompanied by members of the Miami University Marching Band, was fitting not only because the movement for a new student center finds its roots in the voices of students but also because the heart of the building is bringing together Miami students.
Former student body president Mike Scott '09, who spoke later in the evening, talked about this "spark of collaboration" and the role the Armstrong Student Center will play in student life.
"We already see it today in our classrooms. We see it in our fraternity houses and sorority suites. And we see microcosms of it in the student organizations spread across our campus," Scott said. "At its heart, this building … will be a true hub of interaction—a place where all Miami students can come to better themselves, better their classmates and better this precious gift we nostalgically call the Miami Experience."
Also celebrated throughout the day were the more than 8,000 alumni and friends who have so far financially supported the Armstrong Student Center. Foremost among those were Mike '61 and Anne Gossett '61 Armstrong, whose $15 million naming gift provided the leadership and momentum to jump start the project. Armstrong expressed his pride for investing in the place that will be the focal point of the Miami Experience and shared his vision for what the Armstrong Student Center will mean to future Miamians.
"The student center is a destination point," Armstrong said. "It's a place where … let's meet, let's talk, let's study, or grab a bite, do a flick, or just relax. The student center is a learning place … The student center is fun … The student center is a place to remember each other. The Armstrong Student Center is a place to turn dreams into the reality of potential. Let's build it and enjoy it for generations to come."
While the groundbreaking provided a formal kickoff for the Armstrong Student Center, work has been underway since late summer. Renovations are ongoing in Gaskill and Rowan Halls, which will be joined by a new central structure as part of the project's Phase I. It is scheduled to open its doors in 2014. When completed, the Armstrong Student Center will feature 203,000 square-feet, including a two-story Center for Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL), a 500-seat theatre, a 400-seat dining commons and a large multi-purpose event space known as The Pavilion.
Current student body president Nick Huber quoted former Miami president Alfred Upham's description of the student body as a "never-ending procession," noting that the Armstrong Student Center is the manifestation of that continuum. "It is built by the gifts of alumni and families. Built because of initiatives of students working with administrators. And built for Miami students and future generations," Huber said. "Today marks the groundbreaking of the Armstrong Student Center, but more importantly it marks the celebration of all that was and all that is to be: Old Miami, New Miami and Miami to come."