ATLANTA -- Armstrong Atlantic State University wants to drop its ocean moniker while keeping its mascot and colors to avoid confusion with the state’s capital.
“For the local people, the graduates, that’s a slam dunk with everybody,” said Ray Gaster, a 1972 graduate and president of Gaster Lumber.
A survey the school had conducted showed most alumni, faculty and community leaders agree.
Students were less enthusiastic about the name, although most were recruited through branding that emphasized “Armstrong” over the four-word full name or the AASU initials. Four years ago, administrators decided to highlight Armstrong and to drop the compass rose in the logo that offered a nautical connection to “Atlantic.”
But since the school is miles from the ocean and doesn’t offer majors in navigation, shipping or oceanography, there is little connecting it to the water.
Administrators are asking the Board of Regents that oversees the University System of Georgia for the shorter name. It was on the agenda for the meeting scheduled for Tuesday but delayed until later in the month because of North Georgia’s winter weather.
“I think it would be a logical change,” said Stratton Leopold, a film producer and owner of Leopold’s Ice Cream, who earned his associate’s degree there in 1964.
Begun in 1935 as a city-supported junior college, the school took the Armstrong name in recognition of the donation of its first home, the mansion of shipping magnate George Ferguson Armstrong. It didn’t pick up its watery nomenclature until 1996 when it was swapping “College” for “University,” and regents officials thought it needed a geographical identifier.
Adding “Atlantic” was a compromise at the time, and current school officials say it actually backfired because it is so often confused with “Atlanta” the Southeast’s largest city.
“When did we start thinking about dropping the Atlantic? Probably about a year after we got that name,” said William Kelso, Armstrong’s vice president for advancement.
The school’s survey of 3,383 students, faculty, alumni and community leaders conducted online Nov. 18-Dec. 6 showed overwhelming support from most groups. Among faculty, 78 percent favored the shorter name, and 77 percent of faculty and staff, 86 percent of community leaders and 57 percent of current students.
That’s significantly stronger support than the name the regents selected for the university resulting from the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University. Alumni and community members still bristle at the omission of the city’s name from Georgia Regents University.
Of course, Savannah already has a school bearing its name, and the ocean washes up on thousands of miles of shore beyond the 100 miles in Georgia.
Alumni like J. Cliff McCurry, who graduated in 1968 before “Atlantic” got wedged into the name, agree with the shortened title.
“I’m very happy about it. I think it’s long overdue,” said McCurry, who is now vice chairman of Seacrest Partners Inc. “I couldn’t understand why it was important to change the name from Armstrong State College to Armstrong Atlantic.
“It’s much easier to say, and it flows better.”