A big blue “A” on his baseball cap said it all for Bill Joplin: he loves Augusta and wants to keep it in the university name.
The Augusta State University Alumni Association celebrated A Day — its annual fundraising campaign – on Friday night with barbecue and music. Many proud graduates and longtime supporters feared that it could be the very last of the big A.
“It could be like ‘R’ day next time for Regents University,” said former Augusta mayor Bob Young.
Young said he’s not a fan of Georgia Regents University – the new name chosen by the Georgia Board of Regents for the merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities.
The university consolidation will complicate things for next year’s A Day, Young said. Leaders need to figure out how to merge or retain separate alumni associations, foundations and support groups, he said.
At the celebration, young and old graduates said alumni pride will suffer with the name change.
“It doesn’t surprise me they would want to give it a name they think would have more national appeal, but my emotions tell me I love Augusta,” said Joplin, a 1968 graduate of Augusta College.
Former Augusta State president Bill Bloodworth said A Day has become an event associated with a university where everyone is like family.
“That’ll be passing away,” Bloodworth said. “This is reflective of the kind of small university we are. I hope we can keep that.”
Young applauded the community members who have objected to the name, but doesn’t think a local campaign to “Save the A” by replacing the name Georgia Regents University with University of Augusta will change anything.
“The concrete on the new name has dried. The decision has been made,” Young said. “I don’t think we should sit here and be preoccupied with the name. We have too much other stuff to do.”
Class of 2005 graduate Angela Smith said Augusta State will always be her alma mater. Smith and her husband, Levi Smith, a 2011 graduate, have donated money to the Save the A campaign and signed the petition.
“Where’s GRU? It doesn’t have an identity,” Levi Smith said.
Amber Davis, a 2012 graduate, signed the Save the A petition on Friday before coming to her first alumni association A Day celebration.
“It may be the last one,” Davis said. “If I can support the school in any way, I’ll do it.”