Scott Allison, Online Editor

This parking lot which is sandwiched in the middle of Gaskill (top right), Rowan (left) and Culler halls (behind camera, not pictured), will become the heart of the Armstrong Student Center. (SCOTT ALLISON | The Miami Student)

In this troubled economy, Miami University has been struggling to secure donations to fund the new student center. But two former students have answered the call with a $15 million pledge for the project.

Miami alumni Mike and Anne Armstrong graduated in 1961, and thanks to their generous gift, the student center will be named the Armstrong Student Center (ASC).

“I feel the student center will enable students to connect with students, students to connect with faculty and student organizations to connect,” Mike Armstrong said, “and that with those kinds of connections, having the facility to connect will bring an increased amount of collaboration among all parties.”

On June 25, the board of trustees approved a resolution that would allow the first stages of construction for the student center to begin once $12.5 million in donations had been raised and could begin as early as this month.

Also during the meeting, President David Hodge announced a $1.5 million donation by the Shade Family Foundation. David Shade is a 1966 Miami graduate.

Student Body President Heath Ingram said the student center is going to help students compete for the best job opportunities and programs and help Miami stay competitive with other institutions. 

“The student center is going to be huge for Miami,” Ingram said. “It really will be a transformative building for Miami’s campus. It’s going to provide students with the ability to engage with each other with more of each other in a way that they haven’t been able to in the past.”

Mike Armstrong said a great deal of fondness and respect for Miami has been a driving force behind his donations now and in the past.

The Armstrongs donated $14.7 million in the spring of 2008 for the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS).

Mike and Anne said they believe the new student center will help Miami compete not only on a national level, but on a global level as well.

“This is a step just like my prior donation was for the AIMS program to enable Miami students to connect globally and to collaborate globally through digital technologies for curriculums to be effective,” Mike Armstrong said.

Mike Armstrong said he has requested an AIMS facility in the ASC, and that AIMS technologies be integrated into the building.

According to the latest proposed plan by University Architect Bob Keller, the ASC, a 205,000 square foot complex, reportedly will cost $77.7 million and could be completed in 2014. It involves the renovations of Gaskill, Culler and Rowan halls to be incorporated into one building.

Miami hopes to raise up to $57 million in donations for the ASC, according to David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services.

As more donations are made for the ASC, the out-of-pocket costs for students will continue to decrease.

“The student body can fully expect that I will continue to encourage Miami to fundraise for us,” Ingram said. “Whatever we can do to decrease the cost the student must bear to attend this institution we must do it.”

Miami University is currently the most expensive public university in Ohio, about 25% more expensive than most four-year public universities, according to tuition and general fee estimates from the websites of Ohio State University, Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, University of Cincinnati, Kent State University and University of Akron.

“It provides a healthy social environment,” Mike Armstrong said, speaking of the new student center. “Back in my days … going uptown was the biggest social event available.”

While not much has changed since 1961, university administrators and donors alike hope the ASC will provide student organizations with much needed meeting space, students with much needed study space and propel the university past competition to attract more students.

“The size of the new student center enables a so much needed functionality,” Armstrong said. “Today it’s really difficult for student organizations to have a place to meet, to have headquarters and to interact with other organizations let alone the administration and faculty.”

Armstrong said “(Miami) has a wonderful spirit … It’s the spirit of pride, it’s the spirit of ownership. That is – students, the faculty, administration, they pretty much feel that Miami is theirs to make better and to constantly improve.”