Witt visits Butler County U of A alumni

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 2004

The Butler County University of Alabama alumni club was swarmed with honored guests at their Thursday meeting at Cambrian Ridge. University of Alabama President Dr. Robert Witt and many other distinguished guests made their way to Butler County to talk about their favorite subject…The University of Alabama.

Among the honored guests were Andre Taylor who serves as president of The University's National Alumni Association. Taylor said times in Tuscaloosa were full of excitement and it was a great time to be a part of The University.

"If someone had given me a choice as to when I would serve as president of the University of Alabama's National Alumni Association, this is the time I would have picked," said Taylor. "There are very exciting things going on at the University of Alabama these days."

Taylor said a great effort is taking place to put The University where it needs to be.

"I would dare say this is one of the first times I have sensed a sense of urgency on the campus," said Taylor. "There is a sense of the University and everyone involved needing to raise their expectations. I've also got the sense of synergy there in terms of everybody working together to help the university reach its full potential. We've always known what The University meant to us as alumni, but I also think we also thought that it had a higher potential. Folks, we are about the reach that higher potential."

Taylor said the alumni must take an active role in leading their school to the next level.

"The other important thing we need to understand is that in order to reach that potential a lot is going to depend on us," said Taylor. "We have already stepped up to the plate. Your presence here tonight clearly shows that you are ready to help the school go where we all know it can."

When Witt stepped to the podium he had exciting news for the alums. Witt explained there were many changes ahead for The University. All of them were for the better.

"On campus we believe The University is going through one of the most important transitions in it's history," said Witt. "In Alabama we want to be the University of choice for every outstanding student. "

Witt said the primary concern of the school were its current students and future students. Witt said the combination of these youths were the blueprint for the future success and leadership of the state.

"With all do respect to all of the industries in Alabama we believe our children are the most important resource," said Witt. "If we develop that resource as well as we can we will define the future of our state in very positive terms."

The academic standards of the University of Alabama have continued to grow over the years. Witt said while he is overjoyed to see this happen he plans to keep an open door to the school.

"I would love to see all of the freshmen who enrolled in the fall to have been students who went through high school with straight A's. But that is not the mission of The University," said Witt. "We are the flagship of the state, we are mentioned in the Constitution. The Constitution didn't say create a University and keep the door closed. What it did say in creating a university was build a University where the best and brightest in the broadest sense of the phrase can come and get a quality education."

Witt said The University has continued to draw some of the most outstanding students in the nation. He saw proof of this on one of his trips to the school prior to taking his current position.

"On one of the trips I had a copy of a USA Today newspaper," said Witt. "It was an issue that published the Academic All Americans. I decided there were 60 selected from tens of thousands of nominees. I wondered which University had all the most. I went through the list and when I finished The University of Alabama had five. Two schools were tied for second Harvard and Johns Hopkins."

This year The University was number trailing only Harvard. Witt said this is proof their students can compete with any.

"This year The University of Alabama was number two behind Harvard," said Witt. "That says to me the best students in Alabama can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best students anywhere in the country."

Much of The University's success has to do with the changes being made. Witt said one of the first changes The University made was in the intensity of getting alumni involved in recruitment.

"We have a whole new recruiting team," said Witt "This fall the University of Alabama dominates in almost every high school in the state. Part of the reason is we have not just a recruiting staff of eight or 10, we have a recruiting staff of tens of thousands and its you."

Witt said alumni are now answering the call to steer outstanding students toward Tuscaloosa.

"What we ask our alumni to do is whenever they encounter a young man or woman they think belongs in the university to contact our alumni association," said Witt. "We have additional staff we have added and those students will receive personal tours when they come to campus and we will stay in touch with them."

Witt said the aggressive recruitment process is getting results. Over the past couple of years some of the most outstanding students in America have made Tuscaloosa home.

"Last fall 430 students enrolled in the honors program of the University. Those 430 averaged a 3.95 GPA and were in the 96 percentile in ACT scores," said Witt. "That's the top four in the nation. This year we enrolled 583 who averaged a 3.96 and were above the 96. These students could have gone wherever they wanted, but they chose the University of Alabama."

Witt said the other major changes coming to The University involved a facelift for the campus, especially in the area of student housing. Witt said it was very important to keep students on campus in regard to their academic performance and retention. Witt said The University was taking immediate action to make on campus living as desirable as possible.

"We realize we have one of the most beautiful campuses," said Witt. "We also realize it is beginning to look a little worn."

Money had been gathered to begin renovations and modernize the living areas for students.

"This fall we had a bond issue of $229 million," said Witt. "It is a very strong vote of confidence. The first $31 million of that $229 million will go into a preferred maintainance program."

With this money many changes in student housing will come to the campus starting with new dorms.

The dormitories, which are projected to cost $30.8 million, will hold 780 beds and will be built west of McCorvey/sDrive and south of Jack Warner Parkway. Palmer Lake will be the centerpiece of development.

A 700-space parking lot will be built beside the dorms.

Three dorms south of Rose Towers on campus being constructed now will hold 960 spaces.

UA President Robert Witt has said freshmen will be required to live on campus starting in the fall of 2006, when all six dormitories are finished.

The addition of these six dormitories will bring UA's total number of beds to 6,200; however, projected enrollment models mean that number will need to increase to 7,500 beds by 2012.

University officials were not the only honored guests on hand Thursday. Meaghan Till, the 2004 Butler County Endowed Scholarship winner, also attended the event.

The scholarship was started in 1989. Since that time Alumni Club member Elizabeth Matthews said many young people have reaped its benefits.

"Our chapter has been fortunate to help children from this area in that time," said Matthews. "The scholarship amounts continue to increase in value to the amount of $1,288 our chapter can offer today to our freshmen students in their first semester at The University. We would like to do more. We need to do more and with your help we can do more."

Matthews had great praise for the Till, the latest recipient.

"She is a very sharp and bright young lady," said Matthews. "Meghan has had an outstanding GPA in her high school career, super test scores and has been involved in numerous activities. She also won an Alabama Alumni Honors scholarship. What is very special about this is there are only three offered by the university."