Clarksville, TN – It’s not a secret, but some people still haven’t heard. The 5,200-square-foot building at 426 College Street, next to Johnny’s Big Burger, is now open, making Austin Peay State University (APSU) home to the largest military student center in Tennessee.
“Because Austin Peay hosts the largest family of military-affiliated students, by far, in the State of Tennessee, it only makes sense that we are also the home of the largest, by far, military student center to facilitate the best possible services and support to those students,” retired Maj. Gen. Walt Lord, the APSU military advisor in residence, said
In January, APSU’s William E. & Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center quietly opened, providing the University’s military community with a one-stop-shop for most of their social, financial, and academic needs.
The new facility houses Austin Peay State University’s Veterans Upward Bound program, VetSuccess on Campus, the Military Student Center, a Career Services Coordinator, and a Student Success coordinator.
“This space is a dream come true,” Jasmin Linares, coordinator for the center, said. “All students are welcome, but our target population is military-affiliated students. For us, that means anyone who is active duty, a veteran, in the reserves, the National Guard, ROTC, retirees, and their families.”
The Newton Center will host an open house at 11:30am on August 27th, and all members of the community are welcome to stop by. At 1:30pm on November 10th – the day before Veterans Day – the University will host an official ribbon cutting and grand opening for the facility.
‘We were lucky and really blessed’
Austin Peay State University, as the state’s largest provider of higher education to military-affiliated students, has a long history of supporting military students, but for years these services were housed in small offices, spread out across campus. When Linares first arrived at APSU, the Military Student Center occupied a 700-square-foot space in the basement of the Morgan University Center.
“We were outgrowing that space right away,” she said. “We had events and gatherings, whatever events we had, we ran out of room. We wanted to provide our military-affiliated students with one place to come, and we were really lucky and blessed to have Ms. Wilma Newton and her gracious donation.”
In 2019, APSU alumna Wilma Newton (’73) gave a transformative gift to the University in honor of her late parents. That gift made the William E. & Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center a reality. Newton’s father, William, met her mother, Sadako, in Japan when he was stationed there as part of the military efforts to reconstruct the country following the end of World War II.
Newton, along with her late husband Raymond Vares, previously decided to contribute to Austin Peay State University because of their appreciation for education and their family connection to the military. Newton’s late father, husband, brother, and several uncles all served in the military.
“My parents encouraged us to obtain a college degree and worked hard to afford it,” she said in 2019. “My siblings and I were the first grandchildren to earn a college degree.”
The new Newton Center will carry on that tradition by supporting military-affiliated students during their academic careers. In addition to housing several University and military offices, the newly renovated building features a computer lab, a lounge area for watching television, eating, and unwinding, tables for studying or eating, and a self-serve coffee and tea bar.
“The Black Rifle Coffee Company is sponsoring our coffee, so it’s free coffee for a year,” Linares said. “Students can come here and get help with a variety of services. They can come and connect with like-minded students; they can use the computer lab to do their homework.”
Near the main entrance, the space also resembles a small military museum. A row of glass cases bisects the large, open room, and the displays feature military artifacts – including World War II items that belonged to APSU President Mike Licari’s grandfather.
“I want all our military-affiliated students to know this place exists for them,” Linares said.
For information on the services, APSU offers military students and their families, visit https://www.apsu.edu/military/index.php.