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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Nov. 16, 2011) – With a crowd that extended through both entrances of the new Military and Veterans Success Center, the University of Central Missouri ushered in new opportunities to assist the men and women who serve their country during the facility’s dedication ceremony Friday, Nov. 11. The special event was part of the Veterans Day celebration at the university, which also included a ceremony in the Multipurpose Building to honor local men and women who served during the Vietnam era, Feb. 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975.
The dedication of the Military and Veterans Success Center took place in Elliott Union 117, a space of about 1,500 square feet that is adorned with red, white and blue colors and art work symbolic of every branch of the service. The new facility will allow the university to assist military and veteran students to be successful in their education by providing individual and group study areas, computer work stations, and dedicated staff, according to Delilah Nichols, coordinator of Military and Veteran Services at UCM. It will also assist veterans who want to transition from the military into civilian careers by furthering their college education.
Ron Pierson, the local veterans’ representative at the Missouri Career Center, will have an office within this new facility, and will be able to assist military personnel and veterans with inquiries that may not necessarily be related to their college education.
Leading the dedication ceremony, UCM President Charles Ambrose reminded the gathering of more than 150 people why the facility is important.
“Let me underline why we are here. It’s for students,” Ambrose said. “The University of Central Missouri’s mission is for service, and our service is for those we can provide an education and help them to be successful.”
Many representatives of Whiteman Air Force Base were present, including Brig. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, commander of the 509th Bomb Wing. Ambrose said he and the general have had many discussions about what advantages Whiteman Air Force Base can provide for its nearly 8,000 active service members. One such opportunity, the president stressed, is providing access to a university education.
He noted that the university has taken measures such as a new Military Tuition Package to give military personnel an incentive to use their education benefits by reducing the overall cost. Ambrose said the Military and Veterans Success Center will provide a “front door” to the campus for current students serving in the military and veterans – particularly those wanting to prepare for new careers.
“This is like a new home,” he told the gathering. “Once these doors open this afternoon and service members and veterans bring their things from home – the pictures, the papers and stuff – this will be more than a front door, it will be a living room and a place for you to call home on campus.”
Vander Hamm presented Ambrose with a model of the B-2 Bomber, telling the crowd it will be known as the “Spirit of Education” in honor of the opportunities UCM is providing military personnel and veterans.
“You are all going to witness a new generation of young people growing up and getting an education different than the past generation. The young people serving today – more than 50-60 percent of them – joined the military after 9/11. The only thing they know is service and sacrifice. Many have gone down range and have come home without someone they went down rage with. It left that indelible mark in their mind about what does it mean to serve your country,” he said.
Vander Hamm said he, like President Ambrose, believes in lifelong learning. His goal for all who served is that they be “better and smarter” when they leave their military service than we they came to duty.
Vander Hamm and other dignitaries attending the ceremony joined in cutting a cake that represented all branches of the service. They used a silver sword, which the general said dates back to the base’s early days.
“In the 509er tradition, they would always pull out this sword and when they had a ceremony, they would cut the cake – we actually ‘schwack’ the cake,” he said with a laugh.
Joining Ambrose and Vander Hamm were guest speakers that included Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, a House Armed Services Committee member; David Pearce, state senator from Missouri’s 31st District and a member of the Missouri Veterans Commission; Denny Hoskins, representative from Missouri’s 121st District; and Rep. Jason Kander, a Missouri Veterans Commission member. Local Veterans Employment representative Ron Pierson presented Ambrose a Show Me Heroes Flag of Freedom Award in recognition of UCM’s policy supporting the hiring of veterans.