|1935, May 27||Armstrong Junior College founded as a city junior college by Mayor Thomas Gamble by ordinance of the Savannah City Council.|
|1935, September||College opens.|
|1937, June 4th-7th||First commencement, first graduating class.|
|1959, January||College becomes part of the University System, still as a 2 year school.|
|1962, March||Offer by Mills B. Lane Jr. to buy a site for relocationof the College outside of downtown Savannah.|
|1963, May||Decision by Board of Regents of University System of Georgia to convert Armstrong to a 4 -year college.|
|1963||Otis Johnson becomes first African American Student admitted to Armstrong.|
|1964||Henry Ashmore inaugurated as Armstrong's fourth President and presides over the move to the new 250 acre campus on Abercorn Street. See Chronology in Dr. Ashmore's records.|
|1966, January||Opening of new campus.|
|1968, June||The first baccalaureate degrees are awarded.|
|1968||College receives notice of accreditation as a senior institutionby the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS.)|
|1971||Joint Graduate Program with Savannah State College.|
|1978||Armstrong designated as Regional Center for Health Education.|
|1979||Program Exchange with Savannah State College (all education programsto ASC all business programs to SSC) results from Plan for the FurtherDesegregation of the University System of Georgia. Joint Graduate Program is terminated.|
|1984, Summer||Robert A. Burnett inaugurated as Armstrong's fifth President.See Chronology in Dr. Burnett's records.|
|1985, May 24||Armstrong's 50th anniversary.|
|1987, May 8-9||50th reunion of 1937 graduating class.|
|1990||Graduate Programs affiliated with Georgia Southern University.|
|1995||Authority to offer graduate programs returns to Armstrong (dis-affiliated with Georgia Southern.)|
|1995||60th anniversary celebrated with historic marker at Armstrong House and dedication of Armstrong Sports Center.|
|1996||All 4-year institutions in the University System of Georgia designated as universities.|
|1996||Name changed to Armstrong Atlantic State University.|
|2000||Thomas Z. Jones inaugurated as Armstrong Atlantic State University's sixth President.|
1935-1959. Armstrong College Commission.
1959-present. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
Ernest A. Lowe, 1935-1941.
J. Thomas Askew, 1941-1943.
Foreman M. Hawes, 1943-1964.
Henry L. Ashmore, 1964-1982.
Robert Burnett, 1982-1999.
Frank A. Butler 1999 (interim)
Thomas Jones, 2000-
In the spring of 1935, Savannah Mayor Thomas Gamble began to promote the establishment of a junior college in Savannah to serve the young people of the community who could not afford the cost of higher education away from home. Despite the stringent circumstances of the Depression, Gamble was convinced that a city-supported junior college would benefit not only Savannah's youth but Savannah's business activity and the Savannah community at large. Interest in the college project grew, but the idea needed a home. On May 27, 1935, Gamble announced that the new junior college would take its residence in the magnificent gray brick mansion of the late George Ferguson Armstrong, a successful Savannah shipping businessman, whose widow, Lucy Camp Armstrong Moltz, and daughter, Lucy Armstrong Johnson, agreed to give their former home to the city to fulfill the mayor's proposal. Located on the southern edge of Savannah's historic district, the Armstrong mansion was the last of the great homes that had been built in the downtown area. It stood at the head of Bull Street, between the historic squares of downtown Savannah to the north and the green expanse of Forsyth Park to the south. The imposing Armstrong mansion and the surrounding neighborhood provided the new junior college with its distinctive character for the next thirty years. Early patrons of the college's growth included Savannah banker Mills Bee Lane and his wife Mary Comer Lane, and Savannah newspaper owner and publisher Herschel V. Jenkins.
The college opened its doors in the fall of 1935 with 168 first year students and a group of 8 faculty and staff. In June 1937, 78 students became the first graduates of Armstrong Junior College. The first president of the College, Ernest A. Lowe, came to Savannah from the University of Georgia and from the offices of the newly formed University System of Georgia. Although Armstrong remained a city-supported junior college, outside of the University System of Georgia, it looked to the University System for advice and counsel on curricular matters. After Ernest Lowe left in 1941, Thomas Askew served briefly as the college's second president before entering military service. Foreman J. Hawes became the college's third president in 1944 and served until retirement in 1963.
From the beginning, the college and faculty developed a primary emphasis on two years of liberal arts coursework, but the curriculum also included courses developed to serve the various professional needs of the Savannah community, most notably business courses and the basic science coursework needed by nursing students at the local Savannah hospitals. By the late 1950s, however, the city of Savannah found it increasingly difficult to provide the revenues that the college needed to supplement tuition and fees. Various negotiations began in 1957 to seek ways to obtain state funds to support the college. These negotiations culminated in 1959 when Armstrong College joined the University System of Georgia, ending twenty-four years as a city-supported institution.
In 1963, Otis Johnson became the first African American student to be admitted to Armstrong. Entering as a sophomore transfer student from Savannah State College, Johnson graduated from Armstrong with the class of 1964. Integration was only one of the changes that affected the college in the decade of the 1960s. Plans to expand the college beyond the six buildings that it occupied around the Armstrong mansion provoked strong community concerns about the effects of this expansion on the architecture and the squares of the historic district. In March 1962, banker Mills B. Lane, Jr. resolved the dilemma by purchasing 250 acres of land for a new campus on the far southern edge of the city. The college occupied the new site in January 1966. Prior to the move, the Board of Regents, in May 1963, approved the conversion of Armstrong into a four-year institution. The first baccalaureate class of 117 students graduated from the new campus in June 1968.
A new president, Henry L. Ashmore, presided over the new, four-year college as it rapidly expanded its buildings, enrollment, and programs. Under his leadership, the college developed new offerings in health-related fields, notably degree programs in dental hygiene and nursing. Other health-related programs followed quickly, such that in 1978 the Board of Regents designated Armstrong as a Regional Center for Health Education in Georgia. On the new campus, Armstrong also introduced teacher education courses, and by 1971 was offering the M. Ed. degree in conjunction with Savannah State College. The enlarged business department offered a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, and the arts and sciences departments strengthened their baccalaureate programs with a host of new Ph.D. faculty.
In 1971 the University System of Georgia came under increased scrutiny from the Office of Civil Rights. As a result, Armstrong and Savannah State College, an historically black state-supported college in
Savannah, initiated a number of efforts at joint programs, most notably a joint graduate program for the M.Ed. and for a Master's of Business Administration. This joint program and other actions by the University System failed to convince the federal courts that Georgia did not have a racially segregated system of public higher education. In 1979, the Board of Regents proposed and the court accepted a "Plan for the Further Desegregation of the University System of Georgia." For Armstrong, the Plan meant a major program swap with Savannah State. The Armstrong Business program, graduate and undergraduate, was transferred wholly to Savannah State; and the Savannah State Education program, graduate and undergraduate, was transferred wholly to Armstrong. The programs, the students, and the faculty made the move in September 1979. The program swap shook enrollment at both institutions, and throughout the 1980s the idea of merger between the two schools remained a shadowy presence.
Despite the upheaval of the program swap, Armstrong continued to expand its curriculum in Health related fields, adding new graduate degree programs in Nursing and Health Science, as well as new Master's degree in Criminal Justice, and in history. In 1982 Robert A. Burnett became the fifth president of the
college. Because of increasing interest in the possibility of a university-level institution for southeast Georgia, Burnett and other college presidents in the region began to work on a variety of cooperative configurations that might achieve this goal. In 1989 the Board of Regents chose a plan that designated Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Georgia as a Regional University. In this capacity it would oversee all graduate programs in southeast Georgia, including all of Armstrong's Master's degree programs. These programs were now offered through Georgia Southern University in affiliation with Armstrong. This arrangement lasted until 1995 when the Board of Regents reversed its decision, and Armstrong regained control of its own graduate program.
In 1996 the Board of Regents decided that all of the state-supported four-year colleges that offered graduate programs should be identified as "universities." In conjunction with this change to university status, a number of Armstrong faculty proposed that the college change its name in order to indicate a regional identification. The college alumni raised strong objections to any change that would eliminate the Armstrong name. The resulting compromise produced 'Armstrong Atlantic State University.' At the time of the change in name and status, the academic family at Armstrong consisted of approximately 5,300 students and 250 faculty. A significant physical expansion of the campus coincided with the institution's new identity. The completion of a new Sports Center and a major new classroom building, University Hall, gave visual expression to the host of changes enveloping Armstrong as it approached the millenium. A major new science building, approved for construction, loomed just ahead on the horizon.
The expanding size and purpose of Armstrong since 1935 find a parallel in the changing phrases and images that have appeared as the identifying logo for the institution. Known initially by the local, colloquial name of 'Geechees, Armstrong adopted a Pirate logo after the move to the new campus in the 1960s, a general allusion to Savannah's coastal location and association with Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. With the change to University status and the adoption of the new name as Armstrong Atlantic State University, a compass logo became the institutional insignia to set the course for the new directions of the future.
(Janet Stone. "History of Armstrong." [Online.] http://www.sip.armstrong.edu/AASU/history.html.
The University Archives holds few records from the period 1935-1960. Some of President Hawe's correspondence with faculty survive in the Ashmore records, but otherwise the records of the first three presidents are not held. The most significant holdings for the early period are photocopies of the record books of the Armstrong State College Commission which governed the College from 1935-1958 (Record Group 98.) The student newspaper, The Inkwell, is bound from 1935 to the present and available in the library's special collection. Alumni Association records and student publications from the early years are
found in President Ashmore's records. Record group 900-949 Alumni includes records and memorabilia from graduates of the college's early classes. Finally the University Archives has a film of the College's 1939 Homecoming celebrations. The rest of the early records were not moved to the Southside campus in 1966 and perhaps were destroyed. No records remain in the former Armstrong House on Bull Street, currently owned by a law firm.
In addition to the Office of the President, records from the Business Office, Graduate Office, the Student Government Association and Alumni Association are also held and comprise about 13 linear feet. The University Archives does not hold records for all of the record groups.
The Presidential records were housed in the campus's central supply warehouse. The University Archives accessioned the records in 1999. During 1999-2000 the bulk of the records were arranged, described and processed. Original order was maintained as much as possible. Records from the Business Office, Graduate Office, Alumni and some of Dr. Burnett's records were transferred directly to the University Archives during 1999-2000. Scrapbooks, albums and media had been stored in the library before being housed in the University Archives.
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