Newton's Gift Establishes Military Family Resource Center
The facility for the newly approved Austin Peay State University Military Family Resource Center is undergoing significant renovations thanks to a generous contribution from alumna Wilma Newton (’73) in honor of her late parents.
Newton and her late husband, retired Master Sgt. Raymond Vares, decided to contribute to the University because of their appreciation for education and their family connection to the military. The couple did not have any children, so they chose to give back to students attending her alma mater.
In addition to her husband, Newton’s late father, her brother and several uncles all served in the military.
“My parents encouraged us to obtain a college degree, and they worked hard to afford it,” she said. “My siblings and I were the first grandchildren to earn a college degree.”
Out of nine siblings on her father’s side of the family, Newton noted that only her father and uncles had children who completed college.
“I think it was because of their military careers,” she said. “They traveled the world and began to see how important a college degree was.”
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.
“My father grew up in a very poor family in Alabama, so he left school when he was in third grade to help support them,” Newton said. “He eventually got his GED and joined the military.”
The facility at 426 College St. will be known as the William E. & Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center.
Military Family Resource Center
More than 2,500 military-connected students make up Austin Peay’s student body. They are veterans and active-duty soldiers. They are Guardsmen and Reservists. They are spouses and children.
They are essential to the University’s success.
“They bring positive core values and beliefs that I think our society finds useful and valuable,” Military Adviser in Residence Scott Brower said. “Teamwork, selfless service, a drive and commitment to something bigger than themselves.”
Brower, former deputy commanding general for the 101st Airborne Division, is leading an Austin Peay effort to recognize that commitment. In summer of 2020, he plans to cut the ribbon of the William E. & Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center.
The repurposed College Street building will be the new home of several of the University’s existing academic and support programs focused on military-connected student success. Though plans are not final, the center could include the Military Student Center, Veterans Upward Bound and military-focused satellite offices for career services, admissions and financial aid.
Improving Student Service
The center will provide more effective personal service to military-connected students.
“We have silos of people who are working well and making a positive difference almost every day,” Brower said. “But we may be missing something. When we consolidate here, we will improve the awareness and the sharing of information."
Brower sees three main benefits of the center:
- COLLECTIVE EXPERTISE: Having so many military support programs together not only will cut down on students having to traverse campus looking for help, it will centralize brainpower. “The center, by pulling together so much of this information and the resources we have as a university, will be valuable. We’ll have people able to describe the Veterans Affairs process. If a student is having a life struggle, whether it’s military-connected or not, we’ll have VetSuccess counselors available. We’ll have knowledgeable people available across the community.”
- COMFORT: Military-connected students, especially veterans, use Austin Peay’s Military Student Center, now housed in the Morgan University Center, because they’re more comfortable being around other service members. “There’s that camaraderie,” Brower said. “That sense of togetherness.”
- STUDY: “We want to have a separate study area,” Brower said. He also has plans to host guest speakers discussing topics important to military-connected students.
“We’re going to find success,” Brower said. “The center will allow us to share this story, to show the successes of our military-affiliated student population.”