In 2017, the University began formulating plans for celebrating our 200th anniversary in 2022. A significant part of our Bicentennial Celebration revolves around updating our history as recorded in Dr. Elva Bell McLin’s 1994 book titled Athens State College. We recognize that Dr. McLin’s intentions were to record as much of the history as possible, beginning with 1822 until the publication date. Much has happened to the University since that date, and numerous other archives have revealed additional information that we feel would be valuable in our efforts to present a more complete history. We understand this will involve acknowledging and embracing our history, fraught with wars and economic downturns, along with many tremendous accomplishments and incredible resiliency. It defines who we are as a university, a community, and a people.
As with many of our peer institutions across Alabama and the United States, we share moments in time that to many are no longer tenable. Nonetheless, this aggregation of past events cannot be undone, and it is not the desire of the University to make such attempts. What we do embody is the notion that we honor all segments of our past equally through contextualization. It is a position that is not divisive nor imprudent, but one that simply acknowledges the existence of many factors that caused both individuals and institutions to act in specific ways. It involves neither censorship nor does it condone.
University communities play a significant role in shaping the values of the populace. With that role comes proportional responsibilities. As an institution of higher learning, Athens State University embraces the importance of providing a quality education to our students that is both balanced and insightful. We embody that message in our mission statement which reads in part, “…Athens State University provides a supportive environment for each student, demonstrating the importance of the diverse and interdependent nature of our state and society.”
The value of higher education in a community lies in its ability to prepare its students to succeed in a global society. As such, we may not all share the same views, whether it be education, religion, or history, even within our own community. Our role as an institution is to provide context and let each and every individual make a decision as to the path he or she chooses. We intend to maintain this course as we change the face of Alabama by changing the lives of our students. The small role that we currently play in making history is one that our successors will undoubtedly judge. It is important that as we gain a better understanding of how we arrived at this moment in time, we remain true to our mission and the value it brings to this city, state, and region. After all, that is “OUR STORY.”