Honors program marks 20 years

Students, faculty and their family members attend the Augusta University Honors Program’s 20-year anniversary picnic hosted outside of the program’s Quad Wall Building. (Photo: Jacob Tomberlin)
Students, faculty and their family members attend the Augusta University Honors Program’s 20-year anniversary picnic hosted outside of the program’s Quad Wall Building. (Photo: Jacob Tomberlin)

By Jacob Tomberlin | Contributor

The Augusta University Honors Program celebrated its 20th anniversary with a picnic outside of the Quad Wall Building on Aug. 26. The event had double the number of people anticipated and a surprise visit from the new university president.  

“Thank you for doing this, and thank you for choosing Augusta University for your education,” President Brooks Keel said over the sizzle of burgers and hot dogs.

Though the style of celebration surrounding the honors program’s 20th anniversary was playful enough, the tone struck by the administration was nothing less than serious as they praised the program and offered encouragement to its current students.

Tim Sadenwasser, who has been the honors program director for the past seven years, began the event by introducing a parade of university administrators who began to extol the program’s accomplishments.

Among those faculty was Gretchen Caughman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

“This is near and dear to my heart,” said Caughman. “The honors program is something I feel passionately about.”

She continued speaking to the program’s current students.

“We appreciate the choice that you’ve made to come here, but also the commitment to be involved in an even higher level, and to put yourself out there to do more than is even required of your regular commitment to an education,” Caughman said. “It will pay off.”

Honors Program Coordinator Ana Merloiu said the members of the honors program committee estimated around 150 guests, upon organizing the event. However, more and more honors program members and friends continued to RSVP unit. The event housed around 250 guests – with even more arriving the day of the picnic.

“The atmosphere is good, this is the first event we’ve had like this,” Merloiu said.

Merloiu, who has been the program’s coordinator since December of 2014, organized the event.

“I was working on the website, and then I realized ‘Wait, it’s been 20 years.’” She said. “We wanted to recognize faculty and also welcome the freshmen.”

The Honors Program began in 1996. Beth Fanning, who was the program’s first director, was in attendance at the picnic. She chose to sum up the early years of the program quite succinctly by speaking of the program’s first student members.

Fanning commented on how the program has grown since her time as director.

“We started with shabby digs, but had big dreams,” she said. “Looking around me, it seems some of this came true. It really is amazing to see so many people.”

Carol Rychly, vice president for academic and faculty affairs, offered the view to the current honors students in attendance.

“Take advantage of all the opportunities you have here,” she said. “Think of how fortunate you are. By being in the honors program, you are in touch with some of the very, very best faculty we have here at Augusta University.”

The event was also a chance for the program to award the first of what will be an annual Honor’s Faculty Teaching Award.

After calling on nominations from students, the award went to communication professor William Bryant.

“I understand the significance of it and the responsibility I have to teach some of the best and brightest students at this university,” Bryant said.

After the ceremony, the picnic began in full with corn-hole, Frisbees and veggie hot dogs.

“I’ve really been happy that we’ve had such a good turn out, but such a good mix of people,” Sadenwasser said. “We’ve had alumni, new students, older students as well as faculty and the administration. I think it shows there’s a lot of excitement about the program and a lot of support from the people above us.”

Contact Jacob Tomberlin at jtomberl270@augusta.edu.

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