When Alisa White assumes the presidency at Sam Houston State University in early August, she will leave Austin Peay State University knowing she delivered on the promise she gave on a spring day five years ago.

In her time at the university, White guided Austin Peay in unprecedented growth in enrollment, degree options, physical size and fundraising.

That’s the promise she gave to the community when March 23, 2015, the day she was inaugurated the university’s 10th president. She started the job in June 2014.

“I have been given an astonishing gift,” White said during her presidential address that day, “and my pledge to you is to do whatever is in my power to advance this institution, to work alongside you to build upon the wonderful work that you have done with others and to realize our collective vision.”

The chronological review of APSU’s biggest moments during the last six years showed how White advanced the university.

Austin Peay expands footprint downtown

In January 2016, the university bought 11 acres along College Street from the Jenkins and Wynne auto dealership. The $8.8 million purchase marked one of the largest expansions in the university’s history, finally connecting campus with downtown Clarksville.

Men’s basketball makes surprise run to NCAA tournament

In March 2016, the Austin Peay men’s basketball team earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament after becoming the first No. 8 seed to ever be crowned Ohio Valley Conference champions. The Governors lost to No. 1-seed Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Austin Peay gets its own board of trustees

On Oct. 11, 2016, former Gov. Bill Haslam appointed eight people to the newly created institutional governing board at Austin Peay. The initial board included Nell Rayburn, the trustee selected by Austin Peay’s faculty, and appointees Billy Atkins, Katherine Cannata, Larry Carroll, Don Jenkins, Gary Luck, Valencia May, Robin Mealer and Mike O’Malley.

New engineering program transforms college

In June 2017, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission approved Austin Peay’s first engineering program, which allowed the university to offer a bachelor of science in engineering degree with a major in engineering physics. A few months later, the university’s college of science and mathematics was renamed the Austin Peay college of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which made it the only college of STEM in the state.

Austin Peay holds PeayClipse event

On Aug. 21, 2017 at about 1:25 p.m., hundreds of people cheered in the near-dark inside Austin Peay State University’s Fortera Stadium. At that moment, the moon passed over the sun during a total solar eclipse, and people from as far away as France and Finland came to Austin Peay’s PeayClipse Celebration to experience the celestial event.

New art + design building opens

On Sept. 12, 2017, Austin Peay officially opened the new art + design building – a $21.3 million, 46,000-square-foot facility. Spaces in the building are named in honor of Judge Sam and Dee Boaz, June Love Heydel, Tom Malone and Charlsie Malone Halliburton, Marlon and Linda Crow, Barbara Beach, Jim and Dottie Mann and US Bank, honoring retired vice president Joyce Taylor Norris.

College of business opens financial trading center

In November 2017, the college of business opened the new Larry W. Carroll Financial Trading Center. The center features the Dr. Mark and Camilla Green stock exchange ticker display and the John K. Hopson innovation rooms.

Austin Peay transforms into doctoral-level institution

In July 2018, the university launched its first doctoral program – a doctor of education degree in educational leadership for K-12 professionals. The move also raised Austin Peay to a doctoral-level classification with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Austin Peay added a second doctoral degree in 2019 with a doctor of psychology in counseling psychology with a concentration in serving military personnel, veterans and their families.

Fundraising hits major marks

In fiscal year 2017-18, the university raised nearly $10 million. The next year, Austin Peay topped that total, raising nearly $10.4 million. A year after that, the university raised $11.4 million. The totals are among the top four fundraising efforts in the university’s history.

Austin Peay launches aviation science program

In January 2019, Austin Peay officials unveiled the first of three helicopters in its new rotor-wing fleet. The helicopters bolster the state’s first and only aviation science program with a rotor-wing concentration. In June 2020, the program saw its first student – Hopkinsville firefighter Ryan Erb – take a solo flight.

Austin Peay, CMCSS partner on innovative teacher residency program

In spring 2019, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Austin Peay launched the Early Learning Teacher Residence program, providing 20 recent high school graduates and 20 CMCSS teacher’s aides with an accelerated, free path to become full-time school system teachers in just three years. The program specifically targets minority and first-generation college students, increasing diversity both within the school system and at Austin Peay.

Govs football has magical season

In their first trip to the Football Championship Series playoffs in 2019, the Governors’ football team took down Eastern Illinois, 35-7, giving Austin Peay its first Ohio Valley Conference championship since 1977, but the story didn’t end there. A week later, the Govs played host to Furman at Fortera Stadium in the university’s first ever FCS Playoff game. Austin Peay won 42-6, so it was off to Sacramento for the next round of the playoffs. Another amazing win put the Govs in the championship’s quarterfinals, where the season ultimately ended in Bozeman, Montana with a loss to Montana State.

Women’s sports capture OVC titles

During her tenure, White also witnessed the volleyball team in 2017, women’s tennis team in 2019 and women’s indoor track and field team in 2020 win conference championships.

The 2019 tennis team finished the regular season and OVC tournament without experiencing a single loss.

Austin Peay tops 11,000 students for first time

In fall 2019, Austin Peay enrolled more than 11,000 students for the first time in its history. During a special celebration in early December 2019, the university unveiled its official fall 2019 enrollment numbers, and Austin Peay’s 11,048 students represented another record year for the University. The University reached the 11,000-student milestone thanks to impressive gains in several key populations, a 9.7 percent increase in out-of-state students, a 30 percent increase in dual-enrollment students, a 17.5 percent increase in undergraduate international students, a 45 percent increase in graduate international students and a 6.7 percent increase in Fort Campbell Center students.

GIS center leads statewide face shield effort during pandemic

In March 2020, Austin Peay State University’s GIS center led a statewide effort to produce face shields for medical workers battling the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee. The center’s staff and students answered a call from Gov. Bill Lee to contribute ideas and resources to the coronavirus fight by designing and building a 3D-printed prototype shield. By the end of June, the GIS center shipped about 18,000 face shield frames and 180,000 replaceable shields.

Scholarship in White and husband’s name

In recognition of White’s and her husband’s, Elliott Herzlich, combined contributions, Austin Peay renamed an important university fund the Dr. Alisa White and Elliott Herzlich President’s Innovation Fund of Excellence. The fund will continue their legacy by making sure future presidents have the ability to support programs that significantly impact the Austin Peay, Clarksville and the Middle Tennessee areas. For information on how to support the fund, contact the office of university advancement at 931-221-7127.

To watch video of the milestones, visit youtu.be/IxuFX05b6PE.

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