Lunsford a key player in Troy University’s growth

Published 8:11 pm Friday, May 28, 2021

By Tom Davis

The late Jimmy Lunsford knew the value of maintaining a strong partnership between Troy University and the City of Troy, and made that relationship a cornerstone of his administration.

“Mayor Lunsford understood the ‘town-gown’ dynamic as well as anyone I have known, and he often expressed to me that the University made Troy a special place,” said Dr. Jack Haw-kins, Jr., Chancellor. “Much of what has been accomplished at the University over the last four decades could not have occurred without Jimmy’s support and leadership. In fact, in 2016 Jimmy was elated when the City of Troy was ranked among the 50 Top College Towns in America!”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Mayor Lunsford’s leadership left a lasting impact on the University, Dr. Hawkins said, cit-ing two examples.

In 1998, the City approved a $4.5 million bond issue to fund major improvements to Veter-ans Memorial Stadium and old Trojan Arena.

“We transitioned from NCAA Division II to Division I in 1991, so our primary athletics facilities needed major upgrades,” the Chancellor said. “Our facilities today are among the best in the Sun Belt Conference, but it started with that bond issue and a shared vision.”

That vision was in evidence in 2009, when Lunsford was courting information technology giant CGI to open a center in Troy. Lunsford reached out to Chancellor Hawkins to help him close the deal. What happened next changed the landscape — literally — of the City and the University. The old Troy Place shopping center, which had fallen into disrepair, was upgraded into University Park, a modern facility housing both CGI and the University’s information technology operations.

“That was a great example of teamwork and it spoke volumes about Mayor Lunsford’s values,” Chancellor Hawkins said. “He didn’t mind sharing the credit if it led to a stronger econo-my and improved quality of life for Troy. A less visionary mayor would not have seen the potential of that old shopping center. Jimmy saw the potential, and brought hundreds of new jobs to Troy in the process.”

In 2001, another partnership between the City and the University led to a $700,000 investment in a 12-court tennis complex on Elm Street. That complex is named in Lunsford’s honor.

The late Dr. Doug Hawkins, who served on the Troy University Board of Trustees from 1980 until his passing in 2015, defined what Lunsford meant to the University in his local history Turning Points: “Jimmy was the first mayor to serve under the mayor-council system. Under the old system, we were pretty sure that the University’s needs would be looked after and Jimmy Lunsford has not only continued the tradition under the ‘new’ form of government, he has expanded it. Future historians take note: Jimmy Lunsford has been a key player in the University’s growth and progress.”