SGA celebrates a century of success
Dozens of Radford University alumni ascended upon campus March 20-22 for the Student Government Association's Centennial Celebration.
Several events were held throughout the weekend to highlight the powerful impact the organization has had on the university and its student body.
"It's hard to capture 100 years of leadership and service in a weekend," said current Student Body President Colby Bender. "But I think we did a pretty great job at it."
On March 21, visitors took tours of the university's ever-evolving and growing campus, including the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center, a project strongly-supported by the SGA since its inception. Following a lunchtime presentation on the "SGA Today" and a career panel discussion, the group migrated to the off-campus Selu Conservancy where the celebration continued into the evening.
Immersed in the backdrop of the beautiful 380-acre retreat center, SGA members (past and present), RU administrators and special guests gathered to share stories and to honor the many people who have influenced the SGA.
Among the alumni was RU's first male SGA president, Richard LaBrie '77. Now retired from Alliant Techsystems in Radford, LaBrie was also the first person in his family to earn a college degree. He said his RU education and his experience in the SGA offered him the opportunity to gain invaluable leadership skills, determination and persistence.
"I could never pay back Radford for what it has done to change my life," LaBrie said.
Thirty years later, the SGA opened the door for another RU student leader. Stephanie Winebrenner '06 was one of the first SGA members to meet Penelope W. Kyle prior to Kyle's appointment as president of Radford University in 2005. Winebrenner, SGA president from 2005-06, sat on the presidential search committee and served as a guide to President Kyle while touring campus.
"The SGA has helped shape who I am today," Winebrenner said. "I learned and gained so much from that experience."
During the celebration dinner, President Penelope W. Kyle reflected on the close relationships she has shared with SGA leaders, such as Winebrinner.
"The importance of the SGA to Radford has been there for a long time," President Kyle said. "This has been a wonderful thing for me to inherit and to be a part of."
President Kyle spoke of the school's evolution from an all-women's college to a comprehensive university, and through all the changes, "the SGA has been representing our student body in such a positive way," Kyle continued.
"Today, the SGA represents nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and that is an awesome responsibility," she said. "You all are doing a beautiful job at it."
She commended the continued collaboration between the RU administration, the Board of Visitors and the SGA, which has resulted in positive change – representative in ongoing construction projects, beneficial changes to the university's free expression policy and expanding food service options, among other accomplishments.
Bender also addressed the audience, highlighting several additional initiatives implemented by the SGA this year, including the "Back-to-School Tailgates," the second annual Campus Safety Walk and ongoing educational discussions on race relations and sexual assault and mental health awareness.
"I am so proud of all the work we have done this year," Bender said. "We are here to implement change in a positive way and to make life better for all the students at this university."
Both Bender and President Kyle recognized guest speaker Bonnie Hurlburt, whose contributions to the SGA and Radford University are immeasurable.
"We owe a great debt of gratitude to Bonnie Hurlburt," President Kyle said. "Nothing was more fitting than when we were laying the bricks for the student center, that the only name that came out of anyone's mouth about how we should name that building was Bonnie Hurlburt."
Hurlburt graduated from Radford College in 1958 then returned shortly thereafter to serve as the advisor to the SGA then Dean of Students at just age 27.
"The SGA was really the joy of my life," Hurlburt said.
During her tenure, the SGA helped the campus transition from all female to coed, strengthened their role as the "voice of the student body," advocated for improved and additional facilities – such as the Dedmon Center – and became representative on the Board of Visitors.
"If I was to describe the SGA as I saw it throughout the years, I would say that they were patient, they were persistent, they were respectable, they were responsible, they were creative, they were forward-looking and they were willing to compromise," Hurlburt said.
At the end of the ceremony, Bender announced Hurlburt's induction into the SGA Hall of Fame and presented her with a special plaque.