By Tom Davis
The late Jimmy Lunsford knew the value of maintaining a strong partnership between the University of Troy and the city of Troy, and turned that relationship into a cornerstone of his administration.
“Mayor Lunsford understood the dynamics of‘ city dress ’as well as anyone else I’ve known, and he often expressed to me that the University made Troy a special place,” said Drs. Jack Haw-kins, Jr., Chancellor. “Much of what has been achieved at the University over the last four decades could not have happened without Jimmy’s support and leadership. In fact, in 2016 Jimmy felt euphoric when the city of Troy was ranked among the 50 best university cities in America! ”
Mayor Lunsford’s leadership left a lasting impact on the University, Drs. Hawkins, citing two examples.
In 1998, the city approved a $ 4.5 million bond issue to fund major improvements to the Veter-ans Memorial Stadium and the former Trojan Arena.
“We went from NCAA Division II to Division I in 1991, so our primary athletics facilities needed major improvements,” the chancellor said. “Our current facilities are among the best at the Sun Belt Conference, but it started with this bond issue and a shared vision.”
This vision came to light in 2009, when Lunsford courted the information technology giant CGI to open a center in Troy. Lunsford contacted Chancellor Hawkins to help him close the deal. What happened next changed the landscape – literally – of the city and the university. The former Troy Place Mall, which had fallen into disrepair, was upgraded to University Park, a modern facility that houses CGI and the University’s information technology operations.
“This was a great example of teamwork and talked a lot about Mayor Lunsford’s values,” Chancellor Hawkins said. “He didn’t mind sharing the credit if that led to a stronger economy and a better quality of life for Troy. A less visionary mayor would not have seen the potential of this old mall. Jimmy saw the potential and brought hundreds of new jobs to Troy during the process. ”
In 2001, another partnership between the city and the university involved a $ 700,000 investment in a 12-court tennis complex on Elm Street. This complex is named in honor of Lunsford.
The late Dr. Doug Hawkins, who served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Troy from 1980 until his passing in 2015, defined what Lunsford meant to the University in its local history Turning Points: “Jimmy was the first mayor who served at the helm of the mayor.council system.Under the old system, we were pretty sure that the needs of the University would be met and Jimmy Lunsford has not only continued the tradition under the “new” form of government “Future historians note that Jimmy Lunsford has been a key player in the growth and progress of the University.”