Celebrating the Past, Preparing for the Future

Posted on June 6, 2024 by Marketing and Communications
Marketing and Communications

The University of South Alabama National Alumni Association celebrates its 50th birthday  data-lightbox='featured'
Archive Photography Provided by Office of Alumni Relations

Founded in 1974, the University of South Alabama National Alumni Association is marking half a century of giving back to South and transforming students’ lives.

When you talk to members of The University of South Alabama National Alumni Association, you hear the same story over and over: The University transformed my life. I joined the National Alumni Association to help give others that same opportunity.

As it celebrates its 50th birthday this year, the Association provides more than $100,000 annually in scholarships, mostly to children of members.

Alumni have given their alma mater its signature landmark (Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza, dedicated in 2010) and its most popular event facility (the MacQueen Alumni Center, which opened in 2020).

Both stand at the heart of the main campus not far from Hancock Whitney Stadium, home of the Jaguars football team since 2020. Those structures symbolize how sports, especially football, and the MacQueen Center have strengthened the bonds between alumni and a maturing University.

Happy Fulford ’73, ’91 was there at the Association’s beginning in 1974. A group of young graduates who hung out together in Mobile thought “it just seemed like the right thing to do,” he says. “I give Ken Cunningham the credit for getting it all going because he was our first president.”

Fulford, a Mobile native, became the third president in 1976. “There were eight people at the meeting,” he says. He won in a landslide with five votes.

“It was a social thing,” he says of the Association back then. “At 20-something years old, I certainly wasn’t thinking about endowed scholarships.”

And yet, “We loved the University. We appreciated the opportunity it had provided us to get an education, and we did want to see it succeed and help it grow.”

Fulford was the first college graduate in his family. He worked his way through school. He planned to start at South and then transfer. “But I really just fell in love with South. After the first year, I didn’t want to leave.”

He more or less didn’t. His decades-long career working at South included stints as director of alumni affairs and executive director of governmental relations. He retired in 2019.

The National Alumni Association now boasts more than 6,000 members. Benefits include travel, entertainment, financial services and retail discounts and several South-specific deals, including eligibility for USA Recreation Center membership.

Several societies within the Association have formed. Among the most active are groups for alumni of the various University colleges and the Jaguar Marching Band, plus societies for Black alumni, military veterans and past alumni board presidents.

Current President Kim Lawkis ’11, ’13 says the Association helps the University simply by bringing people to campus — and not just alumni. Groups from throughout the community rent the MacQueen Center for events.

“You’ve got the campus community, the alumni community and the Mobile community,” Lawkis says. “You need all three of those for us to have a fully developed identity as a University.”

Like Fulford, Lawkis had to scramble to get a university education. She grew up in a single-parent working-class family in Scottsboro, Alabama. From age 15, if she wanted anything besides the basics, she had to work for it.

At South, she had “such a great experience,” she says. She began volunteering for service organizations on and off campus. Today, she’s chief operating officer of Feeding Alabama, a nonprofit organization that assists food banks in fighting hunger.

“I want to just serve and give back to an institution that totally transformed my life,” she says. “When you look at how many kids try and don’t make it out of generational poverty, and then you get to the other side, you see that there are kids fighting so hard to be at South. What can I do for them?”

National Alumni Association

Through the Years..

University of South Alabama National Alumni Association is founded with a mission “to support and positively influence the goals of the University through an active relationship with the University, its alumni, students and friends.”

The Association’s first president of the Board of Directors, Kenneth W. Cunningham ’68,
is appointed.

The Association receives its certificate of incorporation as a not-for-profit organization.

The Association creates the University’s first student ambassador program, the Southerners.

The Association establishes its first student scholarship programs, the Alumni Leadership Scholarship and the South Alabama Scholars Award.

The Association establishes the Children of Alumni Scholarships program, which provides scholarships for students from Alabama through the sale of customized collegiate license plates. Today, the Association awards more than $100,000 annually in overall student scholarships.

The Association creates endowments to recognize outstanding achievement through its Employee Recognition Awards and its Faculty
Excellence Awards.

The Association dedicates Moulton Tower and Alumni Plaza, now the most recognized landmark on campus.

The Association dedicates and opens the MacQueen Alumni Center, the on-campus home for South Alabama alumni.

USA National Alumni Association's 50h Anniversary celebration by becoming a member. Already a member? Join the 1974 Society with your gift of $1,974 in support of the Association's programs and services.

USA NAA qr code


Share on Social Media