ASHLAND -- The newest addition to Ashland University’s campus is meant to enhance the college experience for student veterans.
About 50 people gathered Thursday evening to dedicate the Jack W. Liebert Military & Veteran Resource Center to its namesake, who is the father of AU alumna and trustee Deborah Liebert Karl.
The center was made possible in part through Karl’s $1 million gift made in honor and memory of her late father. He served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.
“I feel he would be proud and honored to know what Ashland University has allowed me to do in his name,” Karl said.
“My hope is for all the veteran students to consider this their home and a sanctuary where they can gather, share their experiences, seek help when needed, relax and know how important they are to the Ashland University and the Ashland community.”
The center will receive veterans as they transition from military service to campus life. Within the space, students will find support services, such as recruitment, admission, registration and GI Bill processing, financial aid, academic advising, accessibility services, mental health counseling and career development.
The facility will include conference spaces and offices for the veterans coordinator and support staff, a USO-style veteran’s lounge where veteran students and staff can share a sense of comradery in a comfortable space, and two studio apartment-style receiving rooms to provide emergency housing accommodations to veterans and their families at a moment’s notice.
“You’re literally like the mom of student veterans here in Ashland,” said De Vaughnte Askew, a member of the United States Marine Corps and an AU junior studying psychology. “First thing we say when new students come in is, ‘You’re going to have to know who Debbie is because she is mom. She is mom, and you better take care of her because she takes care of us 120 percent.’”
Askew, of Wadswoth, recalled meeting Karl in 2017. She had hugged him immediately, and they held a three hour conversation over lunch.
“She was just telling us how her dad was in the military, what veterans meant to her and I could really feel that she meant everything,” he said.
He and two other student veterans, Matthew Hall and Jessica Hickman, presented Karl with a flag during the Thursday evening ceremony. The flag had been flown over the Pentagon on her father’s birthday and hang outside the center. It will now be raised and lowered daily by AU student veterans.
Renovations at the former Brethren Church building began last fall, and the space first opened for the new school year on August 31, 2020.
According to AU director of military and veteran services Randy Spade, the building’s study rooms have been used “continuously” since then. He also sees veterans spending time in the common space, sharing lunch and watching television.
“They are social distanced, but they are spending time together, and comradery is a huge deal for this community, so having access to that and being together, really I think means a great deal to them,” Spade said.
Students already devised a nickname for the building, “The Jack.”
Liebert was born in Cincinnati in 1922. He moved to Columbus after serving in WWII and the Korean War. He passed in 2012.
Following the outdoor dedication ceremony, attendees toured the building in small groups.