It's that time of year again, a week when the reds, yellows and browns of October give away to a week of blue and gold.
For more than a century, Albany State University has pursued a mission of providing quality education, reaching out to ensure that many over the decades who might not have had a chance at a higher education otherwise found themselves in a position to excel academically and improve their career opportunities.
Albany State President Everette Freeman, in his annual academic year kickoff with ASU faculty and staff this past August, reiterated ASU's aim to provide excellence in education.
"We are all here for the same abiding reason," Freeman noted. "We will continue to educate those who have been disenfranchised even to this day ... and we do it well with quality, service and effectiveness."
With the thousands of alumni who will return to their alma mater this week, especially as the annual homecoming football game Saturday against Clark Atlanta nears, the impact of ASU on the Albany community will be evident in booked hotel rooms, longer waits at restaurants and increased traffic in stores.
But Albany State's impact is a year round thing.
According to data from a report earlier this year by the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth, in 2011 alone Albany State pumped $148 million into the area economy. It also was responsible for 1,772 jobs in the last calendar year.
"We're along the largest employers in Albany and we expect that ASU would have a great economic impact," Larry Wakefield, vice president for fiscal affairs at Albany State, noted when the figures were reported this past summer.
"Every year," he said, "we get a new group of students who directly benefit this community because they spend money where they attend college. After graduation, some elect to remain here."
One aspect of Freeman's tenure as president has been a much more visible presence of the ASU in the community. And as the interaction between Albany, Southwest Georgia and ASU continues to grow, the impact will continue to build as well.
So, this week is a fine time to honor this long-standing institution for its contributions, both to the area and to the minds of young students from all across our nation. We hope that ASU blue and gold will be the colors of choice in our community this week, showing the university and its returning alumni that Albany takes pride in its university and the people who are the heart and soul of Albany State.