First African-American student honored

UNA will host a renaming ceremony March 14 at 5 p.m. to honor the first African-American student admitted to Florence State College, which is now UNA.

The University Commons will be renamed the Wendell W. Gunn University Commons in honor of UNA alumnus Wendell W. Gunn.

“It is a very fitting building for what he represents,” said Amanda Sherrod, director of UNA Donor Relations & Prospect Management and University Advancement. “It’s a building for all students.”

Gunn received his Bachelor of Arts in chemistry and mathematics from UNA in 1965, and he received a Master of Business Administration in finance in 1971 from the University of Chicago. In 2017, UNA presented Gunn with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

In 1982, Gunn became an international trade adviser to former President Ronald Reagan. Later, he founded Gunn Solutions, technology consultants to institutional investment managers. His career encompassed many personal and professional achievements in science, finance, politics and as an independent business owner, according to a UNA press release.

“I think it’s cool that UNA was his stepping stone,” said sophomore Tera McCinley.

The UNA board of trustees made the decision to rename the University Commons in honor of Gunn in their Dec. 12, 2017 meeting, Sherrod said. The university announced the decision Dec. 13.

“(Gunn) opened the door for other students to come in,” Sherrod said.

The renaming ceremony will take place in the parking lot in front of theCommons. The UNA Choir will sing on the front steps, and Gunn and his family will be seated in front of the steps, Sherrod said.

“We are getting excited,” Sherrod said. “The renaming ceremony is open to the public, and everyone is welcome.”

Gunn will also be the guest of honor at UNA’s “Light the Fountain” ceremony. This annual event for UNA will take place following the renaming on March 14 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The ceremony marks the beginning of spring every year by lighting Harrison Fountain on campus.