MTSU’s new Veterans and Military Family Center will be named for legendary country music entertainer Charlie Daniels and his wife, Hazel, President Sidney A. McPhee announced Wednesday.
McPhee surprised the couple with the honor at a private dinner Tuesday night at the President’s Residence, where the music icon presented an additional $70,000 gift to the center from The Journey Home Project.
The donation raises the total support from the veterans-support organization, founded by Charlie Daniels and his longtime manager David Corlew, to $120,000.
“We are deeply touched and deeply honored,” said the singer, who is widely known for his advocacy work for veterans. “I’ve been blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and, now, having a veterans center named after me.”
“This is truly special,” Hazel Daniels said to McPhee.
The Tennessee Board of Regents delegates authority for the naming of centers and entities within campus structures at the sole discretion of the president, McPhee said. “This is a responsibility I take very seriously,” he said.
McPhee said the support by the Journey Home Project “creates a legacy for you and your family, where veterans and their families will have the benefit of having such incredible services offered at the Charlie and Hazel Daniels center.”
The Journey Home Project assists other not-for-profits in securing funds to benefits veterans and assist in their transition from uniform into civilian life. It was founded by Daniels, Corlew and board members Ed Hardy and Joe and Mercedez Longever.
The project raises funding from individual donors and fundraising events, including the renowned Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam. The 40th Anniversary Volunteer Jam was last held in August 2015 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
The project seeks to assist veterans “by partnering with organizations that do the most good, with the least overhead,” Corlew said.
The president credited retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the university’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, for his leadership in building the center and establishing MTSU’s ties with the project.
“The general helped this university build, in record time, the largest and most comprehensive veterans service center found on a Tennessee university campus,” McPhee said. “He continues to serve our nation by helping our more than 1,000 veterans and family members receive the support and services they have earned.”
Daniels helped formally open the 2,600-square-foot center on Nov. 5. Located on the first floor of the Keathley University Center, it addresses many of the needs of student-veterans, including academic advising and navigating the paperwork tied to various federal benefits and financial aid.
Hilary Miller, a military spouse and family member, serves as the center’s director. She works alongside U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees Heather Conrad with VetSuccess on Campus and Veteran Affairs Coordinator Ray Howell.
The center staff features five full-time staff, including a mental health counselor, and 17 part-time student-veterans, who serve as peer advisers.
The center also has distinctive social space for informal gatherings and study sessions and a conference room for video teleconferencing and employer job interviews.
Daniels has had close ties to MTSU for decades. In 1975, the second Volunteer Jam was held at MTSU’s Murphy Center and in 2009, the university presented him with the Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, an honor presented to a businessperson who has demonstrated the best of the spirit of America through significant contributions in government, education, and/or civic and charitable organizations.