Lindenwood University-Belleville has announced the opening of a new department designed to help military veterans get their education.
The office will be named in honor of the former Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, current U.S. Rep. William Enyart.
"We could not be more pleased to open the Major General William L. Enyart Veterans Success Center to better serve our students who sacrificed so much for this country," Lindenwood Belleville President Jerry Bladdick said. "It is our honor to pay tribute to Congressman Enyart and his years of military service through this new student facility."
The center was opened with a private ceremony Thursday. It was named in honor of Enyart following a donation from his family, including his wife, retired St. Clair County Circuit Judge Annette Eckert, who teaches at the Belleville university.
Lindenwood leaders declined to disclose the cost of the naming rights. Other facilities at the campus for which donors have received naming rights include the student center named for former U.S. Sen. Alan J. Dixon and several facilities in honor of the prominent Kern family in Belleville, including the new men's dormitory under construction on Main Street. It will be named for Fred J. Kern.
Bladdick said there is an increasing demand at Lindenwood for services for military veterans.
In 2013, Lindenwood-Belleville had 78 veteran-students enrolled in classes. Today, there are 115 Veterans Affairs students on campus, and that number is growing.
"The center will provide a lounge and study space for veteran students to meet one another and spend time between classes," said Debbie Suttles, director of veteran affairs at Lindenwood. "It will also serve as a resource for veterans trying to adjust to college life or seeking to learn more about their GI Bill benefits and tuition assistance through the Armed Forces. Our veteran students are very important to us, and we are proud to be able to offer them a centralized place for these services."
Enyart said he appreciates the need for the center because veteran benefits helped him to get his education.
"I couldn't be more pleased with how this new facility has been completed," Enyart said. "I received my post-secondary education as well as my law degree as a result of GI Bill benefits. During that time, veteran centers did not exist, so I am glad that Lindenwood has recognized the need and provided a resource for veterans to get together and provide each other the support only another veteran can provide."
Enyart also said he's glad to have his name associated with Lindenwood-Belleville.
"Lindenwood is a veteran-friendly university, and I am proud to be a part of the effort to give back to our nation's veterans who have given so much for us," Enyart said.
Enyart's military history includes a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force from 1969-73. For two years he was with the 375 Medivac Group stationed at Scott Air Force Base. During the other two he served with the 824th Combat Group on Okinawa in a support role during the Vietnam War. He joined the Illinois National Guard in 1982. He retired from the guard, for which he became commander in 2007, in 2012 to run for Congress. He plans to run for re-election on the November ballot.
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