In celebration of baseball legend, humanitarian and Black historical icon Hank Aaron, Atlanta Technical College unveiled the renaming of its academic complex building to the Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron Academic Complex on Wednesday, Aaron’s 86th birthday.

According to Atlanta Technical College officials, Aaron has supported Atlanta Technical College for more than 20 years through his service on its board of directors as well as financial contributions made through his Hank and Billye Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation. 

“(Aaron) had and continues to have a profound impact on the college, on our students, and therefore on our region,” said Victoria Seals, president of Atlanta Technical College. “He served on the local board of directors and contributed multiple scholarships through his Chasing the Dream Foundation. 

“In metro Atlanta, individuals who are born into poverty have only a four percent chance of increasing their salaries over their lifetimes,” she continued. “(Aaron)’s commitment and investment in opportunity are addressing that statistic in a very real way.”

During the ceremony, Aaron was not only presented with the unveiling of the Academic Complex’s new name but was also welcomed with testimonies of his accolades and character from Brian Jordan, former Atlanta Braves player; Tom Johnson, former CEO of CNN; Ray Robinson, Citizens Trust Bank Board of Directors; and Allan Tanenbaum, Atlanta Technical College Foundation Inc.

Additionally, Ambassador Andrew Young dedicated a prayer to Aaron and former US President Bill Clinton shared remarks and well wishes through a taped video message. 

“Hank, I want to wish you a happy 86th birthday and congratulate you as you celebrate today,” Clinton said. “The friendship, kindness, and support that you and Billye have given to me, to Hillary, to our foundational work over the last three decades have meant more to me than you will ever know.” 

“Through all that time, I’ve had the chance to first hand to see that your dedication to serving others is even more reputable than your long discipline while a successful career on the baseball field,” Clinton continued. “You had done so very much to give young people the chances they need to make the most of their potential. Including, being a longtime supporter of Atlanta Technical College. And I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor than you.”

Further, the Atlanta City Council has now proclaimed that Feb. 5 will now be known as “Henry Louis ‘Hank’ Aaron Day” in Atlanta.

Aaron adds this building dedication to his collection of honors, which includes being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (1982), receiving an NAACP Award (1982), the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush (2002), Atlanta Technical College Foundation’s Bridge Builder Award (2002), and the Order of the Rising Sun from the emperor of Japan (2016).

Known as the “Home Run King,” Aaron had 755 home runs over a career that spanned from 1954 to 1976 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. Now, he serves many roles with the Braves, where he spent most of his playing career.

One of Atlanta Technical College’s first buildings, the Academic Complex opened in 1967 and was the main academic building for more than 30 years, and existed along with the campus’s aviation building. 

“The Academic Complex is our original building,” Seals explained. “Designed in the late 60s it represented revolutionary thinking in technical education. It houses most of our academic programs as well as the Arlane O. Robinson Center Student Success Center. At the center of campus, it represents the heart of the college.”

While Aaron’s service to Atlanta Technical College started in 1997 as a board member, he later began to directly impact students through the Hank and Billye Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, an Atlanta-based non-profit he started with his wife Billye in 1995.

For more than 20 years, the foundation has contributed more than 100 scholarships, 54 partial scholarships, touching over 100 graduates. 

“Our intent was to encourage youngsters to dream a dream and then do what we could to help that dream take root and grow,” Billye Aaron once told a crowd at Alabama’s Tuskegee University in 2003. “Henry had the feeling that we need to reach youngsters at an early age before their attention is diverted by the communities in which they live. If they focus, if they have talent, they can certainly achieve. If they do not become stars, they can certainly become good citizens.”

Former Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron, center, is surrounded by family and friends as Atlanta Technical College celebrates his 86th birthday, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 in Atlanta. Atlanta Technical College renamed an academic complex for the former Atlanta Braves slugger, christening it the Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron Academic Complex. Aaron, a longtime supporter of the college, donates thousands of dollars to the school every year and his Chasing the Dream Foundation awards scholarships to several students. (AP Photo / Ritu Shukla)

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