WMU business college continues service project for fifth consecutive year

contact: Alyssa Benson
| WMU News

Photo of a row of five simple, white headstones amid a field of green grass with a male student bending down at the first one and using a green scour to remove its accumulated dirt.KALAMAZOO, Mich.—More than 600 students from Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business will be paying their respects to veterans by participating in the college's fifth annual community service project at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta.

In preparation for Veterans Day, the students will clean a portion of the nearly 27,000 headstones at the site on Saturday, Oct. 28. The group represents 16 sections of the college's Business Preparation and Business Preparation for Transfer Students courses with course instructors and faculty of the college leading students in the project. Veterans Day is Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Project 

The project began in 2012 when the college was looking for a service activity in the community that could be repeated annually. 

"Five years ago, we wanted to provide a meaningful community service project for all of our first-year students, and we didn't want to duplicate any of the efforts already underway at Fort Custer in preparation for Veteran's Day," says Paul Hildenbrand, the business college's manager of recruitment and outreach for community colleges and the Fort Custer project leader. "When we first started working with the representatives at Fort Custer, they told us they were always in need of people to clean headstones that have become dirty from the elements and other environmental factors. We knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get students involved in a truly meaningful way."

Part of the project involves students attending an informational session before the trip to learn more about the history of Fort Custer and the significance of cleaning the headstones.

Photo of a smiling female student who is leaning over an inground, gray grave marker amid a grassy field and using a green scour to remove its accumulated dirt."We are always more than excited to have the WMU business students come here and volunteer their time and learn the meaning of these hallowed grounds," says Adam Bydash, foreman at Fort Custer National Cemetery. "This project is an outstanding opportunity for all parties involved, and we are thrilled that the college comes back year after year to pay their respects to those buried here and their families."

About Fort Custer

Fort Custer was named after Gen. George Armstrong Custer, a native of Michigan. The original Camp Custer was built in 1917 on 130 parcels of land, mainly small farms leased to the government by the local Chamber of Commerce as part of the military mobilization for World War I.

The establishment of Fort Custer Post Cemetery took place on Sept. 18, 1943, with the first interment. As early as the 1960s, local politicians and veterans organizations advocated for the establishment of a national cemetery at Fort Custer.

The Fort Custer site, located midway between Chicago and Detroit, was the Department of Veterans Affairs' choice for the Region V national cemetery. Congress created Fort Custer National Cemetery in September 1981.

About the Haworth College of Business

Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business, one of the largest schools of business in the United States, is the academic home to more than 3,500 undergraduate students majoring in 18 specialized areas of business. An additional 500 graduate students study business administration and accountancy.

The Haworth College of Business is among an elite group of fewer than 5 percent of business schools worldwide that are accredited at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by the AACSB International—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. It is among a select 1 percent of business schools worldwide that have additional specialized AACSB accreditation for their accountancy programs.

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