Long history between Auburn, American Red Cross demonstrates Auburn Family values

Published: March 26, 2018
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An April 3-5 blood drive that will team Auburn University Housing and the American Red Cross is indicative of a partnership decades in the making, with one of the most poignant examples of the life-saving collaboration being from the Vietnam War era.

As the story goes, there was a record-breaking blood drive in 1967 when Auburn collected 4,812 pints of blood in two days to help during the Vietnam War. The only recorded mention of the record-breaking blood drive is found in the 1981 Glomerata, when students tried to break the record with a blood drive called “The Auburn 5000.” The 3,507 pints collected the year before the 1967 drive was also a record, which allegedly received “heartfelt thanks” from U.S. Army General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces during Vietnam.

Phil Hardee, who served as Auburn’s Student Government Association president in 1967, said the SGA-sponsored drive was promoted as a “good cause, something we [the Auburn student body] could do that was most worthwhile and needed. Each and every healthy student could contribute equally.”

Such history of the relationship between Auburn and the American Red Cross might be unknown to many in the campus community, but blood drive organizers say Auburn’s stellar record in giving the gift of life is something they are proud of and look forward to experiencing again with the SEC Contest of Champions Blood Drive that’s set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m., April 3-5, in rooms 2222/2223 of the Student Center.

Donors can schedule an appointment in advance, preferably by Friday, March 30, at https://aub.ie/AUHBloodDrive or on the Blood Donor American Red Cross app.  The qualifications to donate are feel healthy, be at least 17 years of age, weigh 110 pounds and have a valid photo ID or student ID.  Donors can save time by completing RapidPass, a pre-health screening guide at https://aub.ie/BloodDonorRapidPass, at least 24 hours before his or her scheduled appointment.

As to the history of blood drives on Auburn’s campus, the 1981 Glom article states that Auburn had donated more than 65,000 pints of blood to the American Red Cross since 1952. “The Auburn 5000,” the name given to the student effort in 1981 to top the record from 1967, did not result in a new record, having only collected 3,324 pints. A rash of the flu at the time probably prevented many students from donating.

James Foy, the late and beloved dean of students at the time, was a World War II veteran and perhaps the strongest advocate for campus blood drives. While his counterparts at other universities were coping with student unrest during the 60s and 70s, Foy was guiding student leaders toward civic activities and patriotic displays of citizenship, such as blood donations.

Foy reportedly set an example for students, contributing at blood drives himself. For his efforts, he was a two-time recipient of the American Red Cross Award of Honor.

Hardee said Auburn students didn’t protest the Vietnam War, but with events like the blood drive could make a statement, expressing “the quality people that were Auburn.” Auburn students then — as well as today, it can be argued — are a caring and patriotic group, he added.

“I do think the tone at Auburn was to set the record and be known for something good rather than some of the things that were being done around the country,” said Hardee.

The American Red Cross currently hosts three-day blood drives, with the help of at least one campus organization or unit four times during the school year.

The annual Beat Bama blood drive in November, which was sponsored with the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity and Sigma Kappa sorority, collected 383 pints, making it the largest three-day drive at Auburn in 10 years, according to the American Red Cross.

The most recent blood drive in January was sponsored by Auburn’s Student Nurses Association and resulted in the collection of 376 pints. The goal was 375.

More Information

By the Numbers:

Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.

The American Red Cross must collect 14,000 units every day for patients in need.

25 percent of blood donations are collected from college level universities.

One pint of blood can save up to 3 lives.