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Mike Thompson, a 1974 alumnus of Auburn University, has made his latest business venture a family affair – an Auburn Family affair.
Not only has the longtime developer and land investor gone into business with his son-in-law, former Auburn University linebacker Will Herring, but the new owners of the Auburn University Club – Thompson, Herring and Mike Poole of Lafayette, La. – have turned to the Auburn Family to help renovate the club's restaurant, grounds and facilities.
"I love golf, I love Auburn University and I love the Auburn University Club so it was an easy fit," said Thompson.
He sought assistance from Auburn's interior design program in the College of Human Sciences, which had been ranked the best in the country for 2012 by DesignIntelligence magazine.
Assistant professor Lindsay Tan said the faculty agreed to work with Thompson as an opportunity to give students real world experience and support the Auburn community.
Unfortunately, the project couldn't be incorporated into one of the courses during the spring semester, so Tan solicited students to volunteer outside of class. She selected five of them – seniors Kate Killebrew and Katherine Clark, and juniors Hannah Yon, Amanda Freed and Ali Kidwell.
"From the teacher's perspective, real world projects like this take extra time and commitment and sometimes pose a challenge with scheduling to make everything work, but in the end I wouldn't trade it for the world," Tan said. "It's well worth the effort we put in with what you see the students get out of it."
Students were tasked with a redesign of the clubhouse restaurant, a space Thompson described as a room with tables. Thompson and Chef David Bancroft shared their thoughts on the space, but Freed said they were free to explore any and all options, within budget of course.
A number of design details from the students, including strategically placing plants around the room and installing pendant lighting over the bar and ceiling fans throughout, were accepted and put into place.
Kidwell said students not only had the idea of making the tables for the outdoor seating area look old-fashioned, they did the sanding themselves.
Both Freed and Kidwell said the project was at times overwhelming – much like what they expect in a real interior design firm – but are grateful for the chance.
"We do a lot of conceptual work in school, so to do something in real life is a great experience while you're in school and getting educated about it," said Kidwell. "And it's a great way to give back to the community of Auburn."
Students also suggested creating a lounge area near the bar, not defined by walls, but a couch, chairs and decorative windows hanging from the ceiling.
"Creating that little seating area around the fireplace may seem logical to some people, but it's not something I ever would have thought of," Thompson admitted.
Thompson was so impressed with the students work on the restaurant, he can hardly wait for the fall when the senior hospitality class takes on the redesign of the clubhouse's three lobby areas.
By incorporating the project into a class, Tan said the owners will see design ideas from a slew of students, and the students will learn to manage their time between the club project and others in class.
Until then, Thompson is working with Auburn horticulture students this summer to develop a new landscape design for the front of the clubhouse building.
"What I think is so exciting about this project is we're not talking to Mike about one specific space or one specific building," said Tan. "What we're talking about is building a lifelong partnership between Auburn and the community so that we can help out in various ways over the course of the lifetime of this facility. So it's very exciting for us to be able to give back to the community in this small way."
Last Updated: June 25, 2012