Auburn University Early Learning Center Open House Celebrates Past, Looks Toward Future

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

For more than eight decades, the Auburn University Early Learning Center has touched the lives of countless children, and to celebrate these lasting memories, the AUELC hosted a final open house to reminisce and celebrate the future as the center plans to relocate to the newly renovated Dawson Center on S. Donahue Drive this summer.

An extension of the Human Development and Family Science department in the College of Human Sciences, the AUELC is led by faculty with advanced degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. The AUELC located on the Thach concourse has been instrumental in developing strong minds in young children using the value of play.

Auburn University Early Learning Center Director Sharon Wilbanks said there will be several important upgrades and additions at the new location when faculty and staff make the move to the Dawson Center in late-July. The move will take place before classes are scheduled to begin in mid-August.

“We are very excited to be able to add a two-year old class in our new location,” Wilbanks said. “This class will offer parents an option of two-day, three-day, or five-day per week classes for their two-year-old child. We will also have new and up-to-date technology in our observation booths, a new playground as well as digital signage in the building for announcements, photos and reminders.”

Saturday, April 9, marked the end of an era and symbolized the start of a new chapter as early learning center family, friends and alumni, both past and present, were invited to attend the last open house in the location just across from the Haley Center.

Traditionally, the AUELC open house is reserved for new incoming parents and children but Saturday, all were welcome to attend and share memories at the center located in the heart of campus.

Multiple generations of children within the Auburn family have benefitted from the AUELC, including current Auburn University College of Agriculture Dean and Director of Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station Dr. Paul Patterson.

Patterson attended the AUELC from 1966-68 during a time when exciting things were happening on Auburn’s campus.

“I remember one of my favorite things whenever we were outside and had recess is we would stand at that wall along where the concourse is and that’s when Haley Center was being built,” Patterson said. “So we got to watch it being built. I’m kind of nostalgic about the Haley Center. I also just really remember Graham Crackers and milk.”

Patterson said at the time he attended the AUELC, Thach was open as a road and there was a drive that went in front of Cater Hall where parents would pull into the drive, stop and walk their children down to the child development center.

As the AUELC prepares to transition into the newly renovated building, one of the major upgrades will be parking adjacent to the Dawson Center for parents to have convenient access for drop-offs and pick-ups.

In addition to being a solid resource for children, the AUELC also provides great opportunities for Auburn University students and faculty.

“I think these types of centers provide really good experiences for the Auburn University students that are involved working at them,” Patterson said. “Some of our faculty and staff have projects associated with them so they’re valuable for that and then by extension when I was at Purdue I had my own children attend a similar center at Purdue University. My oldest daughter always said, ‘It’s a high quality educational opportunity for the children.’”

For more information on the Auburn Early Learning Center, visit