Sweetheart Circle is one of the most famous and frequented places at Georgia Southern University. Sitting at the heart of campus, the landscape is spacious and full of live oaks and pecan trees with plenty of places to sit and read a book or throw a frisbee around with friends. Local legend holds that if one walks with their sweetheart around the circle three times, they are sure to get married one day.
While most of Sweetheart Circle’s fame is due to its history with young lovers, it also was the literal foundation of the large university, holding the buildings that made up the original GS campus; now, it serves as the administrative center for the three campuses located across Savannah, Hinesville, and Statesboro, Georgia. And at the center of the center, stands the Statesboro campus flagpole which flies three flags: the Flag of the United States, the Flag of Georgia, and the Flag of Georgia Southern University.
Due to federal guidelines, the flags were handled every single day, raised in the morning and lowered at night, by the Georgia Southern Facilities team and were overseen by team member Thomas (Mike) Markovcic. Throughout the past decade, Markovcic has been pushing for the replacement of the old flagpole.
As a result of his dedication, the request finally received approval, and just a few weeks ago, the old flagpole was retired. But even though his wishes were ultimately met, the task was not without its own share of difficulties to overcome.
Mike Markovcic, Stephen Frawley, and Robert (Bryan) Rountree were crucial members of the facility team that replaced the flagpole, and they offered a lot of insightful information about the twists and turns surrounding the installment.
Their journey began by receiving the necessary funding for the long-sought project, provided by the Georgia Southern Business and Finance Team, headed by VP, Ron Stalnaker. What’s more, it took the team over a year and a half to get all the needed materials for the new pole due to shipping and supply issues that were prevalent in the aftermath of COVID-19.
But toward the end of Fall 2022, the team was able to make significant progress and begin the installment. During the process of getting the new pole up, the team was tasked with removing the old one, which spilt in half during the moving process. Then they began to break down the original concrete base, which they discovered was poured right onto the top of the water main in the center of Sweetheart. The team was quick on their feet, turned off the water and rerouted its flows, and continued on.
The original Sweetheart Circle flagpole went up in 1958 and consisted of mainly plumbing steel pipe. The pole was likely constructed by hand specifically to fly the flag, and many of the pieces were random and mismatched, a hodgepodge of whatever materials were available and easily accessible at the time by those tasked with building the pole which stood at the center of campus for over 6 decades.
During our talk, we reminisced about what could have been, imagining what led up to the creation of the original flagpole. Maybe it was a task assigned to one of the very first campus groundsmen or perhaps a veteran felt called to make one and took it upon themselves to do so? While we all were unsure of the exact history, it was unique and moving to discuss what could have been and think of potential origin stories for the mis-matched flagpole.
One of the most significant features that came along with the new flagpole installation was the addition of a spotlight, which allow the flags to remain flying throughout the day and night.
When asked why this change is so impactful for the community, Mike, who had steadfastly raised and lowered the flag in the past, stated,
“To be able to drive through at night and see the flag right at the center of GSU really means a lot. A lot of people died for that flag, and it’s important to honor that.”
Frawley and Rountree added that the aesthetics of having the flag flying at all times is valuable, referencing that GSU began at Sweetheart Circle, and emphasizing the way it is still a focal point today, being the location of many special events and memories for students, faculty, and staff alike.
If you have the time, check out this quick video released by GS’s communication and marketing team about the recent flagpole replacement; visit campus during the day, or now after dusk, to see the new flagpole in all its glory; and take a moment to consider its history, value, and impact for both the university and Statesboro community.