Building on the Legacy: A College in Transition
By J. Matthew Pinson
It is a wonderful time at Welch College. In December, we completed our final semester at the historic West End campus, and we are working feverishly to make the move to the new Gallatin campus this month.
I can’t tell you how hard our faculty and staff members have worked to provide quality care and instruction for students while preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime campus relocation. If you could see what I’ve seen over the last months, you would join me in thanking them for their dedication to Christ, Welch College, and the students who have been entrusted to us.
This is the most unusual year in the history of Welch, and our faculty, staff, students, and parents have been unusually cooperative in coping with the circumstances of this once-in-a-lifetime event. Students are nearing the end of a very long winter break, and we will return to classes using the same cutting-edge, online format we use for our online program. Shortly thereafter, we plan to move students into their new campus home. Faculty and students received training for this online educational experience, utilizing best practices for online teaching and learning.
Excitement is building as we anticipate a new beginning on a pristine campus. More than two decades ago, Dr. Tom Malone and his leadership team began to sense the need for relocation. The exorbitant land prices in the college’s Richland-West End neighborhood, accompanied by new, stricter zoning requirements, made it impossible for the college to plan for future expansion. Yet this situation also created the ability to sell the West End campus for a price that would provide most of the funding necessary for building a new campus. These funds, with the addition of capital campaign funds, have made relocation a reality.
When we sold the campus in the summer of 2015, the college was $4.2 million in debt. Our plan was that, after the five-year, $6.5 million Building on the Legacy capital campaign, we would be in no more than that $4.2 million in debt. But God has blessed Building on the Legacy beyond our wildest expectations. Donors have provided enough funds to surpass the original $6.5 million goal, and we already have raised money we thought would take five years to raise.
Because of this, the board has authorized an increase the five-year Building on the Legacy goal to $14.5 million. The additional funds will allow us to build a new chapel-auditorium and be debt free at the end of the five-year campaign!
We need you to stand with us to invest in the education of young people who will change their world for the kingdom. While most of the campus has been completed, we will be in construction mode for several years. We plan to complete construction of the gym/activities center this summer. Then we plan to begin designing and building the chapel-auditorium. We need your help now more than ever to bring these plans to completion and do so debt-free.
Finishing the campaign debt free is not just something we want, it’s something we really need. The original plan I mentioned would have meant that we would have to pay debt service on the loan, costing more than $300,000 per year. Think of what we will be able to do for students, with your help, if we don’t have to service that huge debt. That’s why we’re asking you to help us not only finish the buildings but erase the debt. We want to be good stewards. Please help us so we can invest in your young people rather than make principal and interest payments for the next 20 years.
Thank you for your investment in Free Will Baptist young people. Your gifts to the Building on the Legacy campaign are helping make the relocation of the Welch College campus possible. Future students who are not yet born will someday walk on the campus you helped build. Their lives will be challenged and their hearts transformed by the biblically based education they will receive. They will impact the world for Christ…because of you.
Thank you seems inadequate, but I hope you know how grateful I am. And, I hope you make plans very soon to visit the new campus you’re helping to build.
About the Writer: Dr. J. Matthew Pinson is the fifth president of Welch College, where he has served since 2002. He and his wife Melinda have two children, Anna and Matthew.