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Midwestern trustees address enrollment, approve Coppenger severance package

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–After hearing a positive assessment of the financial health of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, trustees approved a severance package for the recently terminated president and elected a search committee to fill the vacancy. Immediate steps were taken to address full-time enrollment concerns at the main campus in Kansas City, Mo., by reducing student costs and expanding recruitment.
An unqualified report was received from the auditing firm of Keller and Owens. John Parrish spoke to the board on behalf of the company, reporting “a very successful year in the seminary.”
Noting that unrestricted net worth had grown by $450,000, Parrish said expenses had declined by $390,000 through “skilled cost control” and a reduction in equipment appreciation. “All in all, from an auditor’s perspective, it was a very solid, sound and positive year for the seminary.”
The board approved a severance package for former President Mark Coppenger, including payments totaling $40,000, following discussion in executive session. With regular payments to be made through January 15, 2000, the board incorporated the cost of moving and other expenses into the total. Also included is the transfer of the president’s laptop computer, and provision of health and dental insurance coverage through March of next year or until he becomes eligible for other coverage. Coppenger, who was dismissed by trustees Sept. 14 for “misappropriation of anger,” will be asked to sign a letter of agreement accepting the terms set forth.
A retirement package for associate church music professor Jo Ann Butler also was discussed in executive session, providing retirement benefits in keeping with seminary policy.
Capital resources director Bill Foil announced that trustees had exceeded their goal for pledges in Midwestern’s “First Step Toward Tomorrow Campaign,” reporting $204,970 in commitments thus far. Total capital campaign pledges amount to $319,258 when commitments by seminary employees are included.
The board restated its commitment to the capital campaign “as an additional affirmation of our belief in the promising future of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.” Foil, who also serves as interim vice president of business affairs, was asked to continue contacting selected potential donors during the presidential search process.
The board selected its search committee from the full trustee board instead of stipulating that at least two executive committee members be chosen, in addition to the board chairman, as suggested by the executive committee. Elected to serve are Reagan Bradford of Edmond, Okla.; Loretta Bringer of Maywood, Mo.; Conrad “Buster” Brown of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; William Hatfield of Dierks, Ark.; John Marshall of Springfield, Mo.; chairman Carl Weiser of Lynchburg, Va.; and Dennis Wood of Tempe, Ariz. Gwen Newman of Winder, Ga. was elected as an alternate member.
Recommendations to the search committee may be directed to Carl Weiser at Rt. 4 Box 25, 314 Crestview, Rustburg, VA 24588.
Jim Cogdill, vice president for academic affairs, expressed enthusiasm for two motions addressing declining full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, confident that students would take more courses each semester. The motions increase the number of electives available without restrictions, from six to 12 hours, and place a cap on tuition for Southern Baptist students at the main campus at $700 per semester and $300 per J-term.
Speaking to accreditation issues, Cogdill said a focused visit next spring for a new doctor of education ministry degree and a self-study would be conducted in 2002. Cogdill praised efforts that had eliminated all notations by accreditors, adding, “We are in good standing right now with both ATS and NCA.”
Trustees also expressed a commitment to educate students in off-campus locations distance through compressed or interactive video.
Arizona trustee Dennis Wood, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church on Mill in Tempe, encouraged the study of new approaches, stating, “If we as a seminary do not get in on the changes, we’re going to be left in the dust.” Wood predicted half of seminary students would not live at the main campus in 10 years. “We’re going to miss the boat because of the fear we have with FTEs, finances and enrollment.”
Trustees received an expanded recruiting plan offered by the office of student development. Immediate needs endorsed as priorities by the full board included improving the ability of students to complete the application process through the school’s Internet website, additional displays and the involvement of faculty in enlistment conferences.
Trustees granted permanent status to the Ethnic School of Ministry, which provides the largest ministry to Laotians in the country. Both diploma and certificate-level instruction will be offered.
In other business, trustees unanimously:
— deferred action on a proposed amphitheater until a new president is elected.
— authorized up to $25,000 in capital needs funds to complete work on the Morton Institute of Archaeology.
— reallocated funds expended in the current and previous budget years that qualify for capital needs funds.
— agreed to contract with a local music company to purchase a musical instrument and thereby qualify for others to be loaned.
— approved up to $21,000 for the purchase of a new truck to replace a vehicle taken out of service.
— approved enlistment priorities outlined by the student development committee.
In response to motions made at the Southern Baptist Convention, trustees endorsed responses drafted by the Council of Seminary Presidents regarding:
— deaf interpretation for hearing impaired students.
— utilization of technology to reduce travel costs.
— support of the Crossover evangelistic effort preceding each year’s SBC annual meeting.
Trustees postponed consideration of a communications policy offered by the chairman as a means of “restoring and maintaining discipline among the staff and trustees.” A newly implemented protocol for staff communication with trustees was received as a report from the interim president.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter