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New Orleans trustees bring maintenance to the forefront

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When the Scripture speaks about all of creation groaning, eager for redemption, Chris Friedmann, director of facilities for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, can relate. Though inanimate, the campus facilities are groaning, eager for desperately needed maintenance, he said, and the seminary’s trustees have heard the groaning and are doing something about it.

In what is named “The Excellence Initiative,” New Orleans trustees approved measures to bring seminary maintenance issues to the forefront, including the creation of an associate vice president of operations position; the addition of one new maintenance staff position a year for the next five years; and the establishment of an endowment fund whose interest will be spent only on maintenance of the seminary’s facilities and grounds.

In their March 13-14 meeting, trustees elected Friedmann, the seminary’s director of facilities/maintenance the past seven years, as associate vice president of operations, a new position created to raise the profile of issues relating to the seminary’s facilities and to give maintenance issues a more significant place in its strategic planning process.

In adding at least one staff person a year to NOBTS’s maintenance staff for the next five years, beginning with the current budget year, the administration decided to forgo hiring a new faculty member this year.

Noting that a combination of years of heavy use and extensive damage by Formosan termites has left the campus in critical need of renovation, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley bemoaned the fact that the seminary was having to do too much problem maintenance and not enough preventive maintenance. Noting also the forthcoming rebuilding and consistent upkeep of campus areas funded by the seminary’s “New Horizons” fund-raising campaign, he said it is essential to add maintenance funding stability to the seminary’s overall budget.

“We want to keep the new projects we undertake in good condition for a long to come,” Kelley said. “The decision of the SBC to eliminate capital needs from the SBC budget meant the seminary had to do something.”

This will be done by establishing an “Excellence Fund,” an endowment fund with interest dedicated to maintaining the seminary’s facilities and grounds, Kelley said. Because of the urgency involved in maintaining the campus, 10 percent of all capital gifts to the seminary, unless otherwise designated, will be deposited to this fund and one-seventh of the interest from all non-scholarship, non-mission trip/field experience endowments, unless otherwise designated, will be added to the fund annually. Other gifts and funds will be added to the endowment as they become available.

Stating that his personal goal for the “Excellence Fund” endowment is $25 million, Kelley told trustees, “We’ll never be extravagant, but we will be effective and efficient.”

The Excellence Fund derived its name from the seminary’s core value of “Characteristic Excellence,” which states, “What we do, we do to the utmost of our abilities and resources as a testimony to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

To aid in the process, trustees also approved the creation of a permanent Maintenance Priority Task Force consisting of the president, vice president for business affairs, provost, dean of students and the associate vice president of operations. The task force will meet on a monthly basis to determine maintenance needs and priorities, ensuring direct involvement of the president, and providing a way for the concerns of both students and faculty to be represented in decisions about maintenance priorities.

Calling this effort “a morale boost and an encouragement to the facilities force,” Friedmann is breathing a sigh of relief. He said he is grateful that Kelley can now “shine the light of his attention” on campus maintenance and facilities issues.

With more than 10 years of maintenance and facilities experience before coming to seminary, Friedmann has worked as a boiler technician in the Navy where he served in the Atlantic fleet in Norfolk, Va., and as a journeyman electrician after serving in a four-year apprenticeship in Daytona Beach, Fla. He currently holds a Louisiana state electrical contractor’s license; an asbestos supervisor certification, as required by OSHA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality; and a facilities management certificate from the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers. He also holds the Advanced Safety Certificate from the National Safety Council for his work as the campus safety officer.

A native of the Washington, D.C., metro area, Friedmann recently completed his executive master of business administration degree at the University of New Orleans, after earning his master of religious education degree from NOBTS in 1993; his bachelor of arts in religious education degree at Louisiana College, Pineville, in 1985; and his associate degree from NOBTS in 1981. He currently is working on a doctor of educational ministry degree with a specialization in leadership at NOBTS.

He and his wife, the former Peggy Hager of Hartsville, S.C., who is homeschool coordinator for the seminary, have three children: Karen, a freshman at Mississippi College in Clinton; Jonathan, a sophomore, and Eric, a freshman, at Faith Christian Academy in New Orleans.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CHRIS FRIEDMANN.

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  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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