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New Orleans trustees OK new library

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees April 11 approved an $18.8 million budget, authorized the construction of a new apartment complex, heard reports of better-than-expected enrollment and authorized the administration to proceed with planning for a new campus library.

Seminary President Chuck Kelley also announced the sale of the seminary’s Decatur, Ga., property for $8.4 million. The property served as the seminary’s North Georgia Extension Center from 1995 until 2006 and the seminary’s main office during the eight months following Hurricane Katrina.

“As a result of the conditions of the sale, the seminary will not receive the bulk of the money from the sale for several years,” Kelley said. “But we are rejoicing that the property sold so quickly and for such a good price.”

The property was deeded to the seminary by Columbia Drive Baptist Church in 1995, representing the largest one-time gift in school history. The extension center moved to Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., before the 2006 fall semester.

Some of the proceeds from the sale, Kelley said, will be used to continue improving the main campus. The sale mainly will benefit the extension centers.

“Much of it we hope to put in an endowment to underwrite the costs of Atlanta and our whole extension center system,” Kelley said. “The trustees will create the Columbia Drive Baptist Church Education Fund to honor forever the congregation who gave us this property.”

Trustees approved the construction of a new 36-unit, two-bedroom apartment complex. Kelley told trustees that the facility is needed to begin replacing the 96 apartments lost due to Hurricane Katrina.

The facility will be very similar to the seminary’s newest housing complex -– the Oaks -– completed in June 2006. The seminary will not begin building the new complex unit the entire $5 million cost has been raised, Kelley said.

The trustees also considered their first post-Katrina capital project unrelated to storm repair –- a new state-of-the-art theological library.
Trustees voted to authorize seminary administration to begin raising funds for the 70,000-square-foot library and to finalize the building’s design. The facility will cost close to $25 million to construct.

“I love what the architect has done, tying this in with the rest of our campus,” Kelley said. “I think it is going to be the first great theological library constructed in the 21st Century.”

The three-story facility will include additional space for books, exhibits and research centers. The first floor will house the reference room, library offices, classrooms and a lecture hall. A museum explaining the history of the Bible, along with research centers for New Testament textual studies and archaeology also are planned

The periodicals and open stacks will be housed on the second floor. Plans for the third floor include a music library, media library, computer lab and faculty study rooms. The third floor will also include a special collections area to house the seminary’s important rare books which are not currently displayed. The new library will have adequate space for the seminary’s holdings, which have outgrown the space available in the current library.

The new library will be built on the west side of Leavell Chapel on the main academic quad. The current library will be renovated for classrooms and office space in the future.

Kelley reported stronger-than-expected enrollment. Main campus student enrollment is close to 1,600. Enrollment numbers remain strong in the seminary’s extension centers.

“It looks like we will finish the year within 400 of our all-time record enrollment,” he said. “God is calling out the called to come to New Orleans to prepare for ministry.”

Kelley noted a trend among the current students –- fewer hours of coursework per semester. He attributes this shift, in part, to the number of students who are busy helping the region recover from the devastating storm.

Trustees also approved new certificate training course offerings in Alabama and Georgia. North Park Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala. was approved to offer the biblical teaching certificate, Mabel White Memorial Baptist Church in Macon, Ga. will offer the certificate in Christian ministry and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. will offer the church leadership certificate.

In other action, trustees elected Rudy Gray, pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., to serve as the board’s chairman. Craig Campbell, an insurance company owner from Russellville, Ark., was re-elected as vice chairman. The board re-elected Phil Hanberry, owner of Hanco Corporation, as secretary-treasurer.