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Projects for student & guest housing gain approval of New Orleans trustees

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees set a course for continued growth by approving a $1.75 million renovation of Farnsworth Apartments and $2.7 million for expansion of Providence Guest House during their spring meeting March 11-12.

Trustees also celebrated encouraging reports involving enrollment figures and results of the New Horizons fund-raising campaign.

President Chuck Kelley applauded the trustees for keeping student housing needs at the forefront of their decision-making process. He called the Farnsworth renovation the “pivotal point” in the seminary’s master plan, which will facilitate a number of building projects in the future. The plan, which calls for the gutting and renovation of the Farnsworth Apartments, will provide 24 housing units for married students with children. The project is set to begin in late May and is to be completed by December.

The Farnsworth project could not come at a better time due to the increased enrollment the seminary has experienced over the past few years, trustees were told. Kelley said during his presidential report that the seminary is on pace to break previous enrollment records, noting that enrollment figures have shown a steady increase over the past three years.

Kelley was most excited about the increased enrollment in the number of on-campus master of divinity students. Significant growth is occurring across the board in both on-campus and extension center programs, he also said.

The president said God is “doing a most wonderful work” at the seminary, through the diligent service of the faculty, innovative programs and a commitment to making theological education accessible to God-called ministers.

“There is a great hunger for theological education and we want to do everything possible to make training available to as many students as possible,” Kelley said. “It takes a willingness to dream, a willingness to take risks and an incredible faculty to train and disciple students the way they do.”

Both the Farnsworth Apartments project and the construction of the recently-completed Manor apartment project were made possible by the success of the New Horizons campaign. In his report to trustees, Charles Harvey, vice president for development, announced that the campaign has surpassed the challenge goal of $12 million. To date, the campaign has raised $12.4 million in pledges and gifts, with additional pledges coming in daily. Harvey also was encouraged by the strong participation of trustee members in New Horizons giving.

“People have confidence in what we are doing,” Harvey said. “They are showing this trust by investing in God’s Kingdom work at NOBTS.”

The $2.7 million approved for the Providence Guest House construction project will help extension students who travel to New Orleans for workshop courses and strengthen the seminary’s MissionLab program. MissionLab is a program that offers church groups the opportunity to experience urban missions in the greater New Orleans area.

The Providence Guest House construction project will replace the aging east wing and center wing of the current Providence Guest House located across the street from Hardin Student Center. The building will be named in honor of the late William M. Hamm Jr., a former trustee, foundation board member and longtime supporter of NOBTS.

The project includes the demolition of 60 rooms, the construction of a two-story, 60-unit complex of hotel-style rooms, construction of a parking area and landscaping enhancements on the site. The project is set to begin in late May and is to be completed by December.

The board approved a new budget that includes an increase in salary and benefits for faculty and staff members, as well as modest increases in student tuition.

In other business, trustees:

— elected Tommy French of Baton Rouge, La., trustee chairman; Jerry Smith of Summit, Miss., vice chairman; and Phillip Hanberry of Hattiesburg, Miss., secretary-treasurer.

— approved the election of 11 new Foundation Board members: Lamar Barden, Kim Bearden, George Boltwood, John Crooks, Horace Evans, Michael Flores, Rick Forbus, Dale Kemp, Janet Kemp, Jim Lee and Randy Turner.

— approved a positive report for the investment committee. Kelley informed trustees that the seminary’s investments had “not lost a dime” during the three-year economic downturn in America.