The editors of the 1900 Central College yearbook stated one desire for their work: That the name of the college would echo and re-echo wherever the book traveled.
With time, the sound of that echo changed. And so did the campus. Central became Huntington. College became university. Buildings were added. Programs increased, and the student body grew.
But that was then.
Today, buildings must be expanded and updated or risk falling competitively behind other universities. Certain programs are reaching capacity with no room to grow, and student financial need is on the rise.
“We must dream again,” said President G. Blair Dowden. “We need to expand and renovate and build.”
To accomplish this goal, Huntington University has launched a $21 million capital campaign to renovate Becker Hall; to build a new Studio Art Center; to expand the Merillat Complex for Physical Education and Recreation (MCPER); and to grow the University Fund and endowment.
“It only becomes a better attraction to students and to their families when they are out shopping for higher education and they see that Huntington University has its place among other Christian institutions,” said Travis Holdman, co-chair of Together: The Campaign for Huntington University
The athletic complex was last remodeled in 1989. At the time, it was undisputedly the best facility of its kind in the region. But today, recruiting measures are hindered by the out-of-date athletics facility. Similarly, the Merillat Centre for the Arts (MCA) opened in 1990. It was a large endeavor for its day, nearly out-pacing the current needs of students. But now, the digital media arts program is growing beyond the space available, and the MCA can no longer support all of the various arts programs on campus.
“We just feel like we have to be out there and be competitive,” Holdman said.
But the campaign is not just about campus facilities. It’s about each individual life that will be impacted. It’s about the couple who only attended college because they were offered a scholarship. It’s about the athlete who discovered he was a leader while on the basketball court. And it’s the alumnus who found a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through his years on campus.
“Few of us have become what we are today through our own efforts. We’re able thinkers, successful professionals and compassionate Christians due to the investment others have made in our lives,” said Dr. Ann McPherren (’78), professor of business and vice president for university planning and strategy.
Through the “Together” campaign, $1.5 million is planned for digital and visual arts; $9.5 million for the MCPER; $3 million for the University Fund; and $2 million is planned to increase the university’s current endowment and $5 million is planned for deferred giving commitments.
“In order to continue to attract talented students and to equip them with the best education possible, the university needs to expand our facilities, (and it) needs to update our curriculum and strengthen our long-term financial integrity,” said Ed Souers (’77), board of trustees chairman.
Over the past two years, donations have been made to the campaign which resulted in the construction of the Studio Art Center — a combination of the Art Annex building and a new 2-D studio — and renovations to Becker Hall. Work has also begun at the MCPER as new “HU” bleachers were installed this summer.
Other renovations and construction will be completed as funds become available.
Steady progress also is being made to grow the University Fund and the endowment.
The University Fund helps to bridge the gap between what students can afford and the financial aid available to them. The endowment has a long-term impact by establishing scholarships, endowing faculty chairs or supporting a particular program. It also helps supplement funds for the overall operation of the university.
Currently, 91 percent of the student body receives some sort of financial aid. In the current economy, the need is significant. What was once a father calling to say that he had recently lost his job has now turned into the call where the father says he has been out of work for two years and is filing for bankruptcy.
“I have never seen the need greater than it is now,” said Sharon Woods (’86), director of financial aid.
The economic times have been tough. It’s harder to pay bills, find jobs and, yes, even give.
“Colleges more than any time in their history need money,” said Dave McGinnis (attended 1962-64), campaign co-chair. “We need donors that can help.”
Donations can be made to the university in various forms such as cash, appreciated securities or real estate. The Office of Advancement will also work with individuals to make sure that their gifts fulfill the donor’s wishes as well as the university’s needs.
“People look at this (campaign) and maybe they have to step out on faith that this is something that they are being called to,” Holdman said. “They may not have another opportunity to do something that is lasting and eternal.”
These changes are dreams that weren’t quite realized by the students of 1900. The university was young then, only 3 years old. Those students could only see the echo of what was Central College.
Today, there’s a new echo resounding from the steps of Becker Hall. They are the two words that will echo and re-echo through the ages because of the dedication of those fully committed to the dream of … Huntington University.