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Milligan College considers acquisition of Emmanuel

Rex Barber • Oct 30, 2012 at 9:10 AM

MILLIGAN COLLEGE — Tough financial times may lead to Emmanuel Christian Seminary being integrated into Milligan College, according to the presidents of both schools.

Milligan President Bill Greer said Monday Emmanuel’s board and President Michael Sweeney approached Milligan about acquiring the seminary in late June.

This past week Milligan’s Board of Trustees as well as the board at Emmanuel were informed of everything Milligan has done since then regarding due diligence in any possible acquisition of the seminary that would integrate its curriculum and assets into Milligan.

On Friday, approval was given to Greer to continue to “fully investigate the financial, academic, administrative and logistical details of such an arrangement,” according to an emailed statement from Greer.

“There’s still quite a few details to iron out and a lot of work to do,” Greer said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “But we need to get that work done before we can ultimately close any sort of deal. Nothing is final at this point. Still a possibility that nothing would happen.”

The boards of both schools would have to approve any action.

In the next few months Greer hopes to have a better idea of what can be done. A few months later perhaps details could be determined.

Those details include how to incorporate Emmanuel’s curriculum and best serve the seminary’s students while keeping in mind its donors and constituents, Greer said.

“Milligan’s primary goal is that we perpetuate graduate degrees in Bible and ministry,” Greer said. “So to the extent that we can help Emmanuel continue that ministry as part of Milligan, that’s what we are hoping for.”

Greer said Emmanuel approached Milligan because a number of factors, including a poor economy, have made it difficult for the seminary to remain viable long term. He said it is difficult in today’s economy to operate a small school.

Around 135 students attend Emmanuel, which Sweeney said was average for a seminary.

“I think all small schools, in this economy, are facing some really difficult challenges these days,” Sweeney said, adding that overhead costs are so high that it is difficult for small schools to survive. “Joining together with Milligan would enable us to do a lot more for a lot less money.”

Sweeney did not know how Emmanuel would be structured after any possible acquisition but said the school would be something called an embedded seminary. Many Christian schools have embedded seminaries.

Sweeney wants to keep enough of Emmanuel’s identity so people know the seminary’s programs will be consistent, though.

The possibility of developing new programs would be a possibility if the seminary becomes embedded at Milligan, Sweeney said.

Emmanuel was established in 1965 and offers master of divinity, master of arts in religion, master of Christian ministries and doctor of ministry degrees.

Emmanuel is located near Milligan in Carter County.

Both schools have a history together. According to Greer’s emailed statement:

Emmanuel and Milligan “have always operated independently but have a strong shared history, since Emmanuel was founded in 1965 using shared space on the Milligan campus and under the leadership of then-president Dr. Dean E. Walker. Both institutions are part of the Stone-Campbell Movement and have a similar mission of preparing men and women for ministry and servant-leadership.”

Milligan is a four-year Christian liberal arts college offering 30 undergraduate majors and four master’s degrees. More than 1,100 students enrolled there this fall. The college was founded in 1866.

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