Chowan opts against merger

Published 8:58 am Thursday, March 10, 2011

MURFREESBORO – A potential collegiate merger involving Chowan University will not happen.

Wednesday, the Executive Committee of Chowan’s Board of Trustees voted not to proceed with further discussions of a merger with the Virginia-based Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR).

Chowan University Dr. Chris White told the Baptist Press earlier this month that the seminary had contacted Chowan about a possible merger. He said the school was $7 million in debt, a figure that the BPA confirmed with the seminary’s finance office.

That figure was a concern for Chowan officials since the school began doing due diligence about possibly taking over the seminary last fall.

“The big elephant in the room is money,” Dr. White said.

He also said the schools could face difficulty merging two cultures of an old, rural university and a young, metro divinity school, even though the two are like-minded theologically.

All of that was taken into account by the executive committee on Wednesday when they decided to discontinue the work towards a possible merger.

Dr. White said Chowan University was in the best fiscal condition it had enjoyed in many years, and possibly ever.

“This has been a high-water mark for Chowan,” he said. “We decided it was in our best interest not to take on the financial burden of merging the two institutions.”

Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond was formed in 1991 in celebration of historic Baptist values, as Baptist life in the South moved sharply toward a narrow theological perspective. Consequently, historic Baptist freedom is a hallmark of BTSR: freedom to question, freedom to discover, freedom to learn, and freedom to serve in Jesus’ name.

Ron Crawford, president of the seminary, told the Baptist Press that a committee of trustees had been working on the school’s future.

“Last October our trustees looked hard at our business plan in light of our future,” he said. “They asked a committee to study possibilities and make a recommendation at the March meeting of the full board of trustees.”

He said while partnering with another institution such as Chowan was a possibility, they had not limited their options to one course of action.

Whatever action they seek will now involve Chowan.

Dr. White said officials from Chowan had talked with officials from BTSR Wednesday to make them aware that the university would not proceed with discussions of the merger.