04/22/04 — MOC embarks on building campaign

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MOC embarks on building campaign

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 22, 2004 2:12 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College has launched a campaign to generate $23 million, the biggest initiative the 53-year-old institution has ever undertaken to raise money.

It was announced at a gala Wednesday night to 200 people at the Murphy Center on campus. The money will be directed toward the construction of three buildings on the Mount Olive campus, toward expansion of the scholarship program and toward debt retirement.

Lois Britt and Buddy Pope are the co-chairmen of the steering committee for the New Century Campaign. The steering committee plans to commit $9.8 million to the buildings, another $4 million to endowed scholarships, another $4.2 million to annual support and $5 million to debt retirement. It takes $24 million to operate the college each year, and it educates 3,000 people a year.

"May we never forget our mission is our students," said Ms. Britt. "This period in the life of Mount Olive College will be remembered as the most important in the history of the school."

Pope said the college has received significant gifts over the past few years, and the steering committee has reached 86 percent of its $23 million goal. "But we have a long way to go," he said.

An anonymous donor has contributed $5 million toward a scholarship program called the Herring Student Opportunity Fund. The R.B. Butler estate and Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Murphy contributed at least $1 million each toward the $23 million goal. At least $500,000 came from Mt. Olive Pickle Co., Buddy Pope, the Mildred Council Estate and the Southern Bank Foundation.

The capital campaign is essential, said the college's president, Dr. J. William Byrd. "The education we offer must be good, but it must be affordable," he said. He told them it's through their support that it is now the fourth most affordable private college in the state.

"We have an obligation to our students and to our sponsoring church," he said. "Mount Olive College has become a bastion of innovative ideas. We have been able to attract people with imagination and talent to step outside the box."

The student body grew by 20 percent last year and is expected to grow by another 10 percent this year. "This dream we have is going to become a reality," said Byrd.

One of the three buildings will be a 46,000-square-foot academic complex that will double the classroom space. It will feature a 500-seat conference center, a student lounge, the agribusiness center, faculty offices and some computerized classrooms. It will cost $5.5 million.

Another building, a communications center, will be connected to the library by a breezeway with 18,000 square feet for offices, a computer lab, information technology, stack space and a special collections room. It will cost $2 million.

The third building will be a 23,500-square-foot wellness center featuring aerobics, weight rooms, intramural sports, health services, a training room and dressing rooms for students and staff. It will cost $2.3 million and will be open to the students, faculty and the community.

Former Gov. Jim Hunt, who is honorary chairman of the project's steering committee, told the crowd that the history of the college is a story about dreaming and making those dreams come true.

"We want every person who walks onto this campus to dream big ... where you have new ideas come to you that never would if you hadn't been here."