05/12/04 — Loan will let Mount Olive College start work on buildings

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Loan will let Mount Olive College start work on buildings

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 12, 2004 2:08 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College has received a $10 million loan from the federal government to embark on one of its most ambitious projects.

The money will be used to construct an academic building, a communications center and a wellness center. The 40-year loan will have an interest rate of less than 4.5 percent.

"You're going to be so glad you did this loan," said John Cooper, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's state rural development director. Cooper was speaking to a group of about 30 people gathered for the announcement dinner Tuesday in the college's Murphy Center.

The college plans to raise the money to pay back the loan through its foundation, and the loan will help speed the construction, college officials say.

The college's foundation launched a campaign to raise $23 million in April. It was the biggest initiative the 53-year-old institution has ever undertaken to raise money.

The foundation will put $9.8 million toward the construction of the three buildings on the main campus in Mount Olive, another $4 million to expand endowed scholarships and $5 million toward debt retirement. The foundation had already reached 86 percent of its goal in April.

"We might not have thought we could do this had we been left to our own conclusions," said college President William Byrd, in thanking the loan officials and the college's foundation members. He said the foundation has "taken on a huge responsibility for receiving this loan, and we're grateful."

The academic building will have 46,000 square feet and will double the college's classroom space. It will feature a 500-seat conference center, a student lounge, the agribusiness center, faculty offices and computerized classrooms. It will cost $5.5 million.

The 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 wellness center will have 23,500 square feet and will provide space for 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.

Byrd said the projects, which he hoped to see completed within two years, will help the college meet growth in enrollment.

The college had 570 students graduate last weekend, its largest graduating class ever, Byrd said. Most of the graduates were from eastern North Carolina.

The student body grew by 20 percent last year and is expected to grow by another 10 percent this year, he said. The college is approaching a budget of $30 million a year.

"What's happening here is important to the future of this institution," Byrd said. "We will enroll more than 3,000 students this year. We're grateful to everybody here for the role you played."

Help in obtaining the loan also came from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones. They were unable to attend and sent representatives William Moore and Janet Bradbury from their district offices.

Ms. Bradbury of Sen. Dole's office congratulated Mount Olive College and its foundation for their vision for the future and continuing to provide continued high-quality, accessible education.

George Kornegay, president of the Mount Olive College Foundation, spoke of the college's first president, Dr. Burkette Raper, who undertook many ambitious projects during his tenure.

Under Raper's leadership, the college bought a $25,000 building to move the college to downtown Mount Olive in the early 1950s. The college had $6.50 in the bank, he said.

"He was the longest-serving president of a college in the state," said Kornegay. "He served with distinction and made Mount Olive College what it is today."