NASHVILLE, TN—Delegates to the 76th session of the National Association of Free Will Baptists voted to change the name of the denomination’s flagship college from Free Will Baptist Bible College to Welch College during the July 15-18, 2012, convention in Memphis. The vote came Wednesday, July 18 on a recommendation from the college’s Board of Trustees. The name-change proposal was discussed at the 2011 convention (Charlotte, NC) and approved during the 2012 Memphis convention.
President Matt Pinson said, “This is an important decision in the history of the college. In a climate of shifting economic and technological change, we must find new ways to meet students’ educational needs. While we remain committed to our Christian mission, we need to reach more students who are serious about Christian living, leadership, and service. This means more undergraduate programs geared to reach students called to competitive professional fields, as well as non-traditional, adult, and online degree programs.”
The Board of Trustees authorized a name-change feasibility study by college administrators in 2010 that resulted in their decision a year later to request that the parent organization approve the change. The name “Welch College” arose from the life and ministry of Reverend John L Welch and his wife Mary, both of whom were early luminaries in the college’s founding.
Reverend Welch was the first moderator of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in 1935, a 12-year member of the college’s Board of Trustees, and pastored Cofer’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville 53 years. Mrs. Mary Welch served faithfully as a secretary at the college, spent nearly 60 years as a pastor’s wife, and was a leader in the denomination’s women’s movement. For the past five decades, there has been a building on campus named in honor of John and Mary Welch—the historic Welch Library.
Free Will Baptist Bible College will begin doing business as Welch College immediately. Administrators expect to complete the transition by January 2013 as legal and accreditation procedures are finalized with appropriate agencies.
Welch College is owned and operated by the National Association of Free Will Baptists. The 70- year-old college (established in 1942) is regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), nationally accredited by ABHE (Association for Biblical Higher Education), and listed among U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings.
Welch College is also moving steadily toward relocating from Nashville’s West End area just off I- 440 to nearby Gallatin where the college recently purchased 66 acres on which to build a new campus. The college currently offers 40 programs of study, and its strategic plan calls for further academic expansion and the addition of graduate programs in the fields of theology and education.