By Josh Cross, Gallatin News Examiner
For Welch College, this year’s graduation not only marked a new beginning for 50 of its students, but also for the 74-year-old institution itself.
The college’s annual commencement ceremony, held at its West End Avenue campus in Nashville on Friday, was the last to take place on the property before the school’s relocation to Gallatin next year.
“Everyone here is waiting with bated breath for the construction to get finished and to move up to Sumner County,” said Matt Pinson, president of Welch College. “There is always nostalgia for the campus that we’ve been on for almost 75 years, but the excitement about the move to Gallatin far outweighs that nostalgia.”
The campus will be housed on 66 acres just north of Station Camp High School between Bison Trail and the Stone Creek subdivision.
Classes are expected to begin at Welch’s new campus in late January or early February. The regionally and nationally accredited school, which was established in 1942, offers 40 majors with an annual enrollment of about 400 students and 100 full- and part-time staff.
“We’ll start a little bit later than we normally would, but it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Pinson said.
Construction on the new campus began last year following a groundbreaking ceremony in July. The first phase of the project includes an administration building with classrooms, offices, labs and a library; a multipurpose building with a cafeteria, small auditorium and fine arts facilities; separate male and female dormitories; and a student activities center with a gym and fitness center.
A capital fundraising campaign to help with the cost of Welch’s campus construction and relocation has already exceed its initial goal with already approximately $8 million in cash and commitments raised, according to Pinson. As a result, the college has increased the campaign goal from $6.5 million to $14.4 million.
If the new fundraising goal is reached, Pinson said the college will be able to build a chapel, auditorium, expand its gymnasium, purchase more technology for the campus and eliminate any outstanding debt the school has.
“We had some debt when we sold the campus and at the end of the (original) campaign we were still going to have that debt, but the campaign is going so well… we think we’ll be able to build a bigger campus and not have any debt on top of that,” he said.
College officials announced in June 2015 that Mike Ford Custom Builders had purchased 7.14 acres of Welch’s 7.6-acre West End Avenue property for $11.25 million. The deal brought an end to the private Christian school’s lengthy efforts to sell the property and move to a new campus.
With relocation plans beginning to take shape and the success Welch is experiencing with its capital campaign, Pinson said the college has “great anticipation” for the future.
“This building program, relocation and the wonderful success we’re seeing in fundraising symbolizes some real strides forward that the institution is making in becoming more of a comprehensive Christian liberal arts institution,” Pinson said. “We think we’re about to open up a new chapter in the college’s history and see a lot of growth.”
To learn more about Welch College’s capital campaign or get updates on its relocation plans, visit www.BuildingontheLegacy.com.