JBU goes public with $125 million capital campaign

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 20 views 

John Brown University, a private college based in Siloam Springs, kicked off the public phase of its $125 million capital campaign in an announcement on Wednesday (Jan. 21) that included news of several recently acquired, unannounced gifts.

The $125 million “Campaign for The Next Century: A Hope and Future” will end in 2019. The amount being sought and the timing are historically significant for the university.

“This campaign is historic because in 2019 JBU is completing 100 years of Christian higher education. It’s historic because of the dollar amount,” said Lucas Roebuck, director of university communications. “And it’s historic because these resources, buildings, endowments, and more will impact generations of JBU students to come.”

JBU officials have raised $58.3 million during the campaigns silent phase, which began in 2012. Five of those gifts were announced during Wednesday’s press conference:
• An anonymous $2 million gift to create the Charles Peer Endowed Chair in Visual Arts;
• An anonymous $1 million gift challenge grant for visual arts scholarships for students in visual arts;
• An anonymous $1.2 million gift for the renovation of the Walton Lifetime Health Complex (total estimated costs of $4-$5.5 million);
• A gift from the Soderquist Family Foundation for $300,000 for a Strategic Initiative Fund for the Soderquist College of Business; and
• A preliminary commitment of $500,000 from the City of Siloam Springs for the WLHC.

These gifts join other funded projects that began soon after the capital campaign’s silent phase commenced. Those projects were:
• The $6 million Simmons Great Hall, a 600-person-capacity banquet facility (opened in 2013);
• The $3 million Northslope Apartments, non-traditional student housing for 94 students (opened in 2013);
• The $5.5 million J. Alvin Brown Hall renovation project, which completely gutted and remodeled the historic men’s residence hall (completed in 2014); and
• A $12 million building fund and endowment for a proposed new nursing program at JBU. JBU is scheduled to break ground on a new nursing building in August 2015.

When the full $125 million is raised, it will include commitments to five areas: $35 million for scholarships, $30 million for new and renovated facilities, $10 million to endow academic excellence, $25 million in estate gifts for future endowment, and $25 million for future projects and operating support.

A major focus within the campaign is making Christian higher education more accessible and affordable in the future. This includes providing scholarships for students as well as maintaining the campus to create sustainable learning environments.

“Part of helping to give students ‘a hope and a future’ is ensuring we keep JBU’s Christian higher education affordable,” said Dr. Jim Krall, vice president for advancement. “That is why we estimate nearly half of the campaign will go not only toward scholarships for today, but also, with endowment gifts and estate gifts, toward scholarships that will impact students well into JBU’s next century.”

According to the JBU website, the cost to attend JBU is about $32,000 per year including tuition, fees, and room and board. An estimated 85% of the students received financial aid in some form last year.

Another major cost to the university is grounds and facility maintenance and operations. The university’s website notes that 60% of JBU’s buildings are new or have been renovated in the last 10 years. JBU has a 200-acre main campus in Siloam Springs.

“Anyone who has run a campus of any size knows there are significant expenses beyond the design and construction costs” said Dr. Steve Beers, vice president of student development, facilities services and athletics. “We always endow new buildings because we don’t want to pass on operating costs, such as the energy and maintenance expenses, to students. This has been a key part of our commitment to keep college affordable.”

Johanna Musgrave, assistant director of university communications, said in a phone interview that the campaign’s elements were decided through conversations that determined which of the many growing needs had highest priority, along with what were the most feasible to achieve at this time.

For example, the scholarship and building endowments are needed to have an almost immediate impact on students in coming years. Creating the nursing program was another priority as JBU saw a growing number of students choosing another school because they wanted a nursing program. The expected need for nurses (9,000 estimated open spots by 2020) was also a driving factor.

Krall said he is optimistic about reaching the $125 million goal, despite the economy’s slow recovery.

“We certainly always hope that the economy continues to get healthy. However, JBU announced the public phase of the Keeping Faith campaign in 2009 and was able to finish it a year early and raise $18 million over our $100 million goal, all on the heels of the 2008 recession,” he said. “While the economy could certainly effect giving, JBU is really blessed to have friends of the university who care deeply about the mission and values of a JBU education and will give financial gifts big and small to support JBU.”

Musgrave said the economy makes the needs all the more vital as families struggle to afford higher education. The Keeping the Faith campaign funded a myriad of projects, with the top 10 (by dollar amount, according to the university website) being:
• $20 Million Challenge, a matching grant for endowed scholarships and programs,
• Balzer Technology Center ($11 million), a new 40,000-square foot facility to house JBU’s engineering, construction management and renewable energy programs,
• $10 Million Challenge, a matching grant for endowed scholarships,
• Bill George Arena, ($9.5 million) a 1,800-seat venue (2,700 with floor seating) for athletic events, special guest speakers, and graduation,
• Berry Performing Arts Center, a 500-seat state-of-the-art auditorium with orchestra pit, choir room, classrooms and more,
• Cathedral Group Renovation, ($6 million) completing the founder’s vision for the iconic Cathedral of the Ozarks and the two adjacent academic buildings with a renovation and restoration,
• JBU Scholarship Fund ($4.9 million), the annual fund providing direct scholarships for students based on merit and need,
• North Hall Residential Facility new wing ($3.5 million), an expansion doubling the capacity of JBU’s newest residential hall,
• “Art 2” Building Renovation ($2.5 million), a conversion of the old engineering building into a top-tier facility for the visual arts program,
• Dr. Gary J. Oliver Endowed Chair in Marriage, Family and Relationship Studies ($2 million), an endowment to support JBU’s Center for Relationship Enrichment.