Missouri Baptist College
Progress and Potential
Report to MBC Trustees
Dr. Alton Lacey, President
I have been looking forward to making this report to you — not because I like to hear myself talk, but because there is genuine pleasure in taking the pulse of a successful organization. To be sure we have faced a number of challenges over the past few years but the pleasure at serving this college is undiminished. I have heard it said that the past is prologue to the future. Assuming that is the case, I think you will conclude after this report, as I have, that everything points to a bright future for Missouri Baptist College.
In a few months I will conclude five years of service. It has gone by quickly. For this report, I will be using mostly the years 94-95 or 95-96 as benchmarks, depending on when the most recent figures are available.
When I interviewed with the search committee and before I really knew anything about the College, the committee asked me to respond to a number of questions. I still have the letter Chairman John Anderson wrote to me. At the bottom in his handwriting he wrote, “Have fun responding, we had fun writing them.” I bet you didn’t know John had a devilish streak! You would if you saw those questions.
Not really knowing any better, or having any choice —well, you know the saying —fools rush in. One of those questions was about my vision for Missouri Baptist College. I had only been on the campus once and I did not even have a picture of the place in my mind much less a vision. Another question was “What would be your goals as a new president in the first year, first three years, and first five years.” I so badly wanted to say – to find my parking spot, to learn my secretary’s name, to get a new desk for the office. But I tackled the task seriously and whether lucky or smart, it proved to be one of the best things the committee or I could have done. I revisited my responses and it is remarkable how much guidance I received from those in the early days when I was trying to figure out just what a president was supposed to do. There were seventeen key areas that I focused on and I want to review them quickly with you.
. Establishing an integrated strategic planning and budgeting process.
2. Building a cohesive administrative team.
3. Establishing relationships with faculty and staff, trustees, students, pastors, alumni, donors and others who can help the College.
4. Clarifying the mission, purpose, and vision of Missouri Baptist College.
5. Establishing channels of communication with all constituent groups.
6. Developing a master facilities and landscaping plan.
7. Initiating a major capital campaign for endowment and facilities improvement.
8. Setting up a Board of Advisors to help with resource development and a President’s Club to recognize major donors.
9. Solidifying our streams of annual operating income.
10. Building a strong program of university advancement.
11. Strengthening the on-campus enrollment and resources for student life programming.
12. Continuing to strengthen the Christian environment and spiritual vitality of the campus.
13. Enhancing the academic quality.
14. Increasing faculty and staff salaries to the average of similar size colleges.
15. Increasing the number of faculty with earned doctorates.
16. Increasing the average ACT score for entering freshmen.
17. Becoming recognized as one of the top 25 Christian liberal arts colleges in the Midwest.
You will find every one of these in some form or another in the strategic plan and you will see that we have made great progress in each of these areas. I want to cite now some of the progress we have made over the past five years.
. The strategic plan is in place and is working to guide our decisions. Each year it is updated which keeps us looking at least five years into the future. We have integrated this plan with the budgeting process, and every year we decide on which strategic initiatives to fund. Faculty and staff know that they must relate their planning to the mission and to the strategic plan.
2. The Spirit of Excellence Campaign has been very successful reaching its goal of $10,000,000 almost two years ahead of schedule. We have basically had to build our fundraising from ground zero. Since 1974 we have had five pledges that each totaled $1,000,000. There are now 143 members of the President’s Club for those who give $1,000 or more in a year. In 1994, 3.2% of our alumni made a gift. In 1998, that grew to 7.0%.
3. In 1994 we were the subjects of a rancorous focus visit from the North Central Association. In 1997, we received full ten-year unconditional accreditation for the first time ever. In November 1999 a visiting team recommended to the Commission on Colleges that we be allowed to pursue new initiatives at three extension sites and offer a Master of Education degree.
4. In 1994 we were fighting with the city of Creve Coeur over the placement of a much-needed new dormitory. In 1999 that dormitory is full and we are in need of a third one.
5. In 1994 our headcount enrollment was 1,913 and our FTE was 1,069. This fall our headcount enrollment is 3,020 and our FTE is 1,561, increases of 58% and 46% respectively. In 1990 those figures were 1,059 and 659.
6. In 1994 we had an international study agreement with Harlaxton College. Today we have agreements with Hong Kong Baptist University, the Center for Cross Cultural Education in Seville, Spain, numerous opportunities for international mission involvement and a relationship with the Consortium for Global Education that opens up almost every part of the world to our students.
7. In the past five years we have established annual recognition banquets for employees, athletes, and other groups.
8. We established a committee process that formalized broad participation in governance by faculty and students.
9. The Charter and by-laws were revised to modernize and streamline our governing processes as allowed by new state laws for non-profits.
10. Over $500,000 has been spent on technology needs making us one of the most up-to-date small college campuses in the computer and communications areas. Our physical plant has been updated with new roofs, heating and cooling, interior carpeting and painting, and compliance with asbestos laws. The Bywaters Lounge was redone this summer to provide a more attractive, functional space for students.
11. A master site plan has been developed and will be presented to the City of Creve Couer for approval in the near future.
12. The chapel/ fine arts building is fast becoming a reality, and in a relatively short period of time considering the magnitude of the project and the lack of a strong donor base.
13. The average ACT score of entering students has risen from 21 to 22.8.
14. Our short and long term financing has been restructured to take advantage of tax exempt bonds, allowing us to borrow an additional $1,000,000 without increasing our debt service, increasing our line of credit to $2.3 million, saving us thousands in interest, and all without the use of collateral.
15. In 1994-95 our total revenue budget was $6.9 million. In 1999 our total revenue budget is $12.4 million, an increase of 79.8%.
16. In 95-96 a student paid $ 7,440 in tuition and fees. In 1999 a student pays $9,408, and increase of 26 %, or an average of 5.3 % per year, well within our strategic planning goal of 5%-7% annually.
17. At the end of 1995 our total consolidated fund balance was $4.7 million. At the end of the 98-99 fiscal year it was $7.6 million.
18. In 1994 we made 278 need based financial aid awards totaling $1.9 million. In 1998 we made 662 awards totaling $2.8 million. Total financial aid in 1998 was $5.9 million.
19. In 94-95 our default rate on federal loans was 14.4%. In 98-99 it had fallen to 6.6%
20. In October 1995 we reported a full time faculty of 40 and a part time faculty of 40. In September of 1999 we had 47 full time faculty and 94 part time faculty. Full time faculty has increased a modest 18%. The number of full time staff has increased by a modest 14% from 65 to 74.
21. Endowment has doubled from $1.3 million to $2.6 million in the past four years.
22. In the communications area we have established a weekly campus newsletter, a trustee newsletter, and the circulation of the Courier has increased from 8,000 in 1994 to 14,000 in 1998. We have also begun publishing an annual report for donors and friends of the College.
23. Since 1995 we have added 12 new academic programs including a new degree, the bachelor of professional studies. Soon we will add a Master’s degree.
24. The per cent of faculty with the terminal degree has increased from 51% to 55% in five years.
25. In 1995 there were no honor societies on campus. Now there are four: Alpha Chi, Alpha Delta Omega, Kappa Delta Pi, and Sigma Beta Delta.
26. Student performance groups are being added regularly. Since 1995 Allusion, In Charactre, the MBC Ringers, the Chamber Singers, and Rugged Cross have been formed.
27. Several new traditions have come into being such as the Senior Walk, Commencement Breakfast, and the President’s Swing.
28. In 1994 we participated minimally in the larger academic community. Since that time we have begun active participation in the Independent Colleges and Universities of Missouri, the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the Council of Independent Colleges, the Consortium for Global Education, and the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges (ASBC). We have hosted the national meeting of ASBC as well as the Southern Baptist In-Service Guidance Counselors.
29. Faculty-staff salary increases over the past five years have averaged: 1995-4.0%; 1996-5.0%; 1997-2.35%; 1998-2.0%; and 1999-4.0%.
30. In 1995 we granted 136 degrees. In 1998 we granted 205 degrees.
31. In the past five years we have added a Campus Chaplain and a Director of Campus Missions.
32. Students have consistently ranked MBC higher than national group means on Student Satisfaction Surveys.
33. In 1999 the College was selected for inclusion in America’s Best Christian Colleges.
I am sure the staff could double or triple this list. I think they would agree that we have very dedicated people who work very hard for this College, some sacrificially. I commend them for their work and for staying focused on the strategic plan. During both of our recent focus visits the team commented on the depth of understanding of the mission of the college by our faculty and staff. I also commend trustees who were willing in the early days to take a risk and approve some sweeping changes that have enabled this progress. Given some of the struggles of the College, I often worried that we were trying to do too much too soon. I shouldn’t have. We were ready. This review is heartening to all that have a vested interest in this College. When living in the house as it is being built, progress is sometimes harder to recognize, and it is good to take stock every now and then. But the insights that bring success also bring challenges.
So what now? In 1994 those trustees on the search committee were having so much fun, they asked me to respond to another question. What is your vision for Missouri Baptist College? Those of you who follow basketball know that Phil Jackson, the former Bulls coach, was lured out of retirement to take over the LA Lakers. You may also know that he tends to be esoteric and professorial in his approach to basketball. When he took the job he acknowledged that it is critical for a team to have a vision if it is to succeed but when he went to L.A. he admitted, “I haven’t even got an idea of a vision.” Five years ago that is really what I wanted to tell the search committee. But unlike Phil Jackson, I did not already have the job, so I took a stab at it. Here it is for posterity’s sake. “Missouri Baptist College should seek to become the highest quality small Christian College in the Midwest. Its distinctive features should be:
. A caring, nurturing, cheerful Christian atmosphere.
2. Superb teaching in small classes.
3. A strong pre-professional and liberal arts curriculum.
4. An attractive campus with a strong resident population.”
I added that “specifically the College should seek an enrollment of 1200 FTE, ACT average of 21, student-faculty ratio of 13:1, endowment of $30 million, 75% of faculty with the earned doctorate, and a graduation rate of 50%.”
Probably the smartest thing I said was in the disclaimer that I added.
“Any vision of Missouri Baptist College must encapsulate the hopes and dreams of trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, students and Missouri Baptists. A vision should also be consistent with the mission, history, and culture of the College.”
Though I was 600 miles away and like Phil Jackson, I really did not have much of an idea of a vision, it turned out that God did place something on my heart that was not too far off. I found people willing to embrace and improve on these simple but challenging goals. I will never forget the words of an alumnus who told me early on, “I am tired of hearing about our potential. I am ready for the college to start realizing its potential.”
And that brings us to Part II.
I begin this section by saying that undergirding everything we do is the understanding that we are unapologetically and unashamedly Christian and Baptist. Our roots are in firm theological soil. The Bible is our primary source of theological instruction. It has God for its author, salvation as its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Jesus Christ is our master teacher and role model. We are first and foremost a learning institution, but we are a learning institution under the control of Christ. We want to serve all Baptists and indeed be a place where anyone who attends can grow spiritually while pursuing academic objectives. It is not our mission to be a church, but we will always take seriously our charge to integrate our Christian faith with classroom instruction.
You have a copy of the strategic plan. This is a dynamic document that is revised every year. We begin by looking at our assumptions to see of they are still viable. We redo our SWOTs analysis. We consider which goals need to be changed in light of our most recent information. This document flows from mission, to analysis of current SWOTS, to assumptions about the future, to general goals, to specific objectives. While we are not slaves to a rigid plan, there has to be a very good reason to detour resources in another direction. When people ask me, “What is your vision for the College,” I often tell them our vision is best grasped by reading the strategic plan.
Next I want to talk about the campus master plan. Simply, we are out of space. If we are to be a viable campus in the future, we must move to develop the necessary facilities to accommodate a growing student body, faculty, and staff. The chapel/fine arts building is a great step toward meeting some of our most pressing needs. But it will not solve them. The order in which I see our master plan developing is as follows:
. A new dormitory. We already have 40 students living in off campus apartments. Our growth is going to be limited without on campus resident accommodations. We could fill up 50 to 100 beds next year if we had them. The vitality of the main campus is directly related to the number of on campus students. Since we built the second dorm, there has been greater participation in events and a liveliness that we did not have before. Another 100-200 students would provide a core resident population that would greatly improve the quality of the MBC experience. It is my hope that we can locate some creative financing options that would exempt us from putting up large sums of money to construct new residence facilities.
2. An indoor stadium and recreation complex. As our athletic programs and our on campus population grows, a facility to accommodate fitness and recreational needs and intercollegiate competition becomes imperative. This facility would include a multi-use gymnasium, locker rooms, exercise areas, offices, and a student area. Someone referred to this type of facility as a “cathedral of sweat.” If you go to a local YMCA or another campus, you will understand that analogy. These are the neutral areas in which students congregate and have come to expect on a modern college campus. I expect such a facility to be 60,000 square feet or more and to cost several million dollars.
3. A student center. A great concern of mine is that we are bringing more students on campus but they have few places to just hang out. Providing activities is one thing, but having a decent cafeteria, bookstore, student lounge, conference areas, post office, and study areas gives students space to interact in an unstructured way. It is an integral part of the college experience that we are only marginally providing. All of the facilities I mentioned could be revenue generators while exposing prospective students and donors to the campus.
There are certainly other things we will need to do to our physical plant to maintain and improve it, but these facilities are the ones I see as being most important to our continued growth and success. Of course, this discussion begs the question, “How will we pay for all this?”
Early on, we adopted a policy of funding capital projects with money we raise. Because we are so tuition dependent and we try to be sensitive to increases in tuition, it is not feasible to plan on funding buildings on the backs of students. But that means, with the exception of dormitories, that we have to raise the money needed for new buildings.
Another reality that we face is that our Board of Trustees is not likely to ever be one of considerable wealth, made up of the CEOs of fortune 500 companies and international philanthropists, the type of Board that can give 40% of a campaign goal. But our Board can be more influential in the “friendraising” area. We have a good story to tell, and Board members know people that we can tell it to who will be interested in supporting Christian education. For the past few years we have been in a building and organizing mode. But now I need your help in obtaining the resources to move forward. If we can bring together the collective wisdom and influence of the Board, we can get the funds we need. I believe there is someone out there who can give this College $5, $10, maybe $20 million. In my twenty years in fundraising I have seen it happen more than once. When I first started in this business my president had me visit an elderly couple in North Louisiana. Pat and I would go up on Sunday afternoons. I would lug a TV and videotape machine to his modest home and show him videos of our college TV program that he was helping to produce with his donations. The couple did not get the channel that aired our programs and could not see them otherwise. The husband would usually nap in his chair while I ran the videos and afterward we could have pie and ice cream and visit. On one occasion as I left he told me that he and his brothers, all of whom were retired, were selling their sawmill and timber holdings and he might be able to give a little more than the $1000 a year he was currently giving. He thought the sawmill might fetch as much as $3,000,000. It sold for $110,000,000! That family set up our first chairs and professorships and increased the College’s endowment by several million. It can happen for us.
Seeing that the educational mission is adequately financed will probably always be at the top of our list. We are blessed with dedicated, hard working people. They know how to stretch resources and stay with a task until it is completed, but there is just so much that people can do without adequate facilities and adequate funding.
Resource development is critical but there are other changes that we will also have to be willing to make if we are to be effective in the days ahead.
I believe that we will need to seek productive partnerships with other institutions and businesses. We are already involved with a consortium of colleges consisting of Maryville, Webster, Fontbonne, and Lindenwood. We are talking with Christian Brothers College High School about joint use of playing fields and shared parking areas for when they locate next to us. We are working on relationships with other colleges that would allow our students access to international study programs. Where we are lacking is ion the development of business partnerships. For example, several colleges have partnered with hospitals to develop fitness/wellness facilities that are used by students and community. Georgetown College partnered with the Cincinnati Bengals to build a stadium that is used as the Bengal training camp in the summer and by the college the rest of the year. These partnerships provide benefits of use and income to the colleges. We need to seek such opportunities.
One of the most exciting developments in our state has been the adoption of the New Directions Strategic Plan for the Missouri Baptist Convention. This bold initiative anticipates new opportunities for partnership with all of our Baptist Colleges. Missouri Baptist College has the opportunity to be at the forefront of training people for leadership in our Convention.
We will have to shift our focus more toward a customer orientation. Robert Zemsky has accurately predicted marketing patterns for colleges and universities. He was in St. Louis last year, and I have had the opportunity to participate in several of his lectures. Unlike brand name or “medallion” schools such as Harvard or Yale or Stanford, Zemsky noted that our students vote on us every semester. Highway 64-40 leads to half dozen schools in our area. If they are to choose MBC and stay with us, it is imperative that we provide not only value-added education but also personalized service. If we operate as an impersonal bureaucracy, we will lose students. For educational institutions, this requires new ways of thinking and operating.
Another emphasis will need to be on continuous improvement. This will be accomplished mainly through annual objectives related to the strategic plan and an evaluation process that requires supervisors to assess each objective in light of how it will be used to move the college forward.
The last thing I want to mention is the importance to our future of good teaching. Everything else we do supports the basic educational enterprise and ultimately that is the teacher on one end of the log and the student on the other. We can survive almost anything — a change in leadership, a change in the Board, even a lawsuit– but we will not survive without good teaching. We do not have the name recognition or facilities or sports program that alone will attract and keep students. What we do have are dedicated teachers. Our responsibility is to insure that they have the resources and freedom to do their job. We have a rigorous process in place for hiring and evaluating teachers and we must be willing to make changes when needed. We will need to be diligent in recruiting people who not only have a passion for their subject but also are equally as passionate about teaching under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We will not lose our focus in this area.
In the front of our strategic plan there is a quote by Victor Hugo. It reads “The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible. For the fainthearted, it is the unknown. For the thoughtful and valiant, it is ideal.” Someone asked me recently what one word I would use to describe Missouri Baptist College’s future. I thought of two: “welcome” and “possible.” With clarity of mission, a commitment to hard work, the grace of our Loving Father, and an ear to the Spirit — we march confidently into the next century.