Antioch College

College moves closer to achieving independence

Antioch College moved one step closer to independence last week, when a Greene County court approved the transfer of the college endowment from the university to the college.

“We seem to be on track,” said Matthew Derr, chief transition officer for the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or ACCC, in an interview last week. “It’s all moving as fast as expected.”

The goal for closing the deal between Antioch University and the ACCC for an independent college is Aug. 31, and Derr said that he expects that goal to be met. The transfer of endowment funds was one of several steps that outside agencies needed to take for the transfer to occur, according to Derr.

If the deal is closed as planned on Aug. 31, the effort will be unprecedented, Derr said.

“No group of alumni has ever brought back a national liberal arts college,” he said.

Judge Robert A. Hagler on Aug. 12 approved the endowment transfer in the Greene County Probate Court in Xenia. Attorneys for the ACCC and the university addressed the brief, which had been filed by the university, after the court heard a short history of the college leading up to and following its July 2008 closure and the planned re-opening at the end of this month.
The endowment funds of about $20 million will be transferred from the university to the college after the ACCC’s Continuation Fund receives confirmation from the Internal Revenue Service of its 501c3 petition, and the Ohio attorney general gives approval, according to ACCC co-chair Lee Morgan in a written statement.

The university and the ACCC agreed that the college endowment belonged with the college, Derr said.

“We’re in a friendly position with the university,” he said. “It’s been acknowledged by everyone that these funds were intended to further the undergraduate liberal arts college in Yellow Springs.”

In a written statement, Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock stated that, “We are pleased that the transfer of the endowment went so smoothly, which speaks to the enormous amount of time the University spent in making this a success. Much work still remains to disentangle the portion of the University endowment from the College endowment by our board investment committee.”

The remaining work involves separating the vehicles for the investments, according to Derr, who said that, as with all institutions, the investments are co-mingled. There is no disagreement between the university and the ACCC regarding the amounts of the respective endowments, he said.

Antioch University spokesperson Lynda Sirk stated this week that she did not have figures on the amount of the university’s endowment. She stated that the university intends to complete the process by the Aug. 31 goal, although the university is not in control of the time schedules of all those involved, including attorneys.

The interest from the college endowment will be used to recruit new students, according to Derr.

Steps necessary for college independence include the IRS approval of the Continuation Fund non-profit status, the Ohio attorney general’s approval of the transfer and the approval of banks that are holding bonds from Antioch University. The ACCC is hopeful that the attorney general and IRS approvals will take place without incident since both the ACCC and the university are in agreement, Derr said. The university attorneys are currently working on approvals from the bond holders, he said.

Currently, under the direction of the ACCC board pro tempore, Derr is working on a myriad of tasks necessary to re-open the college. These tasks include assessing building conditions (with the help of alum John Feinberg, a historic preservation specialist, and the Stanley Consultants), making sure the Internet is up and running and talking to arborists about the condition of campus trees.

The ACCC has also begun taking applications for the approximately 40 faculty and staff positions that will be open in September. That number includes all college employees, including the staff of Glen Helen, Derr said, along with five to six new faculty members from a range of disciplines. All current employees will need to re-apply for their positions, he said.

The new faculty members, who will be called Arthur Morgan Fellows, will work to develop curriculum and activities on campus this year, which organizers describe as a “symposium year,” during which the college will host a series of lectures, events and performances that will be streamed on the Web to alumni across the country.

It is not clear yet if former Antioch College faculty will be hired nor the length of the contracts, according to Derr, who said the ACCC has received a good response to its employment ads.

One of the first events on campus will be the alumni reunion on Oct. 2–4, at which organizers expect a big attendance, Derr said.

“It’s the most important alumni event in the last two years,” he said.
ACCC organizers will also launch a major fund-raising drive this fall. While they have raised $10 million since the letter of intent between the ACCC and the university was signed in January 2009, they need to raise about $50 million in the next five years, he said.

If the closing takes place as scheduled on Aug. 31, the event will mark the end of a two-year effort by Antioch College alumni to reopen the college, which was closed in July 2008 due to financial exigency. Two previous alumni attempts to transfer the college were unsuccessful, but the ACCC, after a year of negotiation in a task force with Derr, Lee Morgan and university trustees Dan Fallon and Jack Merselis, signed an agreement with the university at the end of June.

The effort to revive the college is valuable not just for alumni and potential students, but also for higher education in America, according to Derr, who said that Antioch has always led the way for other liberal arts colleges. While Antioch pioneered the model of incorporating real-world work experience into a student’s academic career, now the college can take the lead in showing the relevance of liberal arts colleges in today’s world.

“Antioch College is a cause that’s critical in higher education,” Derr said. “It has to be not only for our own gratification but for a greater purpose.”

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