There is deep disappointment throughout our Synod at the closure of our only historically black college, Concordia College Selma, Alabama on April 28, 2018.
It is especially sad when we recall that recently-elected Council of President’s Chairman, Rev. David Maier, led a team of Concordia University Ann Arbor supporters in preventing the closure of Concordia Ann Arbor just nine years ago.
The difference in outcomes between Selma and Ann Arbor owes to…a difference in leadership.
So what happened at Ann Arbor?
Pastor David Maier took office as Michigan District President in October of 2009. Only three weeks later, he attended his first Board of Regents meeting at Concordia University Ann Arbor. He was shocked to hear the sobering news: Synod wanted to close Ann Arbor.
Why? David heard Ann Arbor was over $18 million in debt and enrollment was down.
Those who were in the Regents meeting in October, 2009 recall a resolute Rev. Maier delivering a simple and clear message: By the grace of God, Concordia University Ann Arbor WILL NOT close.
How Big Was the Financial Challenge?
Over $18 million dollars! For a little school such as Ann Arbor, the debt looked like Mt. Everest.
David and the CUAA supporters went to work. He met with a group of Michigan leaders, past District Presidents and the like and from other states/Districts as well, and then talked with President Pat Ferry of Concordia University Wisconsin about possible support in keeping CUAA open. There were a number of meetings and as God moved, they offered to help — IF David could find other financial support.
Believing God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, Maier prayed, had others praying, and then started calling regional leaders for help:
- The Michigan District Church Extension Fund helped CUAA by forgiving more than $3 million in debt.
- The English District began to show God’s plan with their gift of $250,000.
- The Michigan District assisted with $1.2 million.
- The Indiana District helped the university with a gift of $500,000.
- The Ohio District assisted with $750,000.
- The Concordia University System, LCMS, also contributed $3 million.
David was able to share with President Pat Ferry, a tremendous encourager and leader in his own right, that there was $8.9 million dollars pledged from regional partners along with the CUS dollars. Then Concordia University Wisconsin agreed to absorb the rest of the debt and merge Concordia University Ann Arbor and Concordia University Wisconsin into one university with two residential campuses.
Today the two campuses serve students as one university in Michigan and Wisconsin! AND, under President’s Ferry’s continued leadership, have become the largest Lutheran University in the United States. God’s grace — observed by His people working together — was able to save Concordia University, Ann Arbor! Praise the Lord!
What Difference Did the Rescue Make?
Before CUAA almost closed in 2009, it had only 634 students. As it finishes the 2017/18 academic year, the Ann Arbor campus has 1105 students.
In 2015, CUW/CUAA bought a 86,000 SF facility which now includes its nursing program and other medical science programs. The facility continues to expand its curriculum to include other programs next year.
LCMS families in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and from around the United States and world can still send their children to a LCMS university faithful to conservative, biblical Lutheranism for a Christ-centered education.
David Maier’s Leadership for Ann Arbor
Unlike the Synod’s current President who says, “I’m sorry”, about his closure of Concordia College Alabama, David Maier stepped out in faith. Believing the Scriptural teachings that our God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, he trusted God to keep Concordia University, Ann Arbor, believing that a gracious God working through His generous people could keep Ann Arbor open.
Our Synod Needs Determined and Optimistic Leadership
Our current leadership in St. Louis has closed the doors at Concordia College Alabama. Synod’s current President publicly predicts our beloved Synod will decline by another 500,000 members over the next 10-15 years. Such pessimistic leadership combined with lack of drive to save our valuable college in Selma has no one cheering.
Congregations Are Seeking New Leadership
Our congregations are weary to exhaustion after years of negative Synod leadership.
Let’s start imagining a positive future for our Synod again! Let’s believe Scripture and God’s promises.
Congregations — and determined, optimistic Synod leadership — matter!