This article original appeared in the Elizabethton Star on July 2, 2015 here.
By Kayla Carter
Milligan College and Emmanuel Christian Seminary have been neighbors for nearly 50 years, but with the finalization of a merger they became family on Wednesday. “Even though they have always operated independently, Milligan and Emmanuel have a strong shared history,” Milligan President Bill Greer said. With Emmanuel’s financial stability being the goal, Milligan officials are confident this merger is going to be viable.
“Change is hard,” Greer said. “But together we brought Emmanuel to a new level of financial stability and focus on mission. We’ve developed a strategic plan for the entirety of Milligan College that will ensure our long-term success.”
Three years ago, Michael Sweeney, who was president of Emmanuel at the time, approached Greer about the merger.
“The trustees of Emmanuel had come to the conclusion that despite the number of successes over the years, it was no longer economically feasible to go it alone,” Greer said.
Dean E. Walker, the first president of Emmanuel, was heralded throughout the ceremony for his vision.
“He served as president of both schools simultaneously,” Greer said. The Emmanuel School of Religion, as it was formerly called, was once stationed on Milligan’s campus, according to Dr. Bob Wetzel, chancellor and retired president of Emmanuel School of Religion. Emmanuel is designated as a part of Milligan’s School of Bible and Ministry.
“Hence in Dr. Walker’s mind, Emmanuel was to be the graduate school of religion of Milligan College,” Wetzel said. “I am confident that Dean Walker is smiling down from heaven on this occasion. Once again we are witness to that strange and awe-inspiring providence of God.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the merger is that Milligan will now be able to award doctoral degrees through the seminary. Along with the merger, the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) approved the college’s reclassification as a Level 5 institution. Another aspect of the merger includes stationing an engineering program and physician assistant program in some of the unused space at Emmanuel.
The engineering program is set to begin in the fall of 2016 and the physician assistant program will begin in the fall of 2017, Greer said. “We would not be able to pursue these important initiatives if it were not for the shared resources that this integration in bringing together,” Greer said. “Next week we begin construction on the engineering laboratory spaces in the lower level of the building that is right behind me.”
Emmanuel Christian Seminary student Jon Sylvester was excited to have access to the Milligan campus resources. Students on both sides of the road will benefit, he said. “The benefits are definitely resources,” he said. “We will have access to Milligan’s wellness center and we have one of the best libraries in the area.”
He hopes to see both institutions benefit from the merger, but it’s clear that Emmanuel is becoming a part of something much larger. “We are small,” he said. “Stand alone seminaries really aren’t a thing anymore. They are kind of going away from that.”
Ben Carpenter, a Milligan alumni, has been keeping up with the news surrounding the merger. “I’m excited that Emmanuel will have great management to keep it moving forward,” Carpenter said. “I was confident that everything was going to be in good hands.”
Carpenter has attended both schools and is excited for the merger. “I get access to the gym again, too,” Carpenter said.
Tyler Jorgenson, a current Milligan student, was thrilled to have Emmanuel become a part of his college. He already viewed the two schools as one before the merger.
“There are a lot of people from Milligan that go to Emmanuel,” he said. “We have a really close relationship already. It’s nice to have it become one unit.”
While he’s unsure what God has in store for his future, Jorgenson said he has seriously considered attending Emmanuel. He offered up an idea to make Emmanuel even more desirable to Milligan students — incentives.
“I’d like to see some kind of benefit for Milligan students who want to go to Emmanuel,” he said. “It would be nice if there was some kind of financial benefits.”
Sylvester also predicts that there will be a rise in Milligan alumni attending Emmanuel in the future.
“I hope you’ll agree that together this will truly be an amazing group of committed Christian scholars,” Greer said. “Just because Emmanuel is now a part of Milligan doesn’t mean that a need for support goes away. In fact, it’s needed now more than ever as we anticipate continuing to grow.”