Letter to the Editor: Hannibal-LaGrange University is a good university getting better

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Rodney Harrison, transitional president of Hannibal-LaGrange University. | Photo courtesy of Hannibal-LaGrange University

HLGU is alive. The university will not only stay open, but the past year has shown us how blessed we are to be part of the greater Hannibal community.

Hannibal-LaGrange University was facing a financial Goliath in March 2022. The president of 10 years had resigned two months earlier, and the full reality of the university’s fragile financial situation was still coming to light. The financial forecast predicted closure by the end of the month if changes were not made.

Two days after appointing a transitional president, the new leadership announced financial exigency, a declaration with legal and accreditation implications. Effective immediately, salaries and benefits were cut. Five weeks later, several faculty and staff positions were eliminated. A solemn assembly was called to pray for the university, for wisdom and to seek forgiveness for failing to be faithful stewards of the financial and personnel resources entrusted to the university.

As part of the exigency planning, the university prepared formal teachout documents that ensured students could transfer credits should the university close. Leaders, such as Ray Carty, explored options as to the best use of the facilities and people. Conversations went well into the night to ensure the impact of closure would be minimal should the university exhaust all other resources.

Throughout this process, we realized the source of the needed resources would be God … an appropriate response given the word for “source” and “resource” are the same in Greek, the original language of the New Testament.

HLGU experienced an outpouring of goodwill and financial support over the next three months from individuals, churches, the community and religious organizations. A Day of Giving realized more than twice the $120,000 goal. The Scarlet and Blue Auction brought out the community and allowed the university to realize the full benefit of a matching gift. These efforts, along with fiscal austerity, allowed the first milepost of HLGU’s transformation to be realized as another class of graduates received their
diplomas.

The second milepost was to have the resources necessary to get through the summer. By God’s grace, giving continued to be robust in May. With the sale of some property and assistance from our service providers, summer expenses were minimized, and the university posted schedules for the upcoming academic year. By this time, a revised academic and business model were in place.

Yes, the university would stay open — the second of three mileposts.

The university announced July 8 the end of financial exigency effective Aug. 1. The pay and benefit cuts in place since March were lifted for all returning employees. With a business model in place based on scalability, and a balanced budget based on enrollment realities, HLGU may well become a model for small liberal arts universities. The commitment to our mission as a Christian liberal arts university is unchanged. However, the board and leadership will be adjusting their values to better reflect our commitment to Hannibal, northeast Missouri and western Illinois.

Jesus taught his followers to pray for their “daily bread.” God, through our community, churches and individuals, has provided our daily bread.

There have been no so-called “transformational gifts” in our turnaround. Rather, we have seen sacrificial gifts, ranging from a child giving a dollar so he might have the opportunity to become a Trojan one day to a couple who chose to delay purchasing a new home to give their down payment to their alma mater.

This is the HLGU story. What we have gone through is the turning of a page.

The end has not been written. Rather, a new chapter is beginning.

Rodney Harrison
Transitional president
Hannibal-LaGrange University
Hannibal, Missouri

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