Hobby Lobby announced Friday that it will be donating a historic Massachusetts campus that was founded by evangelist D. L. Moody to an Arizona nonprofit organization.
After years of vetting more than 100 organizations, the national retail chain has selected Scholarships for GCU Students – a supporting organization for Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation – as the recipients of the 217-acre campus in Northfield, Mass.
"As a supporter of Christian higher education across the U.S., we hope this campus will provide a home for students to find their purpose in Christ and realize their full potential in life," said Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, in a statement. "We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this historic campus and for this community."
The campus was built in 1879 by Moody, who was one of the most influential evangelists of the 19th century. It was formerly occupied by Northfield Mount Hermon School until 2005. Hobby Lobby acquired the campus in 2009 for $100,000 and spent millions of dollars in renovations. The estimated value of the Northfield campus is $20 million.
Hobby Lobby had a desire to gift the property to a Christian educational institution that could demonstrate a commitment to sustaining the campus and honoring Moody's legacy, according to Grand Canyon University.
GCU, founded in 1949, is a private Christian university with a campus in Phoenix, Ariz. Its aim is to help students "find their purpose and achieve their potential through landing the career of their dreams, advancing their career, and changing careers" and also to encourage students to "find their purpose in Christ, with an emphasis on applying Christian values and ethics to the workplace."
GCU, which has about 7,000 traditional students and 40,000 online students, submitted a plan for use of the campus earlier this year. The other finalist for the campus was the North American Mission Board, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. NAMB, however, pulled out.
Scholarships for GCU Students intends to enter into a long-term lease with Grand Canyon Education, Inc., which would provide GCU the right to utilize and develop the campus. The university expects to begin offering classes at Northfield in the fall of 2014 with a projected enrollment of 500 traditional students. It must first, however, receive all necessary legal, regulatory and accrediting approvals.
"Our organization is honored to be selected by Hobby Lobby as the recipient of this campus, and we are excited about the potential this generous gift has to support students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend a private, Christian university," said Kathy Rother, president of Scholarships for GCU Students, in a statement.
The university expects to spend up to $150 million on the campus over a five-year period in order for it to grow into a fully developed liberal-arts institution.
On Friday, a panel discussion was also held regarding the future of Christian higher education. Along with Green of Hobby Lobby, other participants included David Wright of Indiana Wesleyan University, Geoff Tunnicliffe of the World Evangelical Alliance, Shirley V. Hoogstra of Calvin College, Brian Mueller of Grand Canyon University, Jerry Pattengale of Green Scholars Initiative, and Carlos Campo of Regent University.