By Tim Ellsworth
Associate VP for Communications, Union University
JACKSON, Tenn. — Union University trustees at their Sept. 6 meeting adopted a campus master plan that calls for new buildings and an extension of the university’s Great Lawn all the way to Highway 45 Bypass over the next 20 years.
In other matters, trustees approved new officers, established tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 academic year and approved Beverly Bone-Absher as professor emeritus.
The campus master plan includes three different phases, each about six or seven years in length. The plan calls for a new welcome center at the Pleasant Plains entrance, a new building west of White Hall, the eventual phasing out of the Penick Academic Complex and the Blasingame Academic Complex, a new chapel adjacent to the bypass on the eastern end of the extended Great Lawn, other academic buildings and improvements to landscaping and traffic flow.
“The campus master plan gives us an aspirational look at what the campus can look like over the next two decades,” Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said. “While some people may be skeptical about the reality of accomplishing these plans, we want to attempt great things for God. This new campus master plan is one avenue among others in just such an attempt.”
Oliver added that while the plan includes several components, trustees will need to approve each project in the plan individually.
The first master plan for the current campus location was adopted by the university in 1975, with the second one coming in 1997. The 1997 version called for the establishment of the Great Lawn on the west side of campus and included plans for buildings to surround it. Jennings Hall, White Hall, Providence Hall, the Carl Grant Events Center and the Logos are the fruits of that 1997 plan.
“I hope you will be people who champion all that Union can be for God’s glory and for the good of mankind,” Oliver told trustees. “Let’s dream. Let’s set forth a vision. We may lack resources, but let’s never lack vision.”
The architectural firm of Hastings + Chivetta, based in St. Louis, Missouri, led the effort to design the campus master plan with input from a committee of Union faculty, staff and students. The firm was responsible for producing the 1997 campus master plan as well.
Chris Chivetta, the firm’s president, presented the plan to the trustees at their Sept. 6 meeting.
“Early in the planning process, it became clear to our team that Union operates as a family when campus participants consistently cited issues that benefited the entire community,” Chivetta said. “The potential for sustaining the transformation of campus is reflected in the 2019 plan, which provides a forward-looking framework to guide future campus needs and creates a stand-alone place of worship that celebrates Union’s Christ-centered mission.”
Trustees approved a 2.54 percent tuition increase for the 2020-2021 academic year, the smallest increase in the last 25 years. With $26 million budgeted for student financial aid, Oliver said Union remains committed to making a Union education as accessible as possible.
Absher-Bone, who retired this year as dean of the School of Adult and Professional Studies and professor of organization leadership, was honored with the title of professor emeritus by trustees. Absher-Bone came to Union in 2004 as director of human resources, completed her doctorate at Union and eventually became a full-time professor before assuming the deanship.
“She never tired of championing the cause of adult education and believed passionately in the educational potential of non-traditional learners,” Oliver said. “She is a respected and beloved teacher and has taught countless students how to lead organizations with integrity.”
Trustees also re-elected Chad Wilson as board chairman, Robyn Hari as vice chair and Peggy Graves as secretary.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to continue serving my alma mater,” Wilson said. “Union University is a special place that has been transformational in the lives of so many people. We will continue to pray for God to be gracious to Union and bless our work of preparing students to serve the church and society.” B&R