Atlanta City Council to honor Morehouse College on 150th anniversary

By David Pendered

Morehouse College is being honored for its 150th anniversary by the Atlanta City Council. The council is slated to adopt the resolution Monday.

Morehouse College

The Atlanta City Council is slated to approve a resolution Monday honoring Morehouse College for its 150th anniversary. Special: Morehouse College

The award comes as a welcome respite from tough times of late. Last month, Morehouse President John Wilson’s contract was not renewed by the college’s board of trustees. Wilson is to serve through June 30.

The city council’s resolution was sponsored by council President Ceasar Mitchell and Councilmember Michael Julian Bond. It is likely to be signed by all councilmembers.

The resolution traces the college’s history and concludes with a strong commendation for the college’s comprehensive development of students.

This is the full text of the resolution:

In Honor of Morehouse College 150th Anniversary

  • Whereas, The Atlanta City Council is pleased to honor Morehouse College as it celebrates its 150th Anniversary and a tradition of producing many of the world’s greatest leaders: and
  • Whereas, In 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, Augusta Theological Institute was established in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia. Today, Augusta Theological Institute is Morehouse College, which is located on a 66-acre campus in Atlanta and enjoys an international reputation for producing leaders who have influenced national and world history; and

    The Rev. Frank Quarles

    The Rev. Frank Quarles invited Augusta Theological Institute to move to the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1879. The institute became Morehouse College. Credit: http://zmblackhistorymonth2013.blogspot.co.uk

  • Whereas, In 1879, Augusta Theological Institute was invited by The Rev. Frank Quarles to move to the basement of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta and changed its name to Atlanta Baptist Seminary; and
  • Whereas, Atlanta Baptist College, already a leader in preparing African Americans for teaching and the ministry, expanded its curriculum and established the tradition of educating leaders for all areas of life; and
  • Whereas, Upon the death of its founder in 1913, Atlanta Baptist College was named Morehouse College in honor of Henry L. Morehouse, the corresponding secretary of the Northern Baptist Home Mission Society; and
  • Whereas, As Morehouse celebrates its sesquicentennial in 2017, the College continues its long and unique history of delivering an exceptional educational experience that meets the intellectual, moral and social needs of students representing more than 40 states and 14 countries – a distinguished institution dedicated to producing outstanding men and ethical leaders.
  • NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, WE, the members of the Atlanta City Council and on behalf of the citizens of Atlanta hereby honor Morehouse College on the occasion of its 150th

In choosing not to renew Wilson’s contract, the board did not reveal the factors in the decision.

However, it’s no secret that small, private colleges and universities are struggling financially. Especially niche colleges such as Morehouse, according to a credit rating issued Aug. 8, 2016 by Moody’s Investor Service.

Moody’s downgraded Morehouse College’s credit ranking to a subprime rating with a negative outlook. The rating action covered $37 million in revenue bonds Morehouse issued in 2007 through the Development Authority of Fulton County. Moody’s report identified Morehouse’s effort under Wilson’s tenure to evolve its business model. This effort was noted by both Wilson and Morehouse trustee Andrew Young.

Morehouse College, paris exhibition

This photo of Morehouse College is said to have been included in an exhibition at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. It came from albums maintained by W.E.B. DuBois. Credit: artofthepossibleonline.blogspot.com

Moody’s observed:

  • “Morehouse is revising its business model to focus more heavily on increasing philanthropy to support a sustainable financial model. The Ba1 rating expresses some demonstrated history of fundraising prowess, yet the ability to sustainably shift to a higher level of unrestricted giving and expand its donor base is uncertain.”

Wilson said in a statement:

  • “I am particularly proud that alumni fundraising was significantly enhanced, with donations from alumni and the Board of Trustees reaching record levels over the past two years.”

Young said in a statement that Wilson:

  • “[H]as established a clear, long-term vision for the future of Morehouse and leaves the institution with a solid foundation upon which to build. … He has helped to ensure that Morehouse College continues to serve as the premier educational institution to develop men for lives of leadership and service.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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