Thursday, August 28, 2008
Rust acquires MI College property
Like Siamese twins, Rust College and the former Mississippi Industrial College will now be forever linked together. The second Wednesday in August marks a significant day for the alumni of these two historical black colleges.
“I want to officially announce to you that Rust College is the owner of the old Mississippi Industrial College property,” said president David L. Beckley during his opening remarks at the college’s pre-planning conference for faculty and staff. “The property will be known from this day forth as the Rust College property on the site of the former Mississippi Industrial College in Holly Springs.”
The Morehouse Auditorium erupted with sounds of joy followed by applause.
“We do not know what is going to happen to the historical buildings on the front side of the campus,” said Dr. Beckley. “A community-wide stakeholders meeting will bring all partners to the table to dream, and talk about what we can do to hopefully restore some, if not all of the facilities as we go forth into the future.”
On August 13, in Holly Springs, the property was sold to Rust College by officials of the General Board of Personnel Services Inc., acting under the auspices of the CME CDC (Community Development Corporation) after holding the property for approximately 25 years.
At the sale and representing the CME CDC chairman, retired Bishop Marshall Gilmore, was Bishop Thomas L. Brown Sr., vice chairman of the CME CDC. Signing on behalf of Rust College was Beckley. Signing on behalf of the General Board of Personnel Services were Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart Sr., chairman of the board and presiding Bishop of the Third Episcopal District, Matthew R. Davis III, secretary of the board and Rev. Dr. Tyrone T. Davis, general secretary of the board.
In 1905, The Mississippi Conference of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church founded MI College under the leadership of Bishop Elias Cottrell. His objectives were to provide literary and industrial training to black youth, to train young men and women in Christian ideals, and to furnish a practical education. The school began its first session in January of 1906 and by May of that year had two hundred students enrolled.
The school closed its doors in 1982, and the campus lived in disrepair. Then under the direction of Dr. Jessie Edwards, a 1976 MI graduate, Mississippi Industrial College Alumni Association Inc. (MICAAI) organized in November of 1999 for the purpose of saving the buildings and the campus.
Rust plans to begin organizing the first week in September to access the structures on the 63-acre plot that formerly housed the M.I. College and surrounding properties. Dr. Beckley has already been in contact with Dr. Edwards, president of MICAAI, and ICS Executive Director Elois McClinton to assure them that Rust has no hidden agendas in acquiring the property. McClinton, a 1979 Rust graduate, was present during the historic announcement. ICS and the Holly Springs Police Department are two major tenants on the property.
“I have ensured Mrs. McClinton that Rust wishes to continue working with the Headstart,” Dr. Beckley said. “We did not acquire the property to ask anyone to move, but want to work incorporate with ICS as we go forward. We want the property to remain in the educational arena and a part of our historical black community here in Holly Springs.”
Dr. Beckley expressed his desire to work with the MICAAI to preserve the history and the legacy of Mississippi Industrial College property. During Beckley’s tenure, the college has established a working relationship with the MI Alumni Association through the Rust alumni office and its graduates.
“At the appropriate time, an appropriate historical marker will be placed on the property site so that those who pass by will know that for some 77 years an historical black college served kids here in Holly Springs and throughout the world under the Mississippi Industrial College banner,” Dr. Beckley said.
Reaction from CME Church
Dr. Tyrone T. Davis, general secretary of personnel services, for the CME submitted the following statement:
After soul searching and prayerful consideration, it was decided to sell the property to Rust College, a fellow institution sharing the same main street in Holly Springs with Mississippi Industrial College for 103 years. Bishop Thomas L. Brown Sr., presiding Bishop of the Fourth Episcopal District and Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart Sr., chair of the General Board of Personnel Services and a graduate of MI College, have both expressed their desire that these newly acquired properties by Rust College become part of a plan for increased educational opportunities for young people.
The decision to sell the property was influenced by several factors, including: 1) the continued depreciation, decline and deterioration of the property; 2) the continued cost to service the debt on the property; 3) the inability to continue to secure property and casualty insurance (fire insurance and liability insurance) because of the deterioration of the property; 4) the limitations of the use and restoration of the property because of the historic status of the property; and 5) the inability to generate and/or secure funding for the restoration of the property.
In the early 1980s, the General Board of Personnel Services (acting on behalf of the CME Church) proceeded to redeem the properties when the college went into bankruptcy and made the first investment in the reclamation of the properties. After considering a myriad of unsuccessful funding proposal, the increased cost of maintaining the property coupled with investments to qualify for certain funding opportunities led to an accumulated debt of approximately $1.8 million (including a $975,000 mortgage with a current balance of $685,811 and accrued interest of $27,752). The $1.1 million sale of the property leaves approximately $700,000 in outstanding unsecured debts owed to entities, Episcopal Districts and individuals.
Although the property was deeded in the name of the General Board of Personnel Services, it was delegated to the CDC. After considering the magnitude of the potential liabilities that would threaten the CDC and the CME Church, the CDC approved the sale to Rust College and directed the General Board of Personnel Services to conclude the transaction. Both entities, the CDC and the General Board of Personnel Services were pleased that this resulting transaction allows this historic property, which is dear in the memory of the CME Church, to continue to be used for educational purposes for the benefits of persons in the Northern Mississippi and surrounding areas.
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