A High Point university and a Birmingham, Alabama Bible college are merging with Piedmont International University (PIU) according to two separate announcements from Charles Petitt, president of PIU.
A September 19 press release said the trustee boards of John Wesley University (JWU) in High Point, NC, and PIU in Winston-Salem, approved a merger “to connect the rich heritages of two historic Christian universities located only twenty miles from each other.”
JWU is a non-denominational, evangelical university. The merger will officially take effect on June 1, 2018, pending the approval of the Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits PIU.
The leaders of both universities believe the consolidated school will have far greater influence than either could have realized alone.
JWU’s President Steven Condon said, “There has never been a better time for this partnership. Both universities enjoy a vibrant student body, dynamic evolving curriculums, great campus locations, a historic legacy of service, over 175 years of combined Bible-based instruction, and a passion and love for the Lord.
“Piedmont enjoys a history of high quality curriculum and the momentum in recent years that comes from large enrollment increases. They also bring to the table a well-developed set of on-line programs, a global footprint and emerging dynamic athletic programs.”
Petitt said, “Both universities have enjoyed recent growth and are the two largest evangelical universities in the Triad area. We could continue on separately as we are for the foreseeable future and be pretty much the same ten years from now, but it would be far better to pool our resources and all the great attributes of each school to create something truly special.”
Piedmont will be the surviving entity in the merger, but the JWU heritage and name will be featured in a future building. JWU brings a school of business management, a nursing partnership and complementary athletic programs to PIU.
Petitt will continue as president and Condon will serve as chancellor, managing the day-to-day operations of the university and preparing for SACS accreditation application. PIU and JWU have been nationally accredited for decades, and both universities have been strategically planning to seek regional accreditation.
Condon said, “The strength of a merged university will poise PIU to take this step sooner, rather than later, and regional accreditation will open more doors for our students and advance their future opportunities.
“John Wesley was a strong Christian leader who is deeply admired by both schools. He was not only a man of God and a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was also a champion for the downtrodden and a man who stood up against slavery across the British Empire. His last letter, written just days before his death, was to encourage William Wilberforce to use his influence as a force against slavery in the British Empire. We are happy to know that Piedmont’s leaders are eager to honor this great man and JWU in a number of ways including the naming of a building, an academic school, an endowment, and a special scholarship.”
The leaders of both universities believe the merger is an example of the strengths of collaboration.
“This alliance between Piedmont International and John Wesley universities is an example of two very good schools joining into one great Bible-based entity in the Triad,” Petitt said.
“Previously, we were competing for the same students, faculty, and resources and had almost endless duplication. Now we will share all of those things and have zero duplication, and the combined enrollment will form the largest biblical university in the state and likely the fastest growing one in the country. With similar missions, parallel passions, and shared goals, this is a great time for this merger.”
Southeastern Bible College to join PIU
Within the same week, a Sept. 22 press release announced a second merger. Trustee boards of Southeastern Bible College (SEBC) in Birmingham, Alabama, and PIU voted to approve a merger of the two schools that will become official October 31, pending the approval of the Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools.
A key part of the plan is to reopen SEBC in a new location in Birmingham as a collaborative campus of PIU. SEBC suspended operations on May 31 due to decreased enrollment and increased operational costs. The current campus will be sold, and proceeds will be used to create a streamlined, technology-based campus, said Petitt. Multiple degree options will be available through a blend of on campus and online courses.
By combining resources, cutting duplication, sharing academic and business infrastructure, and utilizing technology, Petitt said students will have access to “quality, accredited, private, Christian higher education with ultimate flexibility and truly affordable tuition.”
Piedmont will service the Birmingham campus through the PIU offices in Winston-Salem, eliminating the duplication of personnel, including the provost, CFO, academic deans, development staff, registrar, human resources and information technology personnel.
Petitt said, “This merger feels like a marriage made in heaven, because it pulls two wonderful families together and accomplishes significant goals set by each university. Piedmont has a culture of collaboration with a goal of expanded influence through strategic partnerships. … This merger accomplishes the goals of both schools, and we couldn’t be happier with the partnership.”
SEBC president Alexander Granados said, “The Lord has joined two historic institutions to make a lasting contribution for the cause of Christ (James 2:14-18). We are honored to journey as one (Ephesians 4:4-6). We are united by our Lord, our biblical heritage and our unwavering mission to provide Bible-centered higher education. We look forward to equipping students for a life of enduring commitment to Christ and instruct them to think like Christ, value like Christ, and serve as Christ has called them to serve in the home, church, academy, community and marketplace. To God be the glory!”
Granados will move to North Carolina and become associate provost at PIU.
Petitt said about half of the PIU board members are Southern Baptists, including Rick Speas who serves as vice-chairman. Speas is pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and a former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“We feel like we are as close to the Southern Baptist family as you can be without being owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Petitt. “Southeastern has also enjoyed a great relationship with Baptists in Alabama.”
JWU, SEBC and PIU were founded in 1903, 1935 and 1945 respectively. The endowments of the three schools will be blended into PIU’s resources.
Tennessee Temple University merged into PIU two years ago and closed its campus in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Visit piedmontu.edu for more information.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Allan Blume serves as an advisory member of PIU's board.)