JEFFERSON CITY – Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG) will be known as University of Hannibal if messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) approve the measure at the 2010 annual meeting in Springfield.
The MBC Executive Board approved the recommendation unanimously July 13 at the request of HLG President Woody Burt, the HLG board of trustees and its chairman, Terry Buster, pastor of First Baptist, Palmyra.
“We believe the name change will reposition the college to reflect the kind of institution we have become,” Burt said. “We have advanced in our programs, our personnel and our facilities to the point where we think ‘University’ fits who we are.”
According to a report distributed by HLG, school officials have been informally considering the idea of a name change for several years, and trustees began studying the question last November. They voted in executive session to request a change from “college” to “university” in their May 8 board meeting, with a 10 voting for University of Hannibal and two voting no. Other options discussed but not voted on were Hannibal-LaGrange University and Hannibal Baptist University.
Burt said “LaGrange” in the current name is associated by many in northeast Missouri with a casino in the town of LaGrange. He also said there is some confusion with LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. There are no legal, technical or accrediting criteria that must be met to shift from college to university. HLG moved from a two-year institution to a four-year school in 1973 and began offering a master’s level program in 2007.
The report included a portion detailing what will not change, including “Our commitment to and relationship with the MBC.” That sentence was added by the Inter-Agency Relations Committee before their vote July 12. Burt said it was an oversight that it was not included in the original report because HLG trustees “considered it a given.”
The name change would require changing the school’s charter – a touchy subject among Missouri Baptists. David Tolliver, executive director of the MBC, said that regardless of how the convention votes, HLG is going about the process in the correct manner.
“I’ve been very pleased to watch the way they have followed the process,” Tolliver said. “They are an example to other agencies. They have followed the process to a T that five others didn’t. They started with their own board, went to the Inter-Agency Relations Committee, to the Executive Board and then on to the convention.”
“I hope that people will recognize that we have done a thorough job in studying this change,” Burt added. “We have taken the steps that we have very carefully.”
Burt conceded that some alumni polled were not in favor of the name change, but no major donors said it would change their levels of support. He said there was some negative reaction from a faculty poll questioning whether the school was ready to move to “university status.”
“There are always going to be people who are passionate and nostalgic for ‘Hannibal-LaGrange College,’” he said. “Change is hard. By and large, we have been very pleased with the response we’ve seen from donors, alumni and others.”
If the convention votes to approve the change to University of Hannibal, the name changes would legally take place immediately after the vote. For practical purposes, HLG officials said they would begin the switch Jan. 1, 2011.
The report estimates the cost of the change at $27,000-$30,000 including a new large highway sign, entrance column seals, interior graphics and banners, displays, bus/van lettering and other branding projects. Athletic uniforms, letterhead, business cards and the like will be updated incrementally “per normal budget allowances.” The cost of a marketing plan is estimated at a 20-30 percent increase in the college advertising budget for the first 12-18 months. The school’s Trojan mascot will remain unchanged.