Amendment switched vote from ‘University of Hannibal’
SPRINGFIELD – It’s official: Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG) is no longer “Hannibal-LaGrange College.” But it’s not “University of Hannibal” like trustees originally asked messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting to approve. It’s now “Hannibal-LaGrange University.”
Through a series of votes this summer, HLG trustees voted to recommend to the MBC messengers changing the name of the school to “University of Hannibal.” The recommendation was approved by the MBC Executive Board, but was unpopular with some trustees and some vocal alumni who questioned the name-selection process and a perceived disregard for the school’s historical ties to the small town of LaGrange. The issue ultimately fell into the hands of the MBC messengers, which legally own the school and have final say over changes to the charter such as changing the name.
The opposition most notably took the form of a Facebook group with more than 300 members and a student-initiated petition signed by more than 200 students and alumni. A group also distributed flyers in front of the Expo Center Tuesday morning urging messengers to oppose University of Hannibal and back Hannibal-LaGrange University. It was the student who began that petition – sophomore nursing student Sarah Miller – who brought the amendment to the name-change recommendation to the convention floor that ultimately led to Hannibal-LaGrange University.
“When I found out this fall about the proposed change, I didn’t like the idea,” Miller told the convention, speaking as a messenger from First Baptist, Paris. “I discovered that many students agreed with me. Why would we want to change something when we focus so much on the history of the college and they ingrain the great heritage of our school from student orientation onward?”
After some debate back and forth, the ballot vote was taken, resulting in 62 percent in favor (593 votes to 360), a number MBC President Bruce McCoy called “overwhelming.” Although the HLG trustees recommended University of Hannibal and their chairman, Terry Buster, argued against the amendment before the vote, he said they accepted the modification as a friendly amendment and an acceptable compromise.
“We appreciate the passion of our alumni and leadership,” he said. “Even though our trustees recommend what we thought was best, messengers have spoken and we respect that decision and ask that you approve the motion.”
The most recent vote of the HLG trustees on the issue was 19-7 in favor of University of Hannibal. However, trustees were unanimous in earlier votes in going from college to university status.
The convention voted on the amended motion to change the school’s name via a visual vote, and it was all but unanimous.
HLG President Woody Burt issued this statement Oct. 27:
“On Tuesday morning Oct. 26, 2010, the Missouri Baptist Convention messengers amended the name change recommendation as presented by the HLG Board of Trustees. The amendment was to name the college Hannibal-LaGrange University, and it was approved by a nearly unanimous vote. We are pleased to move forward as HLGU.”
HLG officials originally said they would begin calling the school by the new name Jan. 1, 2011, but phone operators at HLG are currently answering the phone “Hannibal-LaGrange University.” The change will not legally take place until lawyers file the proper paperwork with the Missouri Secretary of State.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer