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Northfield campus gets new owners in Thomas Aquinas College, The Moody Center

  • Emmitt Mitchell of the Moody Foundation, Michael F. McLean president of Thomas Aquinas College and Larry Edge, manager for the Northfield Campus LLC, the organization owned by the National Christian Foundation that has overseen the Northfield Campus, on stage in Olivia Hall on the former NMH campus to sign documents gifting away the former prep school. May 2, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Emmitt Mitchell of the Moody Foundation, Michael F. McLean president of Thomas Aquinas College and Larry Edge, manager for the Northfield Campus LLC, the organization owned by the National Christian Foundation that has overseen the Northfield Campus, on stage in Olivia Hall on the former NMH campus to sign documents gifting away the former prep school. May 2, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Those in attendance in Olivia Hall on the former NMH campus to sign documents gifting away the former prep school. May 2, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, May 02, 2017

NORTHFIELD — With ownership of the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus officially transferred to Thomas Aquinas College and The Moody Center during a Tuesday ceremony, there is renewed hope that the long vacant buildings will serve as a home for education once again.

The National Christian Foundation, which has owned the campus since 2012, signed the core campus over to the Roman Catholic liberal arts college out of Santa Paula, Calif. The school plans to open its new East Coast campus in Northfield in the fall of 2018.

The college will receive about three-quarters of the campus’ 40 buildings and half the acreage, while The Moody Center, a nonprofit whose goal is to promote the ideals of 19th-century evangelist and Northfield Mount Hermon School founder Dwight L. Moody, will receive another 10 buildings and half the land.

Moody founded Northfield Mount Hermon School as two institutions: the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879 and Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881. In 1971, the Northfield and Mount Hermon campuses became a single coeducational preparatory high school, with the school consolidating to its Mount Hermon campus in Gill in September 2005.

Since then, the Northfield campus has been vacant, being first owned by Hobby Lobby and then the National Christian Foundation, which has been seeking new owners — until now.

“This has been a long journey for us,” said Larry Edge, manager of Northfield Campus LLC, the organization owned by the National Christian Foundation that has overseen the Northfield campus. “There’ve been many false starts and so forth in that time.”

In fact, Edge said, since 2012 there have been 153 inquiries about gaining ownership of the campus, resulting in 75 interviews.

“We have not been idle,” Edge said. “This has been a labor of love … We feel very confident that we are heading in the right direction as we pass the campus off to Thomas Aquinas College and The Moody Center. Both will really be a part of this community and help this community.”

Emmitt Mitchell, a member of the National Christian Foundation Heartland’s board of directors and president of The Moody Center, remembered first visiting the campus with Edge in early 2013 and seeing the “majestic buildings for the first time.” He began to wonder how he would find new owners.

“I thought ‘First of all, we need to find someone who has a mission, which is similar to what Moody had,’” Mitchell said. “We needed management that could see the big picture, that could understand the advantages that Northfield gave them and take advantage of them so that this becomes a diamond.”

Mitchell said the National Christian Foundation found just what it had been looking for in Thomas Aquinas College, which applied to be given the campus in the summer of 2015.

“I have never been so impressed, not only with the faculty and staff, but with the student body and their dedication to the mission,” Mitchell said. “There is no way they will ever let that campus go backwards. They will be successful.”

With the school’s newfound ownership of the Northfield campus, Thomas Aquinas College President Michael McLean said the college hopes to “expand its reach of the number of students that will benefit from its education.” However, the college needs approval from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education before it can begin teaching students, approval which McLean hopes to receive within the next few months.

McLean said he hopes eventually to enroll between 350 and 400 students, close to the 500 students enrolled during the campus’ peak as a prep school. The California campus currently enrolls 385 students.

McLean has already introduced four faculty — Thomas Kaiser, Michael Augros, Patrick Gardner and Phillip Wodzinski — to oversee two classes of 18 students each in the Northfield campus’ first year. By enrolling 36 more students each year, enrollment after four years would reach nearly 150 students, growing gradually thereafter. Patrick Cross, who will serve as admissions counselor, is expected to arrive sometime this summer.

As for The Moody Center, Mitchell said he aims to “secure the Moody legacy and heritage.” Mitchell said the nonprofit will hold events, particularly conferences, offer ways for visitors to the campus to learn more about Moody and will have a public museum of Moody artifacts in Revell Hall. Mitchell said six or seven events have already been booked for 2017.