A surprise move made right before the end of 2012 could color the new year for both the former Northfield Mount Hermon campus and Northfield.
With little fanfare, the Green family, owner of both the Hobby Lobby store chain and the campus, have turned the property over to the National Christian Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization that got its start in 1982. According to the foundation’s website, it “... is the largest Christian grant-making foundation in the world. Our innovative, tax-smart solutions help you simplify your giving, multiply your impact, and glorify God.”
It’s yet another twist in the 9-year-old story line regarding the campus since the Northfield Mount Hermon School trustees decided to consolidate in Gill, effectively cutting ties to Northfield, where Dwight L. Moody, the Christian evangelist, founded the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879.
And while the Greens have owned the property since 2009 and had many contacts with the town since then, it was Northfield Mount Hermon’s website that proved to be the source of the latest news ... it was a decision that even town officials hadn’t been made aware of.
What no one should find surprising, however, is the step the Greens have taken with the property.
Having watched its attempts to have the Northfield property become the home to a college — whether a new venture like the envisioned C.S. Lewis College or the creation an East Coast campus for Grand Canyon University — fail to take root, the Greens apparently finally decided they’d had enough, and donated the campus to the foundation.
What that means, and what the foundation may want to do with the campus, remain to be seen.
Northfield residents no doubt hope that new owner does a better job of communicating with the host community than the reclusive family. While the Greens should be credited for investing in the upkeep of the campus, keeping Northfield informed left much to be desired.
While it’s clear that there were limits to the role that the town had in determining what happened after the Greens bought the campus, it’s not unreasonable to have expected a better attempt at fostering good will and understanding.
To be fair, probably not all of the glitches in communication rest with the Greens. Given some of the visceral and virulent reaction to suitors for the campus by some individuals in town, one can understand how the Oklahoma-based Greens might be reluctant to talk — or continue to own the property.
Now it’s up to the National Christian Foundation. Perhaps this will be the year that the new chapter for the campus is finally written, and we hope it’s a good one for all concerned.