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Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina Launches $100M Upgrade to Its Campus

Wed February 22, 2023 - Southeast Edition
WBTV & Catholic News Agency


The first, “Made Free,” tied to promoting personal freedom and virtue, earmarks $15 million for new career, vocation and family programs, as well as the construction of a monastery to replace the brick structure the monks constructed by hand in 1888. (Rendering courtesy of Belmont Abbey College)
The first, “Made Free,” tied to promoting personal freedom and virtue, earmarks $15 million for new career, vocation and family programs, as well as the construction of a monastery to replace the brick structure the monks constructed by hand in 1888. (Rendering courtesy of Belmont Abbey College)
The first, “Made Free,” tied to promoting personal freedom and virtue, earmarks $15 million for new career, vocation and family programs, as well as the construction of a monastery to replace the brick structure the monks constructed by hand in 1888. (Rendering courtesy of Belmont Abbey College) The new performing arts center will give The Abbey Players, the oldest performing arts group in North Carolina, an elegant new venue that can host larger audiences and can be used by the local community for events and performances. (Rendering courtesy of Belmont Abbey College)

Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal school in North Carolina, has announced a massive $100 million development plan to fund physical and academic improvements at the college.

Nicknamed the "Made True" campaign, $72 million has already been secured by donors to go toward the effort, according to WBTV in Charlotte.

The ambitious goal — equivalent to an eightfold increase in the college's current $12 million endowment — would fund a new performing arts center, new academic programs and a new monastery for its resident Benedictine monks, whose predecessors established the now 1,500-student school in 1876.

In addition, the campaign is designed to dramatically reduce and eventually end the college's reliance on federal aid, in part through new stewardship programs designed to help students graduate debt-free, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.

Belmont Abbey aims to reach its goal by 2026 to coincide with the school's 150th anniversary. The college formally announced the campaign at a gala Feb. 18 at Founders Hall in uptown Charlotte, about 20 mi. east of the school's campus in Belmont.

"We've come to this point in time in the history of Belmont Abbey where it's really ready to explode and to flourish," William Thierfelder, the college's president, told CNA.

Known as "Made True," the campaign has three tiers, each aimed at different goals:

  • The first, "Made Free," tied to promoting personal freedom and virtue, earmarks $15 million for new career, vocation and family programs, as well as the construction of a new performing arts center and a monastery to replace the brick structure the monks constructed by hand in 1888.
  • The second tier, "Made Strong," aims to invest $30 million in programs in nursing, public policy and finance.
  • The largest chunk of the campaign, known as "Made Secure," seeks $55 million to secure Belmont Abbey's financial freedom.

"This is a campaign that is not just about Belmont Abbey College," Philip Brach, the school's vice president of college relations, said in speaking with CNA. "It's a campaign that is going to impact the culture, the church and the country."

Abbot Placid Solari, the college's chancellor who also oversees the community of Benedictine monks on campus, called the campaign "one of the biggest events in the college's history."

"We are humbled and grateful for the extraordinary support we have received through the silent phase of the campaign," he said in a press release, "and we now invite alumni, students, families and people across the region to help us close the funding gap and ensure that this type of education is available for future generations."

Campaign Another Step in School's Comeback

The enthusiasm surrounding the new campaign stands in stark contrast to the grim circumstances Thierfelder, a former track-and-field Olympian with a background in business and sports psychology, faced in 2004 when he became Belmont Abbey's 20th president.

At the time, there was talk of shutting down the school for financial reasons, he recalled. Despite the lack of resources, one of his first major initiatives was the construction of a new, wood-and-glass eucharistic adoration chapel on campus.

"About 90 percent of all the money that came for the adoration chapel came from people who had never heard of Belmont Abbey before, had never been here before, but they knew what an adoration chapel was, and they thought it was really important," Thierfelder told CNA.

Since 2011, Belmont Abbey's enrollment has grown steadily, and the college is perennially included among the two dozen or so Catholic colleges and universities The Cardinal Newman Society recognizes for having a commitment to providing students with a faithful Catholic education.

The only Catholic college on the East Coast between northern Virginia and Florida, Belmont Abbey now offers nearly 50 undergraduate, graduate, professional and pre-professional fields of study, and boasts of having a 95 percent acceptance rate to medical schools. About half the student body is Catholic, the college noted.

In 2021, the school opened Belmont House in Washington, D.C., as a center for Benedictine hospitality and Catholic community and advocacy on Capitol Hill, and just last year, Belmont Abbey entered into a contract with CaroMont Health to build a public hospital on abbey-owned land along Interstate 85 — a boon for the college's nursing and science programs.

Meanwhile, even before the start of the Made True campaign, construction is already under way on two new residence halls and a sports complex at Belmont Abbey, WBTV reported. In addition, the college is making improvements to its science and nursing centers to accommodate growth and enhance the student experience.

According to the school, the new buildings are designed to blend in with the existing architecture and setting.

The new performing arts center will give The Abbey Players, the oldest performing arts group in North Carolina, an elegant new venue that can host larger audiences and can be used by the local community for events and performances.

School officials told the Charlotte TV station that the existing monastery will serve a repurposed use following the completion of the new one.

Thierfelder likened the college's ambitious fundraising efforts to "repairing the wing of the plane while you're flying it," but added Belmont Abbey is ready to embrace the challenge.

The new performing arts center will give The Abbey Players, the oldest performing arts group in North Carolina, an elegant new venue that can host larger audiences and can be used by the local community for events and performances. (Rendering courtesy of Belmont Abbey College)




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