Grand Canyon U. Drops Mass. Campus Plans

Arizona for-profit school returns Hobby Lobby gift.

Hobby Lobby's Northfield, Mass., campus.

Hobby Lobby is looking to gift this former D.L. Moody prep school property to a Christian organization.

Grand Canyon University, a Phoenix-based school, was awarded an unusual gift in September. That gift came from the owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store company, who decided that GCU should take stewardship of a 217-acre property in western Massachusetts, including land and buildings that once housed a prep school founded by evangelist, D.L. Moody. GCU was the lone finalist standing and was among 100 parties that had initially expressed interest in the property.

GCU, however, has decided to return the gift to Hobby Lobby, after discovering it would have to commit far more money to ready the properly for occupancy than had been originally projected. Just five weeks after Hobby Lobby held a ceremony awarding the Northfield, Mass., property to GCU, school administrators have given it back. Instead, the university has decided to spend $6.4 million to pay for a 15-acre expansion of its Phoenix campus reports the Phoenix Business Journal, as it surrenders its plans to expand to the northeast.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis CollegeOwned by the Green family, Hobby Lobby acquired the property in 2009 with the intention of giving it away. Indeed, the family had the C.S. Lewis Foundation in mind as the foundation had long expressed a strong interest in starting the C.S. Lewis College, based on the writings and works of the 20th century British author and Christian apologist Clive Staples Lewis. Those plans, however, never materialized as the foundation was unable to raise the minimum amount of money needed to manage the property as part of the gift requirement.

Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and spokesman for the Green family, expressed disappointment in GCU’s decision, but said that a new search would be started soon. Despite the challenges of managing such a large piece of property, a number of organizations continue to express interest in it reports the Huffington Post.

The Green Family

The Greens are a prominent Christian family that support a number of Christian organizations and institutions including Wycliffe, Oral Roberts University, Harbor House and Every Home for Christ. They are also behind an effort to open a Bible-based museum in Washington, D.C. That museum is expected to house thousands of biblical antiquities for what will be a non-sectarian, scholarly-focused institution.

GCU’s withdrawal may eventually have a positive outcome for another organization, but it is also likely being received as good news by Northfield residents. That town, situated on both sides of the Connecticut River, is home to about 3,000 residents and was facing the prospect of a 5,000-student GCU campus opening its doors. The previous school had housed no more than a few hundred students and faculty, and was seamlessly integrated with this bucolic western Massachusetts community that has little desire of becoming a college town.

Foundation Aspirations

With GCU out of the way and an earlier entry by the North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention also withdrawn, that leaves the Green family exploring its stack of earlier applicants and perhaps welcoming new ones.

Although it hasn’t been publicly shared yet, you can imagine that the board members of the C.S. Lewis Foundation are still holding out hope that somehow the property will house the C.S. Lewis College. It may take a miracle to pull that off, but then we’re talking about our mighty God who delights in removing mountains for those who put their trust in Him.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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