Over most of its long history, Kalamazoo College’s charter has required that some portion of its governing board be Baptists. But the mandated percentage has diminished over the decades and with legislation recently introduced in the state House, college officials are now seeking to end the edict altogether. The college’s spokesman said the change will allow the 29-member Board of Trustees to better mirror contemporary “K.” One retired academic who has researched church-related colleges said the move illustrates how many schools that sprang from denominational roots have gradually withdrawn from them over time. K-College was founded in 1833 by a Baptist preacher who said he hoped the school would “exert a most salutary influence upon the Baptist cause…,” according a 2008 book on K’s history by Marlene Crandell Francis.
When it was founded by Rev. Thomas W. Merrill, he expected K-College — initially named the Michigan and Huron Institute — to “…shed an enlightening, reforming and sanctifying influence upon the citizens of this Territory,” according to Francis’ book “A Fellowship in Learning: Kalamazoo College, 1833-2008.” Merrill worked to establish a school that was governed by Baptist adherents and imparted both traditional academics and theology. That religious mission is not a present part of campus culture and life at the liberal arts school today.
Is this a sign of continued secularization or something else? Whatever it is, it’s a trend that we’ve seen here in Tennessee in the case of Belmont University, which severed its ties with the TBC a few years back.
It seems that historically ‘Baptist’ schools are dying. I, for one, don’t think this is a particularly good thing.