Tennessee Temple University, after almost 70 years in operation in Highland Park, is set to close after this semester.
Trustees are set to vote on Tuesday morning to merge Temple with Piedmont International University of Winston-Salem, N.C. Students who are not graduating this semester would have the option to continue their education there. Bryan College in Dayton, Tn., and Shorter College at Rome, Ga., would be other options.
The closing follows the shutdown several years ago of Tennessee Temple High School.
The merger with Piedmont will officially take place on April 30, pending the approval of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools which is the accrediting body for both universities.
Dr. Lee Roberson, the longtime pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church, had long led both schools, which once had flourishing student bodies. Temple University currently has some 300 students.
Temple had hoped to move to property that was offered by Woodland Park Baptist Church on Standifer Gap Road. However, the university was unable to raise the $3 million to $5 million needed to launch the move and build the initial buildings. There were also delays due to low-lying land at the property.
Dr. Steve Echols, the final Temple president, said, “Woodland Park Baptist Church has been incredibly gracious to open up their campus to Tennessee Temple, and we are disappointed the move ultimately did not work out,” said Echols. “Yet, when God closes one door, He always opens another door. We believe that new door is our merger with Piedmont International University.”
He said, “Understandably, the news will initially be very difficult for our students, faculty and staff, but ultimately we believe the merge will result in a healthier, stronger institution. During this time, we will do everything we can to make the merge as seamless as possible.”
Following the transition, he said Tennessee Temple’s online students "should expect decreases in their tuition rates with minimal interruptions due to the merge. TTU’s online education program will be transferred in its entirety to PIU. Likewise, the school’s residential students who move to the Winston-Salem campus will experience a drop in tuition and other fees of more than 25 percent. Residential students who choose not to move to Winston-Salem may complete their degrees online through PIU, with the same discount. They also will have opportunities to complete their degrees at a comparable cost—and with an unaffected graduation date— at either Shorter University in Rome, Ga., or Bryan College in Dayton, Tn." He "expressed deep appreciation to these institutions for graciously extending this offer to TTU students."
Temple earlier sold its school property to Redemption Point Church.It has plans to set up a Bible college at the location.
Temple still owns some six acres in Rossville at the current location of WDYN radio station. That property is for sale.
Officials said the school will close debt free due to the sale of the property.
Established in the mid-1940s, the two universities have a connection that stretches back to their founders, Dr. Charles Stevens and Dr. Lee Roberson, officials said. "The forefathers were close friends who echoed each other’s founding visions. Remarkably, Dr. Roberson once told Dr. Howard Wilburn, then president of Piedmont, 'Dr. Stevens and I were great friends, and we established Piedmont and Tennessee Temple within months of each other. The two of us had a gentlemen’s agreement that if either school ever faltered, the two would come together.' Others have also cited Dr. Roberson making mention of this agreement."
“Little did our founders know that their pledge of support to each other would find fruition nearly 70 years later,” said Dr. Echols. “Merging with Piedmont International University is a once in a generation opportunity. Piedmont International is a well-respected, outstanding Christian institution of higher education whose impact through the years for the cause of Christ is immeasurable. We are grateful to have an opportunity to join with them in our common mission of seeing lives changed for the glory of God.”
Temple officials said,"A portion of Tennessee Temple’s current faculty and staff will be employed by Piedmont International University.
It is hoped that the early announcement will allow remaining faculty and staff sufficient time to find other positions.
"Tennessee Temple University’s legacy will be preserved through the addition of Temple Baptist Seminary to Piedmont International University, as well as the showcasing of TTU memorabilia on PIU’s campus. Additionally, a Tennessee Temple Scholarship has been established at PIU which will provide a one-third discount on tuition for current TTU students, as well as any student who has previously taken courses at Tennessee Temple. The scholarship will also be available on a continual basis to current faculty and staff, as well as their children and grandchildren.
"Beyond this legacy, TTU constituents can take heart that the lives changed through the ministry of Tennessee Temple University will glorify God forever."
School history from the university website:
On July 3, 1946, Highland Park Baptist Church, under the leadership of the pastor, Dr. Lee Roberson, voted to establish Tennessee Temple College (now University). Then, recognizing the lack of sound Biblical training in the majority of the seminaries, Dr. Roberson led the church in establishing Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on January 26,1948. Dr. Roberson served as president, and Dr. Alfred Cierpke as dean. Five years later, the name was changed to Temple Baptist Theological Seminary since the Southern Baptist Convention founded a seminary by the former name. Since 1985, the institution has been known as Temple Baptist Seminary. In 1962, Dr. Douglas Cravens assumed the position of dean.
With the assumption of the presidency of the university and seminary by Dr. J. Don Jennings in 1985, Dr. Roger Martin was named dean.
In June 1993, the university and the seminary were restructured, placing each under the supervision of a separate Board of Trustees and administrative leadership, while maintaining the identity of each as owned by and a ministry of Highland Park Baptist Church. With respect to the seminary, Dr. Lee Roberson was reappointed chancellor, Dr. David E. Bouler, who had been the senior pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church since August 4, 1991, was named vice-chancellor and Dr. Barkev S. Trachian was elected president. The seminary charter was amended in August 1993, to make the name Temple Baptist Seminary official.
April 2005 saw the university and seminary restructured a second time, reuniting the two under the supervision of a single Board of Trustees and the administration of Dr. J. Danny Lovett, the seventh president of Tennessee Temple University, with Temple Baptist Seminary re-establishing itself as the premier graduate division as originally envisioned by the founder, Dr. Lee Roberson. This restructure was confirmed in late November 2005 by the university’s and seminary’s accrediting agency. Fixed firmly to its foundations, Temple Baptist Seminary is committed to training qualified candidates for dynamic leadership in Bible-believing churches and related field ministries, to shaping His shepherds, and to developing disciples with the unchanging Word of God on a global scale.
From the outset, the seminary has been committed to upholding the biblical faith historically believed by Baptists. In addition there has been a strong emphasis upon Bible teaching, Christian education, evangelism, and ministry endeavor. With the theme “Preparing for Leadership,” TBS continues to expand its efforts to equip both church leaders and laypersons for the work of the ministry. In recent years, a program of winter and summer modular classes has been initiated. This program has become very popular with both resident and out-of-town students. Nearly all Temple Baptist Seminary’s courses are available on-line, enabling studies anywhere worldwide!
Temple Baptist Seminary has matriculated students from almost every state and from many foreign countries. Many graduates have distinguished themselves as pastors, military and civilian chaplains, teachers, educators, missionaries, and evangelists.
In 2012, TTU realigned its academic programs into three colleges of schools. The Seminary became a part of the School of Theology and Ministry. Also in September 2012, Highland Park Baptist Church announced its visions to relocate to Harrison, TN and change its name to Church of the Highlands. During this transition, changes to the TTU by-laws were unanimously ratified by both the Board of Trustees of TTU and the deacon body of the Church of the Highlands. These by-law changes have ended the formal relationship between the two entities. Yet the heritage of Highland Park Baptist Church will remain an essential part of the lasting legacy of TTU.
In 2013, Dr. Howard D. Owens became the Interim Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry, under the presidency of Dr. Steven F. Echols.