Atlantic Union College

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Atlantic Union College
Atlantic Union College - 1.jpg
Motto “Fiat Lux” (“Let There Be Light)
Established 1882
Type Private, four-year Liberal Arts
Affiliation Seventh-day Adventist Church
President Dr. Avis D. Hendrickson
Location South Lancaster, Massachusetts, US
42°26′42.26″N 71°41′9.41″W / 42.4450722°N 71.6859472°W / 42.4450722; -71.6859472Coordinates: 42°26′42.26″N 71°41′9.41″W / 42.4450722°N 71.6859472°W / 42.4450722; -71.6859472
Campus Rural
Affiliations COWC

Atlantic Union College (AUC) is a Seventh-day Adventist college in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. It suspended bachelor's degree programs in May, 2011 after a financial crisis and an ensuing loss of accreditation, but resumed them in August 2015. In the meantime, the college continued operation by way of its renowned Thayer Performing Arts Center. As of November, 2013, it has additionally been the home of a certificate program for instruction in evangelism - NETS, the Northeast Evangelism Training School.

Two bachelors level degrees are currently available at AUC - the BA in Theology/Religion, and the BS in Biology/ Health Science, as well as several certificate programs. Classes began on August 24, 2015.


The plaque in the foreground reads: "Site of the Parsonage of Rev. Edmund Hamilton Sears, Minister of the First Church of Christ 1840–1847, Author of the Christmas Hymn 'It Came Upon a Midnight Clear'. Lancaster Historical Commission


Founded in 1882, Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster, Mass. is the oldest campus in the Seventh-day Adventist worldwide educational system.[1] In 1882, the school was organized as a preparatory school under the leadership of Adventist 'pioneer' Stephen Nelson Haskell to serve the needs of Adventist constituents in the northeastern part of the United States and Bermuda, and was named "That New England School".[2] The next year, it was incorporated and renamed South Lancaster Academy.[2] In 1918, it was renamed: Lancaster Junior College.[2] Then, in 1922, it was yet again renamed Atlantic Union College after being authorized to grant degrees in the state of Massachusetts.[2] That year, the academy and college separated. In 1933, Governor Joseph Ely granted AUC the right to confer the bachelor of arts degree. In 1945, the school was first accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In 1954, it was authorized to grant the bachelor of science degree. Herbert E. Douglass was president from 1967 to 1970. In 1990, Atlantic Union College was authorized to grant the master of education degree.l

Crisis and closure[edit]

In 1993, with 82% of enrolled students receiving financial aid,[3] there was a high default rate on student loans and enrollment was dropping well below projections. An auditor's report had shown the college was "essentially bankrupt" and at the time was at least $3 million in debt.[4] By the Fall of 1994, another enrollment drop forced them to borrow $2 million to get through the 94-95 school year; a violation of North American Division working policy to borrow money for operating purposes. In May 1995, the AUC had $6.2 million in debt. Approximately $3 million was owed to the Atlantic Union Revolving Fund and $2.4 million owed to the General Conference.[5] By August 1995, AUC met their first cash crunch and were forced to dip into the endowment funds to meet payroll. This process was repeated in November and December of the same year until the endowment funds were exhausted.[6]

In 1998, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges issued 28 citations to Atlantic Union after an on-site visit. Most pertained to problems with finances, fund raising, the curriculum, student services, and faculty pay.[7]

After a focused evaluation in 2001, the Massachusetts Commission on Institutions of Higher Education recommended to the Board of Trustees for NEASC that the College’s accreditation be terminated. In December 2003, the Board of Trustees placed the College on probation.[8]

In 2008, NEASC placed the College on probation status due to "failure to meet [its] Standard on Financial Resources". In February 2011, it was announced that Atlantic Union College would lose its accreditation on July 31, 2011.[9][10][11]

The AUC board of trustees undertook negotiations with Washington Adventist University with the aim of establishing a branch campus of WAU on AUC's former campus.[12] However. AUC President Norman Wendth announced in July that the plan had not gained approval from the Massachusetts Department of Education in time for the Fall 2011 school term. All 179 faculty and staff at AUC were laid off on July 31, 2011.[13][14] Only one of the 450 enrolled students failed to find a new college in time for the fall semester, while all nursing students transferred to Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Massachusetts. Adult degree program and distance learning students were not affected and automatically became students of Washington Adventist University.

In October 2011 the AUC board of trustees voted to suspend any further negotiations for a branch of WAU after the institutions were unable to reach an operating agreement.[15]

Restart of Academic Programs[edit]

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) performed a site visit on October 2, 2012, to evaluate the reestablishment of degree-granting authority.

On November 11, 2012, the Atlantic Union College (AUC) Board of Trustees appointed Duane M. Cady, M.D. as interim president.[16]

On June 18, 2013, Atlantic Union College won approval by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to offer two degrees. The approved degrees are a Bachelor of Arts in Theology/Religion and a Bachelor of Science in Health Science/Biology. The college is currently pursuing accreditation through several avenues.[17][18][19]

In November 2013, the College became the home of a non-degree educational program, the Northeast Evangelism Training School.[20]

Upon the recommendation of the AUC Strategic Planning Committee, the AUC Board of Trustees, on May 5, 2014, voted to authorize the offering of three non-higher education programs approved by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.[21] In November, 2014, the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Avis D. Hendrickson as President. She serves as the first woman to hold this position in the College's 133-year history.

On April 18, 2015, Dr. Hendrickson announced the launch of two Bachelor's level academic programs to begin August, 2015: a B.A. in Religion/Theology, and a B.S. in Health Sciences/Biology. Certificate programs are also offered at the Northeast Evangelism Training School (NETS), the new English as a second language center, as well as in the areas of business, and computer sciences.


Atlantic Union College is located on 135-acres in Lancaster Massachusetts.[22]

Founders Hall Description
Atlantic Union College - Founder's Hall
The Gothic style/Queen Anne style hall was constructed in 1883/1884 under the direction of Stephen N. Haskell and foreman Chapin Henry Harris. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Stephan H. Haskell Hall Description
Haskell Hall
Haskell Hall is used as administration offices and classrooms, with the attached Machlan Auditorium, capable of seating 1,200.[23] Plans for the building had been developed since 1938, but due to World War II, the shortage of materials prevented the building to be completed until 1952.[24]
Preston Hall Description
Picture Not Yet Available Preston Hall has primarily been used as the Women's Dormitory. Construction began in 1939 and was completed in 1943.[25] Two wing additions were added in 1963 and 1967. The building can house 240 women. The building was named after Rachel Oakes Preston who was a Seventh-day Baptist in Washington, New Hampshire. She resided with Elder Frederick Wheeler, pastor of a small congregation that had become Millerites. Wheeler's urging that all the Ten Commandments be obeyed led her to discuss the Sabbath with him. He and part of his congregation accepted her idea and the first Seventh-day Adventist church was formed.[26]
Lenheim Hall Description
Picture Not Yet Available Lenheim Hall has been the Men's Dormitory since it was completed in 1956. The architectural design was influenced by President L. M. Stump, who had come from California, so this building is architecturally not in sync with the other campus buildings. Very unusual building techniques were used—entire floors were cast in concrete as one unit and then jacked up to their proper height and fastened to their vertical pillars. One floor unexpectedly collapsed and caused an expensive and timely setback. It was named in honor of Louis E. Lenheim, who was at the time the president of Atlantic Union Conference. Lenheim Hall can house 180 men. AUC's swimming pool is also in the basement.[26]
Chan Shun Dining Commons Description
Picture Not Yet Available Chan Shun Dining Commons is the primary cafeteria used by students and faculty. It was built in 1995 largely through the generosity of the Chinese Philanthropist Chan Shun. The main dining area has seating for 300 in addition to other function rooms.[27]
Thayer Hall Description
Thayer music building
Now known as the Thayer Performing Arts Center. the house, with acres of land, was purchased by the college in 1944. The mansion quickly became known as Thayer Hall, and housed the college administration building and library. When Haskell Hall was completed, it was turned into a men's dormitory for the college. When Lenheim Hall was completed most of the college men moved out of the building. South Lancaster Academy used it for a boys' dormitory for some years until Pioneer Valley Academy became the boarding academy for the conference.[28] In 1972 Jon Robertson, chair of the music department of Atlantic Union College, moved the music department from Founder’s Hall to Thayer mansion making it a music conservatory.[29] It is now houses the Thayer Performing Arts Center, offering music education to Adventist musicians and students from surrounding schools. A number of ensembles and orchestras, including the Atlantic Wind Symphony and the Youth Ensemble of New England, are based at AUC/Thayer.
The G. Eric Jones Library Description
Picture Not Yet Available The G. Eric Jones Library was built in 1970 and contains a gift of a thousand volumes from the private library of poet Edwin Markham.[citation needed]
W. G. Nelson Field House Description
Picture Not Yet Available The W. G. Nelson Field House is home to the athletic facilities and Physical Education Department. The facility includes Cybex weight training equipment, basketball, handball, and tennis courts. Athletic fields for football, and soccer are behind the center.[30]

Racial & ethnic profile[edit]

Atlantic Union College has been for some time a thoroughly diverse academic environment. Co educational since its founding, it has long served the full range of ethnicities of Seventh day Adventists, both in the northeast of the U.S. and around the world. It has been a Minority Serving Institution as defined by the Office of Civil Rights, as well as a Hispanic Serving Institution, for federal financial aid purposes.[31] While racial and ethnic proportions have varied, during the college's last year of operation in 2011, ethnicity of the student body was 65.7% Black or African American, 16.7% Hispanic/Latino, 6.9% White, 5.9% Asian, 3.9% Race and/or Ethnicity unknown and 1.0% Two or more races non-Hispanic/Latino.[32]

In January 2003 a former employee filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination charging President Sylvan Lashley and assistant Dwight Carnegie with reverse discrimination, and in October 2006 an ethnically charged disturbance broke out between Haitian and Bermudan students after a soccer game.

In the spring of 2015, the AUC Board of Trustees created a "Reconciliation and Unity" committee to address the lingering effects of past tensions, both social and personal. On April 18, 2015, a "Reconciliation and Unity Forum" was held, with frank, open and constructive dialogue, at the Machlan Auditorium. On May 11, the Board approved the final 8 point Resolution on Reconciliation and Unity was approved, including the declaration to "create a new and safe culture at AUC that includes graciousness, dignity, respect and love", and a plan to "schedule town hall meetings throughout the Atlantic Union territory to share the principles of reconciliation and unity".

Legal troubles[edit]

In October 1997, Bruce Wells, AUC's Dean, appointed by President Lashley, approached surprised town selectmen in the neighboring town of Clinton for permission to use a Clinton address to sell used cars out of the college's parking lot in Lancaster in order to circumvent the Town of Lancaster's local zoning laws.[33]

In 2003, its president at the time, Sylvan Lashley, left under a cloud. His administration was accused of infractions from racial discrimination to mishandling of student aid funds, which resulted in a federal investigation.[34] The Federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education focused on the college's handling of Title IV student aid funds, on which the vast majority of the college’'s 500 students were dependent.

On January 30, 2008, a lawsuit was filed in the Worcester Superior Court against a former Atlantic Union College choir director and music professor, for allegedly sexually abusing four students and a consultant in 2005 and 2006.[35]

In March 2009, AUC was fined $177,500 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after the discovery of a leak in a 500-gallon oil tank located in the Colleges Power Plant. The EPA found that Atlantic Union College did not have a spill prevention control and countermeasure plan, a violation of the Clean Water Act and did not have a legally required secondary containment system around the tank.[36]


Presidents of the College

  • (2014–Present) Dr. Avis D. Hendrickson
  • (2012–2014) Duane M. Cady, M.D. (interim)
  • (2008–2012) Norman L. Wendth
  • (2003–2008) Dr. George Babcock
  • (1996–2003) Dr. Sylvan A. Lashley
  • (1994–1996) J. Londis
  • (1984–1992) Dr. Larry Geraty
  • (1980–1984) Dr. Larry Lewis
  • (1975-1980) Dr. R. Dale McCune
  • (1970-1975) William G. Nelson
  • (1967–1970) Herbert E. Douglass
  • (1960-1967) Robert L. Reynolds
  • (1953-1960) Lawrence M. Stump
  • (1948-1953) Lewis N. Holm
  • (1936-1948) C. Eric Jones
  • (1928-1936) Otto John
  • (1927-1928) Nelson H. Saunders
  • (1921-1927) Benjamin F. Machlan (First Named "Atlantic Union College" 1922)
  • (1920-1921) Otto John/George Lehman
  • (1917-1920) Mahlon E. Olsen

Heads of the School prior to Incorporation as a College

  • (1916-1917) William G. Wirth
  • (1912-1916) Benjamin F. Machlan
  • (1909-1912) Charles S. Longacre
  • (1907-1909) Benjamin F. Machlan
  • (1899-1907) Frederick Griggs
  • (1894-1899) Joseph Haughey
  • (1888-1894) George Caviness
  • (1885-1888) Charles C. Ramsey
  • (1884-1885) Dores Robinson
  • (1882-1884) Goodloe Harper Bell

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Wehtje, Myron F. (1982). And There was Light. Atlantic Press. 

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Washington Adventist University and Atlantic Union College Vote Memorandum of Understanding". Washington Adventist University. 
  2. ^ a b c d ''American universities and colleges: a dictionary of name changes'' by Alice H. Songe. Rowman & Littlefield (1978), p. 12. Google Books. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  3. ^ Ekeler, William (1994). The Black Student's Guide to College Success. p. 255. ISBN 0-313-29431-3. 
  4. ^ "One Delegate's view of the Atlantic Union College constituency meeting.". 
  5. ^ "A summary of the Atlantic Union constituency meeting, March 31, 1996, South Lancaster, MA, at the College Church.". 
  6. ^ "The Atlantic Union College Crisis" (PDF). SDA Defend. 
  7. ^ Nugent, Karen (February 12, 2003). "Lashley resigns Atlantic Union post". Telegram & Gazette. 
  8. ^ "BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION REQUEST FOR COMMITTEE AND BOARD ACTION" (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Atlantic Union Conference". Retrieved May 6, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Public Statement on Atlantic Union College" (PDF). New England Association of Schools and Colleges. September 16, 2010. 
  11. ^ Carpenter, Alexander (February 17, 2011). "Atlantic Union College Loses Regional Accreditation, But Will Continue". Spectrum Blog. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  12. ^ Carpenter, Alexander (March 10, 2011). "Washington Adventist University to Open a Branch Campus at Atlantic Union College.". Spectrum Blog. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  13. ^ Nugent, Karen (July 22, 2011). "All Atlantic Union College employees being let go". Telegram and Gazette: News (Worcester, Massachusetts: Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.). Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  14. ^ Jones, Kathleen; Proctor, Carole (Compilers). "The 147th Annual Statistical Report of Seventh-day Adventist Conferences, Missions, and Institutions Throughout the World for the Year Ending December 31, 2009" (PDF). Silver Spring, Maryland: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. p. 40. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Update on the Establishment of WAU Branch Campus at Atlantic Union College". Washington Adventist University. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  16. ^ "AUC Board Appoints New Interim President". AUC. 
  17. ^ "Atlantic Union Wins Approval Of 2 Programs". WB Journal. 
  18. ^ "Update Re Degree-Granting Authority at Atlantic Union College". AUC. 
  19. ^ "Update on Atlantic Union College - Feb 11 2013". Atlantic Union College. 
  20. ^ Michael Hartwell (November 26, 2013). "Atlantic Union College launches evangelistic training program". Sentinel and Enterprise. 
  21. ^ "AUC Board Votes Certificate Programs". AUC.EDU. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Location". AUC. 
  23. ^ Jones, G. Eric (December 21, 1945). "Long Range Planning" (PDF). Atlantic Union Gleaner XLIV (50). 
  24. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 62. 
  25. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 58. 
  26. ^ a b "Residence Halls". Atlantic Union College. 
  27. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 68. 
  28. ^ "The Homestead - The Nathaniel Thayer Estate". AUC. Retrieved 12/6/13.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  29. ^ "Thayer Performing Arts Center". AUC. 
  30. ^ "Recreation Center". AUC. 
  31. ^ "Student Body Size and Diversity". EdRef. Retrieved 2005. 
  32. ^ "Student Profile". National Application Center. Retrieved December 2012. 
  33. ^ Hokama, Dennis (July–August 1999). "Is Atlantic Union College In Its Final Death Throws, or Prospering" (PDF). Adventist Today 7 (4): Back Cover. 
  34. ^ Carmichael, Mary (September 7, 2011). "College Drops Out". Boston Globe. 
  35. ^ Karen, Nugent. "Five name college in sex abuse suit". Telegram. 
  36. ^ Crotty, Jason. "No cheap spill: EPA seeks $200k in fines from local college". Wicked Local. Retrieved March 19, 2009. 

External links[edit]