Atlantic Union College

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Atlantic Union College
Atlantic Union College - 1.jpg
MottoFiat Lux
Motto in English
Let There Be Light
Active1882 as a preparatory school, 1922 as a degree-granting college–2018
AffiliationSeventh-day Adventist Church
PresidentDr. Avis D. Hendrickson
Location, ,

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

Atlantic Union College (AUC) was a Seventh-day Adventist college in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, founded in 1882.

As of 2018, the college offered two bachelor's degree programs, the BA in Theology/Religion and the BS in Biology/Health Science, as well as several certificate programs.

From 1933 to 2018, AUC was a four-year liberal arts college with a peak enrollment of over 700 students.[1] After a financial crisis in 2011 it suspended bachelor's degree programs, then resumed them on a smaller scale in 2015. In February 2018, the college announced that it would permanently close after the spring 2018 semester.[2] Currently, several educational and church programs continue on the campus, especially the Thayer Performing Arts Center.


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.[3] 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".[4] The next year, it was incorporated and renamed South Lancaster Academy.[4] In 1918, it was renamed: Lancaster Junior College.[4] Then, in 1922, it was yet again renamed Atlantic Union College after being authorized to grant degrees in the state of Massachusetts.[4] 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.

Lengthy legal & financial struggles[edit]

In October 1997, Bruce Wells, AUC's Dean, appointed by President Lashley, precipitated criticism for approaching 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.[5] Six years later, Sylvan Lashley, left the college. There was an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education studied Title IV student aid funds, on which the vast majority of the college's 500 students were dependent at that time.

In 1993, with 82% of enrolled students receiving financial aid,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12][13][14]

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.[15] 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.[16][17] 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.[18]

Temporary restart[edit]

After 2011 some non-degree educational activities continued at Atlantic Union. Performing arts instruction continued at the Thayer Performing Arts Center, and a certificate program in evangelism was instituted in 2013, the Northeast Evangelism Training School. Following a site visit by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) and the appointment of a new interim president late in 2012,[19] the college won approval by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to offer two degrees beginning in 2013.[20][21][22]

The college also began pursuing non-degree educational program. In 2013 it became the home of the Northeast Evangelism Training School.[23] The following year, the college began offering three non-higher education programs.[24]

In November 2014 Dr. Avis D. Hendrickson was appointed president of the college, the first woman to hold that post. A few months later in April 2015 the college announced the launch of two Bachelor's level academic programs to begin later that year: 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.

Final closure[edit]

Despite the new programs launched by the college, it continued to experience severe financial struggles. After receiving a report from an independent task force, the college's governing board voted in February 2018 to close the college. Degree programs closed at the end of the spring semester and certificate programs closed at the end of the summer.[2]


Atlantic Union College is located on 135-acres in Lancaster Massachusetts.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]
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.[28] 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.[29]
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.[29]
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.[30]
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.[31] In 1972, the College moved the music department from Founder's Hall to Thayer mansion making it a music conservatory.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34] 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.[35]

During the 1990s, the administration of Dr. Sylvan Lashley was accused of infractions from racial discrimination to mishandling of student aid funds, which resulted in a federal investigation. Lashley contends that the employees who filed accused the administration of reverse discrimination when it brought its own internal investigation to bear on certain practices by some local employees who had a long history with the college. [36] 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.

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".


Presidents of the College

  • (2014–2018) 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. ^ Wehtje, Myron F. (1982). And There Was Light. South Lancaster, MA: The Atlantic Press. p. 244.
  2. ^ a b Atlantic Union College (February 23, 2018). "Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee and Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees Vote to Suspend the Baccalaureate Program at Atlantic Union College". Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  3. ^ "Washington Adventist University and Atlantic Union College Vote Memorandum of Understanding". Washington Adventist University. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Hokama, Dennis (July – August 1999). "Is Atlantic Union College In Its Final Death Throws, or Prospering" (PDF). Adventist Today. 7 (4): Back Cover. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2013.
  6. ^ Ekeler, William (1994). The Black Student's Guide to College Success. p. 255. ISBN 0-313-29431-3.
  7. ^ "One Delegate's view of the Atlantic Union College constituency meeting".
  8. ^ "A summary of the Atlantic Union constituency meeting, March 31, 1996, South Lancaster, MA, at the College Church".
  9. ^ "The Atlantic Union College Crisis" (PDF). SDA Defend.
  10. ^ Nugent, Karen (February 12, 2003). "Lashley resigns Atlantic Union post". Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on April 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION REQUEST FOR COMMITTEE AND BOARD ACTION" (PDF). Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  12. ^ "Atlantic Union Conference". Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  13. ^ "Public Statement on Atlantic Union College" (PDF). New England Association of Schools and Colleges. September 16, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 20, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  14. ^ Carpenter, Alexander (February 17, 2011). "Atlantic Union College Loses Regional Accreditation, But Will Continue". Spectrum Blog. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
  15. ^ Carpenter, Alexander (March 10, 2011). "Washington Adventist University to Open a Branch Campus at Atlantic Union College". Spectrum Blog. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Update on the Establishment of WAU Branch Campus at Atlantic Union College". Washington Adventist University. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  19. ^ "AUC Board Appoints New Interim President". AUC. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  20. ^ "Atlantic Union Wins Approval Of 2 Programs". WB Journal.
  21. ^ "Update Re Degree-Granting Authority at Atlantic Union College". AUC. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "Update on Atlantic Union College - Feb 11 2013". Atlantic Union College. Archived from the original on December 5, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  23. ^ Michael Hartwell (November 26, 2013). "Atlantic Union College launches evangelistic training program". Sentinel and Enterprise.
  24. ^ "AUC Board Votes Certificate Programs". AUC.EDU. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  25. ^ "Location". AUC. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  26. ^ Jones, G. Eric (December 21, 1945). "Long Range Planning" (PDF). Atlantic Union Gleaner. XLIV (50).
  27. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 62.
  28. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 58.
  29. ^ a b "Residence Halls". Atlantic Union College. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  30. ^ Lennon, Heather (2005). Lancaster Revisited. Arcardia Publishing. p. 68.
  31. ^ "The Homestead - The Nathaniel Thayer Estate". AUC. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  32. ^ "Thayer Performing Arts Center". AUC. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  33. ^ "Recreation Center". AUC. Archived from the original on December 12, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  34. ^ "Student Body Size and Diversity". EdRef. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014.
  35. ^ "Student Profile". National Application Center. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  36. ^ Carmichael, Mary (September 7, 2011). "College Drops Out". Boston Globe.

External links[edit]