A Tale of Two Colleges
Lon Morris College and Louisburg College aren’t in the same town or state, but it’s the history, curriculum, student body, and even struggles that brought the current college presidents together to make the two private educational institutions unite as “sister schools.”
On Thursday, September 29th, Louisburg’s College President, Dr. Mark David La Branche, visited the campus of Lon Morris College. For two days, Dr. La Branche visited with administration, faculty and staff to share the challenges his college faced and how their learning community overcame it.
Dr. La Branche said the reason for visiting Lon Morris College was not only to offer support to administration and faculty, but begin to develop a growing relationship between the two historical colleges. “Dr. McCall and I and some other president’s who have a national group of presidents come together a couple of times a year and we committed to be mentors to each other. There are things that are here at Lon Morris that I could learn and that there are things at Louisburg College that Lon Morris could learn from.”
Just as LMC is the oldest two year school in the State of Texas, Louisburg College has been serving students for over 220 years, as the oldest two-year college in the nation. As a college related by faith to the United Methodist Church, Louisburg is also the only two-year residential college in North Carolina. It also draws nearly 800 students and employs about 130 people to a small community similar to Jacksonville.
“It just so happens that Louisburg College and Lon Morris College have a great deal in common, including the fact that Louisburg College went through some difficult times a few years ago,” La Branche said.
Having both evolved from a Female Academy, the colleges have always demonstrated their number one mission; which is to give every person the opportunity to get an education. With over 375 combined years of changes, both colleges strongly value and understand the importance of diversity. Today, the campuses are made up of young men and women, both nationally and internationally. Students come from all different walks of life and are ethnically diverse. LMC and Louisburg also offer a unique academic program for students with learning disabilities.
Dr. McCall says while the schools are similar in student size and population, many of the recent changes at Lon Morris College also took place at Louisburg College; changes that ultimately led to a positive turn around. “The similarities between the two colleges are truly remarkable; from having similar histories and struggles to bringing back a football program, we are definitely mirror images of one another,” Dr. McCall said.
In the 20th Century, the colleges shared a very similar story. During the Great Depression, both institutions were burdened with debt and a shrinking enrollment. A period of revitalization and growth occurred for the institutions during the administration of two popular presidents, ironically both named Cecil. Under the late Dr. Cecil Peeples
(LMC President 1935-1973) and the late Cecil W. Robbins (Louisburg President 1955-1974) enrollment, faculty size, budget, and physical plants were significantly increased and improved. Historically, keeping the doors open has always been a challenge and priority for the two non-profit Christian institutions.
Dr. La Branche said the most important thing to take away from this experience is how the two colleges can learn from one another. In the near future, Dr. McCall will visit Louisburg College to provide insight on the programming offered at Lon Morris College.
“I’ve had the opportunity to learn and really come to be supportive and let people know that what we do as two year private, residential liberal arts college is extremely important. It’s a great mission and its worthy of our struggle. They will get through this and that’s my focus for being here. We stand as a sister institution ready to assist the college with any information we have,” La Branche said.