Missouri Baptists debate college name change - Word&Way

Missouri Baptists debate college name change

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (ABP) — The Missouri Baptist Convention renamed Hannibal-LaGrange College Oct. 26 to Hannibal-LaGrange University after alumni campaigned to retain the "LaGrange" part of the moniker.

Hannibal-LaGrange campus

Messengers to the annual meeting voted 593-360 to amend a motion presented on behalf of the school's trustees to change the name of the four-year, liberal arts college with about 1,150 students to University of Hannibal.

After the ballot the school's president and trustee chairman stepped forward to tell messengers they also would accept the amendment. A second public vote passed nearly unanimously, according to a report in the Quincy (Ill.) Herald-Whig.

"We are pleased to move forward as HLGU," Woodrow Burt, a 31-year administrator at Hannibal-LaGrange College who has served as president since 1995, said in a statement following the second vote. 

Woodrow Burt

College trustees voted three times in favor of the University of Hannibal name to ensure a two-thirds majority of the entire board required to change the school's charter. While preferred by the administration and trustee board, the proposed name was unpopular with many alumni.

A Facebook group titled "Hannibal LaGrange College Name Change" supporting the use of "university" while opposed to dropping the "LaGrange" portion of the name grew to 339 members. "Please don't let our establishment lose it roots by naming it University of Hannibal," group administrator Melissa Hawker, a 1990 graduate, implored. "Please make the name Hannibal LaGrange University."

Founded in 1858 in the Mississippi River town of LaGrange, Mo., the La Grange Male and Female College flourished until the Civil War but afterward struggled to recover from debt. In 1928 the institution merged with Hannibal College and moved 30 miles downriver to Hannibal, Mo., where it became known as Hannibal-LaGrange College.

Past presidents of the school include Larry Lewis, who headed the college from 1981 until his election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board in 1987.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.