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 Jacque Smith, Director of Public Relations
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Outlook - September 2005

Quiet Contributions: What Mid-America Union does for Union College

A new elevator provides handicap access to all facilities in the Don Love Building.

by Kate Simmons
        The most dependable weekly occurrence in my home is Dad paying tithe on Sabbath. I can’t remember a Saturday morning when he couldn’t be found rummaging through my mom’s purse for their checkbook so he could write a check to the Centerville, Iowa Seventh-day Adventist church. I don’t think he ever considered holding it back. He has always lived by what he told me: “You can go further on 90 percent with the Lord than you can on 100 percent without Him.”   
        He knew returning tithe was the right thing to do for God. What he didn’t know all those years was that while he was setting an example for me, he was also contributing to the educational environment I was growing toward. Union College is supported by a tithe-driven subsidy from the Mid-America Union Conference. This means every person in every pew in the Mid-America Union (MAU) helps support Adventist higher education by simply returning a consistent tithe. However, many don’t understand how Union College puts tithe subsidy into action.

The impact of tithe dollars
        The Seventh-day Adventist church manual clearly outlines how unions are to calculate the percentage of tithe dollars for disbursement to educational facilities. In 2004, this amount from MAU to Union College was more than $1.7 million. Each year the impact of this subsidy is felt across campus in the areas of administration, academic instruction, student services and spiritual ministries.
        “The college is truly grateful for the subsidy generated by tithe dollars from Mid-America Union’s constituents,” said Gary Bollinger, vice president for financial administration at Union College. “It is our hope that by clearly explaining how the college’s tithe allocation is actually distributed, people will see first-hand how their faithful stewardship is making a direct impact on students, faculty and staff.”
        Tithe dollars support the areas of campus that distinguish Union College from public higher education. From the spiritual lessons learned in religion classes to the practical application of outreach made possible through Campus Ministries, students come to learn and more fully appreciate the value of a life lived in Christian service.
        Offering Christian education is an integrated effort. While Campus Ministries and the Division of Religion receive great support from tithe-driven subsidy, administrative and academic areas are also subsidized. The office of the president, the salaries and benefits of vice presidents for academic administration, financial administration and Student Services, and residence hall deans and staff are impacted through tithe-driven subsidy. Additionally, tithe dollars cover a portion of the salaries and benefits for instructors in Union’s other academic divisions—business and computer science, human development, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, science and mathematics.

Mid-America Union’s other means of support
        The Adventist church views tithe as a specific contract between individuals and God. Because of this, such funds are reserved for certain cases. MAU is aware that some practical costs arise that fall outside these designated areas. It therefore provides needed funds through a separate, special subsidy, so the college’s functional needs are met without straining the spiritual nature of tithe dollars.
        Recently the men’s residence halls on campus have required renovation. When Culver Hall needed its windows worked on in 2003, MAU donated $10,000 to the project. This year, Prescott Hall’s water flow is restricted due to corrosion in the galvanized pipes. MAU is helping foot the bill for new plumbing.
        Handicap access has become a central focus to renovation plans over the past few years. The greatest advance in this regard was recently completed. An elevator has been installed to provide handicap access to the library, Student Center and Teaching Learning Center in the Don Love Building. MAU provided $75,000 to the project.

New facilities
        Dormitory renovation and the provision of handicap access to all facilities, though necessary, aren’t as obvious or exciting as many other special appropriations provided to Union College by MAU. Two more impressive facilities are the Ortner Center and the renovated Student Center. Both these projects received great support from MAU, and both have opened opportunities for the campus.
        The Ortner Center, for which MAU provided $310,000, opened in January 2004. Its facilities not only benefit students, but also campus guests and visitors: E-mail stations offer free Web access to anyone who might need it; Union Market offers several more meal choices than were available in the old cafeteria; Wheatberries bakery has become a community attraction as well.
        “A lot of mornings you can find a few ladies gathered around the bakery, scanning the fresh bread and cinnamon rolls,” said Kristina Beenken, senior psychology major.
        New conference rooms and guest accommodations are another feature of the Ortner Center. Amnesty International met this past school year in the Hagen room to write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and the staff of Clocktower, the school’s newspaper, also used the facilities. During the 2004 spring semester, a student film festival was held in the upper level of the Ortner Center, as was a pre-graduation celebration for several College View Academy students.
        Individuals and organizations not affiliated with Union College have also made use of the conference rooms. Andrews University has held its Master’s and Doctorate of Ministry training sessions there. The facilities have also been used by State Farm Insurance, Nebraska Department of Education, and Lincoln mayor Coleen Seng, who wrote an appreciative letter to Union president David Smith, saying, “My staff and I want to give your facility an all-around A+.”
        MAU’s financial support of the Ortner Center project is recognized on the Tribute Terrace at the front of the building. Mid-America Union is printed on a granite tile, and each conference within MAU—Central States, Iowa-Missouri, Kansas-Nebraska, Rocky Mountain, Minnesota, and Dakota—is represented with an inscription on an individual brick in the terrace floor.

Centered on students
        The Student Center is the most recent campus structure to be renovated. Offering a new color scheme, a spacious lounge, new study rooms with electronic capabilities, and a new game room, the new Student Center opened in April and has already been well used.
         “As always, Mid-America Union provided financial leadership by making one of the first gifts to the Student Center campaign, as well as one of the last, which challenged other donors to help finish the project,” said LuAnn Davis, vice president for Advancement at Union College. “That kind of leadership is highly valued in philanthropy.”
        Costs to renovate amounted to about $200,000. Contributors of the largest amounts are acknowledged on plaques throughout the Student Center. Because MAU provided $25,000 to the project, the comfortably furnished sitting area has been named the Mid-America Union Lounge.
        The list of projects aided by special subsidy from MAU is a long one. In 2004 alone, MAU provided Union College with special subsidy of more than $140,000. This is in addition to the tithe-driven regular operating subsidy. Gary Bollinger best communicated the importance of MAU to Union College. “Mid-America Union is a key and generous contributor,” he said. “It goes the second mile in supporting Union College.”
        When MAU headquarters relocated in 1998 and sold its old offices, $1 million of proceeds from the sale were given to Union College for debt reduction. G. Tom Evans, vice president for finance at MAU, noted that while his first responsibility is to see that MAU’s own capital and the capital of its subsidiary conferences is secure, Union College is a major priority. “As we have surplus, we try to give to the college,” he said. “We at Mid-America Union look at Union College as our college and are quite eager to see it succeed.”
        Within the Mid-America Adventist community of faith, every individual is a contributor to the furtherance of Christian higher education. From tithe returned by small-town church members, to special appropriations voted by MAU’s executive committee, Union College benefits from the faithfulness and generosity of Mid-America’s Adventist constituents.