2 finalists named for free Massachusetts campus from billionaire Oklahoma family

By JAY LINDSAY Modified: June 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm •  Published: June 5, 2012

BOSTON (AP) — The billionaire family from Oklahoma that's giving away a 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts has narrowed the potential recipients to two.

Grand Canyon University, a for-profit Christian school in Arizona, and the North American Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Convention's missions and evangelism arm, are the last groups in the running for the Northfield site.

The two were chosen from a parade of Christian groups that have toured the former campus of the Northfield Mount Hermon prep school, founded by 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody.

“Both finalists will be able to carry on (Moody's) heritage for another century,” said Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and member of the family that's giving away the campus.

Grand Canyon, which has 7,000 traditional students and 40,000 online students at its Phoenix campus, would establish a second campus, where it hopes to draw as many as 4,800 traditional students and base its online student enrollment in the Northeast.

The Southern Baptist board would train some of the 1,000 missionaries it sends out annually to start churches in the U.S. and Canada. The campus would also become a foundation for denominational expansion in the Northeast, and a badly needed retreat center for some of the convention's tens of thousands of pastors.

Both finalists are being asked to consider making space at the campus for the Redemption Christian Academy, a historically black prep school in upstate New York that's interested in moving there.

The Greens are expected to make a decision in the next several weeks.

The family bought the property in 2009, five years after the prep school left to escape deferred maintenance and other costs. They value the campus at $20 million, though they bought it for $100,000 because the previous owners wanted out. They intended to give it to a new college named for Christian scholar C.S. Lewis, but those plans fell through, so the Greens offered to give the campus to a theologically conservative Christian group that promised to honor Moody's legacy.

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