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A “Mere” Seed of Hope and Renewal in the Pioneer Valley; The C.S. Lewis College

This is a picture of the Northfield Mount Hermon School campus in Northfield, Massachusetts:

Beautiful, isn’t it.

Amidst New England’s many colleges and universities, there is a plethora of a prestigious preparatory schools like Mount Hermon. For some time, the future of this pristine campus had been unknown. It had become too expensive for the school to maintain. Now, it is being reported that the campus will serve as the home of the new C.S. Lewis College.

An Oklahoma billionaire bought the property and is handing it off to the C.S. Lewis Foundation. The foundation was created by Stanley Mattson to preserve the legacy of C.S. Lewis. They had been seeking a location for a new Christian College. The Boston Globe reports:

After considering sites around the country and initially rejecting Northfield, the former professor visited the campus on a whim and found a spectacular Oxford-like setting where even the lampposts were “an English-looking Narnia style,’’

“I looked down at the Pioneer Valley aflame with fall foliage, and prayed there, and there was such a presence of God,’’ Mattson said. “It’s a huge challenge, especially in this economy, but God signaled to us that this is of his choosing

With the creation of the C.S. Lewis College, the academic heritage of New England and America comes full circle like the seasons of New England themselves. The history was not lost on Richard Doherty, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts:

…the project echoes the beginnings of many area schools. “Sometimes we forget that so many of these institutions were founded with some religious roots and with private dollars,’’ he said. “But it’s happening now, and that is unusual.’’

Of course, liberal alumni are upset over the arrangement, but this may be one small blessing of a bad real estate market. The school has no other option and concerned alumni have no leverage. Still, the thought of their Alma Mater becoming a privately funded Christian college makes them queasy:

Some Northfield Mount Hermon alumni said they are troubled by the buyer’s ties to conservative strongholds seemingly at odds with the prep school’s traditions of diversity and intellectual rigor.

“They gave it away to an organization that’s so conservative and, in my view, right-leaning, and that worries me,’’ said Beth Palubinsky, a Philadelphia alumna who described herself as “immensely loyal and affectionate’’ toward her alma mater. “It feels like there’s a mist of uncertainty, and I don’t know what it portends.’’

You may have noticed that the first paragraph was not a quote from an alumnus, but reportage from the Boston Globe; the foundation’s conservative ties are seemingly “at odds” with “diversity” and “intellectual rigor”. Huh.

To me, that paragraph represents the real fight and the real hope. This war will not be won in the political arena. I have little faith in the politicians. This war will be won when schools like the C.S. Lewis College thrive and their alumni become reporters for outlets like the Boston Globe.

I’ve always wanted to be a member of a vibrant college community, where conservative intellectuals thrived. Maybe, someday, I’ll be fighting this war from Northfield, Massachusetts. I have great admiration for C.S. Lewis. I can’t wait to see this project come to fruition.

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