NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College board of trustees have approved a $12 million plan to complete critical campus renovations, including updates to student housing, cafeteria and the student center during its spring meeting from April 12 to 13.
Additionally, the board voted to rename the student center after Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (FABC) in New Orleans. The renovated cafeteria will bear the name of Landrum P. Leavell II.
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, shared news of the student center appointment with Fred Luter and FABC members on Easter Sunday.
“Proverbs chapter three verse number 27 says this: ‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do so,'” Dew said when announcing the appointment. you are clearly a man to whom honor is due and it is within our power to do so.”
The newly renamed interior restoration of the Fred Luter Jr. Student Center (LSC) is nearing completion after more than a year of work. Administrators also approved much-needed exterior upgrades to the Student Center to beautify the campus entrance and improve the center’s functionality. Updates include additional interior renovations, exterior seating areas, landscaping, and parking repairs.
The LSC renovations were funded by an anonymous donation of $2 million. A donation of this size includes the building’s naming rights, Dew said. In consultation with the NOBTS administration, the donor has chosen to recognize Luter’s humble and faithful service in New Orleans and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention by naming the building in his honor.
During the presentation, Dew recounted how he started listening to Luter’s sermons shortly after becoming a believer and how Luter impressed him.
“When you look at someone from afar, you get an impression of who they are and what they are. And you know how it is, sometimes when you meet these people in real life, they’re not the ones you thought they would be,” Dew said. “Brother, you’re not just everything I thought you were, you’re more. We love you.”
A video of Dew’s announcement at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church is available here.
Luter, called Franklin Avenue pastor in 1986, helped the struggling 65-member congregation become one of the largest Baptist churches in southern Louisiana. During his 36-year tenure as an FABC pastor, Luter became an important voice for the cause of Christ in the city of New Orleans and a strong supporter of seminary work. In 2012, Luter was elected the first African-American president of the SBC and served two terms in that role.
In addition to the improvements and naming of LSC, the Trustees-approved multi-year campus renovation plan calls for the complete renovation of student accommodation and the updating of essential public buildings such as the cafeteria. The project also includes the construction of a new residence for teachers. The updates will include many ADA accessibility features to better serve the campus community.
The cornerstone of the plan is a $5 million cafeteria update, which will include a 4,000 square foot addition, new meeting rooms, new bathrooms, an elevator and a mezzanine. The progressive construction and renovation of the cafeteria will begin in May.
In addition to updates and new features, the cafeteria will receive a new name. Trustees voted to name the cafeteria the Landrum Leavell Dining Hall in memory of Landrum P. Leavell II. Leavell, the seminary’s seventh president, led NOBTS for 20 years with special emphasis on training men and women for kingdom work. This essential community and conference space on the campus quad will honor his legacy on campus.
Nearly $4.5 million will be spent renovating and modernizing student housing, including the addition of eight new apartments to the former Shepherd’s Corner building. Several of the apartments covered by the renovation plan were built when the NOBTS campus moved to Gentilly. Although the structures are sound, updates and repairs are needed. The most extensive repair and restoration work will take place at Willingham Manor (married student flats). Willingham’s foyers, hallways, stairwells and apartments will be renovated. The apartments will receive new appliances as well as plumbing and electrical updates.
Campus dorms and Lipsey/Dement/Crutcher apartments will receive significant updates to common areas such as foyers, hallways, and stairwells. Common rooms and dormitory spaces will also be renovated and Courtyard apartments will receive new furniture.
Other campus improvements include an elevator and exterior updates for the Frost Building and new meeting space on the second floor of the Student Center.
In addition to the $2 million anonymous donation, the rest of the project will be funded by private donations, the NOBTS Foundation, a Hurricane Ida-related insurance settlement, and an investment from Providence Housing Corporation.