Marycrest International University survived probation once. It will not survive it again.
The small, private institution with a six-decade history on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Davenport will close June 30, president Pat DeLuca announced Monday in the school's gymnasium.
"Everyone has worked so hard since I got here," said DeLuca, who arrived just seven months ago. "They have done everything I have asked, and they are so easy to lead. We have all been working on these strategic plans and action plans, and now we just have to stop and focus on closing it. Things don't always work out. I believe a little in fate, and I'm glad it's me who is here
to close Marycrest with the dignity it deserves."
The school's board of trustees, comprised of six people from Japan, three from Denver and one from Davenport, voted unanimously to close the school in a video conference late last week.
DeLuca sat next to the lone Davenport representative, Sister Joann Kuebrich, as she cast her vote to close the school that her order of nuns began in 1939.
The members of the board in the U.S. and Japan could not be reached for comment by the Quad-City Times on Monday. A representative at the president's office in Tokyo would accept only written questions.
The closing, DeLuca said, was based on the school's enrollment and revenue projections for the next couple of years. DeLuca would not divulge specifics, but the number of students interested in coming to Marycrest decreased after the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the group in charge of accrediting colleges in the Midwest, placed the school on probation.
The association said it was concerned with the structure of the school's board and the differences of visions among board members. Association officials who visited the campus months before DeLuca was named president, also were troubled by the school's planning and financial situation.
In 1994, the North Central Association also noted concerns about the board's structure and leadership when it placed the school on probation then.
Marycrest, owned by Teikyo University in Japan, is one of a handful of private colleges to close in the past 30 years in Iowa and one of 15 to close since 1995 nationally, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Its sister school, Westmar University in LeMars, Iowa, closed in 1997, two years after it was sold by Teikyo.
Teikyo began as a school of commerce in Japan in 1931, just eight years before Marycrest opened.
Shoichi Okinaga has served as Teikyo's president since 1966. The system operates approximately 20 schools.
Teikyo purchased Marycrest from the Sisters of Humility in 1990. Okinaga was named an honorary citizen of Iowa in 1994.
Enrollment dropped from a high of 2,239 after Teikyo purchased the school, which was known for awhile as Teikyo Marycrest University. The number of full-time equivalent students had increased in the past two years, mostly because of increased recruitment efforts and a $5,000 grant offered to local students.
A total of 666 students, part- and full-time, will have to find new colleges to attend. About 130 faculty and staff will be looking for new jobs.
Word spread slowly through the Marycrest community Monday. DeLuca told faculty and staff Monday morning. Many students, especially those who live in other states or foreign countries, may not know yet. Students left for holiday break Friday. Classes resume Jan. 14.
DeLuca will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. today for students and parents. A second meeting is planned for the first day of classes.
Classes will go as planned the next semester. Those studying abroad to Holland will go as scheduled in January. All courses will be offered. Every activity will continue.
"One of the biggest disappointments is that I couldn't tell each and every one of the students personally that it was closing," said DeLuca, who retired this spring from the North Scott School District in Eldridge, Iowa. He was superintendent there for 14 years.
"This is more than a college with buildings. It's a family, and it's like losing a very essential part of your life," he said.
The final commencement will be May 11.
Marycrest College opened in 1939 as a higher education institution for Catholic women. The school was founded by the sisters from the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.
"Although the college was sold by Sisters of Humility 10 years ago, we are still understandably saddened by the announcement of the losing of Marycrest," said Sister Jude Fitzgerald, president of the congregation. "My hope is that we can celebrate in a spirit of gratitude the rich 62-plus-year history of Marycrest."
John Hartung, director of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities called the closing a tragedy.
"Alumni look to this institution as the spot where they received their intellectual, social and cultural roots. This is their college and it's not going to be there anymore," he said. "Students who selected Marycrest now have to be uprooted and find another place to go. Faculty, administrators and staff have given of themselves to this institution for years. An institution is the people. That's the tragedy."
Lee Nelson can be contacted at (563) 383-2464 or email@example.com.
Ann McGlynn can be contacted at (563) 383-2336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.