A letter to the Church from Martin Methodist College President Mark La Branche

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September 11, 2020

Dear Church,

As Martin steps into its 151st year, we do so with strength for today and bright hope for the future of our vital mission in southern Middle Tennessee. Throughout its history, the college has faced many “dangers, toils, and snares.” Your love, loyalty, prayers, and generous support have helped us through.

Martin has responded to the world’s needs by adapting from its beginnings as a female college in the basement of the Pulaski Methodist Church, to the enrollment of men, and people of all races and nations on a more than 60-acre campus.

In 1909 we formally came under the auspices and direct support of the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church. Almost 25 years ago we transitioned from a two-year school to a four-year undergraduate institution. And, almost five years ago we added our first graduate program. All of these steps were taken to fulfill our mission of providing an accessible, affordable, and high-quality option for a four-year and graduate education in southern middle Tennessee. Together we have lived out our Wesleyan social witness in the world.

In the midst of this pandemic crisis, Martin Methodist College is seeking to evolve once again in order to preserve, sustain, and expand the breadth and quality of our mission. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change, requiring the pace of innovation to increase as well. Our trustees and administration have focused intensely on responding to the immediate challenges, but also with an eye to the future. While taking steps to make sure that our mission will survive the present, we have also asked what will be necessary for our mission to thrive into the future. Our horizon expanded to include the deliberate and proactive consideration of partnerships, collaborations, and mergers.

And now, a transformational opportunity has come into view. The Board of Trustees of Martin Methodist College and the University of Tennessee System have formally expressed their intent to consider the addition of Martin Methodist College as the fourth undergraduate institution in the UT System. If successful, the mission of Martin will remain the same, but advance to a much higher level of sustainability and capacity. The faith-based initiatives that are part of our church relatedness will find a more solid and expanded platform upon which to grow. We anticipate the flourishing of an endowed Wesley Foundation for our students, your endowed scholarships continuing to benefit Methodist students, and the permanence of The Cal Turner Jr. Center for Thriving Rural Communities within the work of the university.

Bishop Bill McAlilly, a member of the board of trustees remarked, “As Martin Methodist College continues to seek opportunities to thrive in a season of deep change for higher education, the University of Tennessee System offers a way to move from strength to strength. Our deep desire is to see students from rural Tennessee find ways to flourish through the expanded platform of the University of Tennessee.”

Such a transition will take time and will require the formal approval of our trustees, the state legislature, and our regional accreditor. With these approvals, the change will likely happen July 1, 2021.  I know you will have questions and we are here to answer them as clearly as we can.   We want to hear from you as you contemplate the opportunity before us. Please send us your thoughts and questions. These will become a part of our discussion as we move forward.

You may be reading about this in the coming days in the media, and I wanted you to hear the latest from me.


Dr. Mark La Branche
Martin Methodist College

For more information: https://mmctout.com/