WCG and La Roche College sign contract for sale of Ambassador campus

By Mac Overton

BIG SANDY--The Ambassador University campus has finally sold. Almost sold, anyway. It's under contract and will, in all probability, sell to La Roche College, Pittsburgh, Pa.

La Roche, a coeducational Roman Catholic college with a campus in Pittsburgh, has entered into a purchase-and-sale agreement to acquire the assets of the former Ambassador campus here.

Included in the agreement is three months of due diligence during which La Roche will determine if the property is suitable for its needs. No one disclosed the purchase price.

The Pennsylvania purchaser intends to use the property as a liberal-arts university, expecting that it will attract many international students, according to William A. Kerr, president of La Roche.

"La Roche is strongly committed to preparing students to become contributing members of our ever-changing global society," Monsignor Kerr said.

AU was heavily subsidized by its owner, the Worldwide Church of God, and was a regionally accredited university by the last time it closed, in August 1997.

"The WCG is very pleased to know that the prospective buyer is an educational institution with a philosophical commitment to comparable values and vision for which we have used the property," said WCG spokesman Bernie Schnippert.

The Dallas office of Grubb & Ellis Co., a real-estate firm, represented both parties in the transaction.

The WCG shut down Big Sandy, the last of the three Ambassador campuses, in 1997 because of financial problems and dwindling enrollment after church leaders had instituted many controversial doctrinal changes.

The church had also closed the Big Sandy campus in 1977 and reopened it in 1981. It was the last of three Ambassador campuses to operate. Pasadena, Calif., shut down in 1990, and Bricket Wood, England, closed in 1974. The original campus, in Pasadena, first opened in 1947 and is still the site of WCG headquarters.

La Roche, with an enrollment of 1,641 last school year, was established in 1963 by the Sisters of Divine Providence, who will also operate the new Big Sandy school as an affiliate, not a branch, of La Roche. La Roche officials haven't yet decided on the name of the Big Sandy school.

According to local news reports, Bishop Edmond Carmody of the Diocese of Tyler announced Aug. 28 he had worked behind the scenes with the Sisters of Divine Providence to bring a Catholic college to East Texas.

"It was our hope and prayer that we could do something with the former Ambassador University site," Bishop Carmody said. "This is a dream we never thought would happen."

The potential sale includes all personal property, including furniture, fixtures, equipment and library contents.

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