Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Southern Catholic College Refocuses Efforts To Open

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published April 1, 2004

Riding high through retirement after 32 years of business success at UPS,—starting as a driver and ending as international president—Edward L. Schroeder took over the reigns in February as board chairman of Southern Catholic College, to lead it toward its goal to open in fall 2005 in a new Dawsonville location.

The regional, private Catholic college in formation also announced the new appointments of David F. Seng and John A. Wallace as directors to its board of trustees, expanding it to 16. Southern Catholic, a private, co-educational liberal arts college dedicated to preparing moral and ethical leaders, will offer small classes and a learning environment grounded in values and the Catholic intellectual tradition.

While he had already been a Southern Catholic supporter, donating money and helping with the annual golf tournament fund-raiser and Valentine’s dance, Schroeder was very surprised when the school’s president Jeremiah Ashcroft, Ph.D., asked him over lunch to become the new chairman, replacing founder Tom Clements, who will remain on the board. Schroeder started as a United Postal Service driver at 24 which he did for a year and a half before working his way up to serve from 1993-98 as president of international operations, where he traveled to 34 countries and opened offices around the world. “It’s a vision I would like to see happen. I think there’s a real need for a Catholic college here in Georgia, and I want to work very hard to make Tom’s vision come into being,” Schroeder said. “I believe children in Georgia may want to go to a Catholic college but may not want to leave the state to do that, to travel. I think we have a great marketplace here—I think we have seven high schools and 20 plus grade schools—so it seems like a natural progression. I have a grandchild at Pinecrest (Academy), and I see what they’ve accomplished in 10 years so I see Southern Catholic as the next step after that.”

It’s not exactly the most relaxing volunteer work for a retiree, but at 62 he’s excited about this big challenge of opening Southern Catholic, while also serving as chair for the UPS Retiree United Way 2004 Campaign. The school had embarked on its fund-raising effort in 2000 and originally planned to open in the fall of 2002, then 2003, then 2004, pushing back the date due to financial constraints, but leaders have renewed determination to realize Clements’ vision, citing how out of more than 200 Catholic institutions of higher learning in the United States, there are less than 10 in the entire Southeast.

“I am excited to be named chairman of such an experienced and talented board that will help guide Southern Catholic College in its formation toward providing academic excellence and moral leadership…I am honored to join the Southern Catholic Board of Trustees and assist in the realization of the college’s vision as it moves toward reality,” continued Schroeder, who attended Catholic grade school and whose mother was a Catholic school teacher. At UPS “we’re exposed to many business problems and problem solving and I think the management skills I acquired at UPS naturally will help me reach out to the Catholic community in Atlanta and support the school.”

The Catholic businessman said that the Southern Catholic board recently met and launched the latest 7.6 million “Realize the Vision” capital campaign to enable them to buy five acres they have a purchase option on from the former Gold Creek convention center near the Gold Creek country club. They are now planning to sell the original approximately 273-acre property (64 acres were sold previously) they had purchased for the school for $4.5 million in 2001. They hope to raise the $7.6 million by the end of May to proceed with the purchase to reach their goal more economically and reduce the projected annual debt and enable current high school juniors to put the school on their colleges-to-visit list, Schroeder said. An anonymous donor from St. Benedict’s Church in Duluth has agreed to match all gifts received by April 30, dollar for dollar up to $10,000, making each gift received twice as effective. The reason for the capital campaign is to raise $7.6 million, which allows us to purchase this plus have $2 million in reserve in endowments and $600,000 to regular fit the convention center into classroom space and build some additional classroom space,” he said. “The major effort right now is fund-raising, and that’s what will cause us to move forward…We’re looking for donors. That’s the number one challenge.”

This bucolic property has nine villas that would be used as the first dormitories and a conference center overlooking a lake that could be converted to an educational center with classrooms, administrative offices, library, fitness center and a dining hall to be used during the first four to five years, and already has infrastructure like roads and sewers. Schroeder explained they also hope in the next few months to obtain an option to purchase an additional 95 adjacent acres to be developed over the next five to seven years. They first plan to begin construction beginning in 2005 of more dormitories, a dining hall and classrooms. Construction on the campus would continue over the next 10 to 12 years. Schroeder said that on the original site with no existing buildings a 2005 opening was still not feasible. “It’s a more mature location. The other location certainly was a beautiful location, but it took a lot of work to get it up and running, to get everything built and we did not see us being able to open by 2005,” he said. “The original plan was much more grandiose, and we think this is more practical. We think it’s important the college gets opened in 2005 (since) if we wait too long the vision kind of (fades) and people forget that Southern Catholic is even around anymore.”

Since 2000 they have raised $9.6 million, with $4 million in pledge receivables. They hope to accept 150 students for the first class and add that same number of students for each of the next three years. Schroeder, a member of St. Andrew’s Church, Roswell, and Christ Our King and Savior Church, Greensboro, has also raised funds for Habitat for Humanity North Fulton, and feels “very positive,” particularly about the addition of Seng and Wallace as “key members” of the board. Seng, a member of Good Shepherd Church, Cumming, is chairman and president of the David F. & Erin Seng Foundation and previously served as director, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Montag & Caldwell Investment Counsel, Inc. He has served on the finance council for the archdiocese and currently serves on two advisory boards at the University of Notre Dame.

Wallace, a member of Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, and graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, is a partner and has practiced for more than 30 years at King & Spalding law firm, specializing in trusts and estates. His professional memberships include the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association and the International Academy of Estate and Trust Law. He also serves as vice-chair of the board of trustees of Piedmont Medical Center, Inc., and as a trustee of PROMINA Health System, The Westminster Schools, Fernbank Museum of Natural History and Morehouse College, all in Atlanta. “I look forward to helping guide the college in its formation and positioning it for a successful future,” Wallace said.

Ashcroft commented on how the board has been strengthened and members are very engaged in the project. “We are fortunate to add these esteemed new members of the business community to our board,” he said. “Their valuable expertise and exemplary philanthropic track record will make significant contribution to the formation of our college and its future success.”

He noted how having such a respected businessman as Schroeder as chairman will increase the school’s credibility in the business community. “Ed has been a supporter of the college since the beginning, and he has a commitment that is really long-standing…He brings an awful lot to the board leadership in terms of this next step and new direction. I’m very confident at this point. I think a lot of things are coming together with the new direction. I feel with the new site we have a mature site with buildings, infrastructure, roads so it’s ready to go, and it’s a smaller cost that will allow us to open by 2005,” he said. “Although I’d have liked to have opened two years ago I think we’re going to be stronger and in a better position in opening in 2005.”

Development director Paula Reed said that Clements, resting after driving the college formation project for over four years, stepped down with hopes this will foster more ownership of the college with the board and empower members while making the endeavor appear less as only his project. He will remain active as a board member and focus among other things on the vision and working with the board of fellows on maintaining the Catholic identity of the college.

Schroeder acknowledged the obstacles that Clements and other project leaders have had, noting how after a ground-breaking in May 2002 construction stopped and with the terrorist attacks and weak economy donations were down that year and in 2003. “We think this is kind of like a rebirth…Our goal is to open the school debt free. That’s what we’re working toward,” he continued. “My biggest goal is to reeducate our Catholic community as to where we’re going. The entire Catholic community has to get behind this effort.”

They are still speaking with churches about the school and updating them about it. “It’s all part of trying to reeducate the Catholic community and to show that we’re alive and well.”

Schroeder, who is married to Fran and has two daughters, is grateful to give back to the church that has always been an important part of his life through this work. “It’s always been a big part of our life, and nothing would please me more than to have my grandchildren go to Southern Catholic. I’ll feel really good the day the first class arrives and goes to class.”

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