Major expansions coming to Belmont Abbey College after fundraising feat

BelmontAbbey Mary Help of Christians Basilica on the campus of Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina. | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Major expansions are coming to the Benedictine-run Belmont Abbey College after the North Carolina school quickly hit its fundraising goal of $100 million two years ahead of schedule.

Some of those funds have already been put to use with a new dining hall, lab space, and strengthening of its endowment.

The “Made True” campaign, launched in February of last year, has aims of allotting $15 million toward building a new monastery for the 14 monks on campus, raising a new performing arts center, and launching career and family initiatives supporting religious freedom, according to a press release announcing the initiative last year.

In a Tuesday press release, the school announced that the North Carolina General Assembly allotted $9 million of the state’s 2023–2024 budget toward the construction of the performing arts center.

The school plans to put $30 million in funding toward new academic programs in nursing, public policy, and finance. Those funds will also be used to support its Belmont House in Washington, D.C., which hosts discussions on religious freedom and is a gathering place for civic engagement, the school said.

In addition to adding new scholarship programs toward making the school more affordable, Belmont Abbey College will put $55 million toward the school’s endowment fund in pursuit of reducing reliance on federal aid, which can come with strings attached forcing religious schools to provide services that violate Catholic principles, the school said last year.

Now that the Belmont, North Carolina, school has hit its initial goal, it is raising the bar to try to realize $50 million more by 2026. 

William Thierfelder, the school’s president, said in a press conference Tuesday that the $150 million feat “providentially coincides” with the 150th anniversary of the institution’s founding in 1876.

Thierfelder said that “there is still so much more to accomplish.”

Some of the initiatives the school will aim to support with the additional funds, he said, are the new monastery, providing 150 endowed scholarships for students in the honors college, and 10 endowed academic chairs.

Fifteen million dollars of the $50 million to be raised will be used to establish 10 endowed chairs, a term referring to a permanently funded position for research faculty who are leaders in their field.

Another $15 million will fund 150 scholarships for students in the Honors College, an arm of the school with a curriculum focusing on “the foundational impacts of ancient, Christian, and modern thought” through studying historic works.

In the press conference, Philip Brach, the school’s vice president of college relations, said that the scholarships will help make the school more affordable for students now and in the future by having present scholarship earners agree to a “voluntary covenant where they will pay it forward after they leave.”

Twenty million dollars of the additional funds will go toward the new monastery, which will be better fit for community life, Abbot Placid Solari said during the press conference.

Brach said that the monastery was built long before a major highway, Interstate 85, “came roaring through here,” taking away an environment of silence from the monks.

Solari, who has been a monk of Belmont Abbey since 1974, said the new monastery is “important for our contemplation and way of life that also will provide space for the archives.”

The abbot added: “I think it makes a statement to the college community, to the local community, to anyone who’s considering joining the monastery, that we’re here to stay.”

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The existing monastery, which the press release Tuesday said was constructed with bricks handmade by the monks, will be refurbished to keep its original character and be more energy-efficient. 

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