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MLC to expand

A rendition of the planned new residence hall at MLC

NEW ULM — Martin Luther College (MLC) impact on New Ulm is immense. Every year the college on the hill brings in hundreds to the community, and a new capital campaign will increase enrollment.

In July 2019, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) began a campaign to expand the school. The expansion calls for increased enrollment and improved facilities through a new residence hall and indoor athletic facility. The target fundraising goal for the campaign is $18 million.

MLC Director of Public Relations William Pekrul said the school currently enrolls around 700 students and the goal is to increase the number to 900. The reason for the increase is the demand for teachers and pastors in WELS congregations is high.

Pekrul said MLC has received an increase in calls in the last year. Currently, many of the Baby Boomer generations of ministerial teachers and pastor are retiring. There is a need to fill these positions, but also new WELS affiliated schools have open in the Southwest United States and internationally.

Pekrul said there is at least one international school that would take 50 graduates.

The increase in enrollment will require the construction of a new $10 million residence hall and a $3 million athletic facility to attract new students.

The new hall will be called Luther Heights and will overlook Summit Avenue at the main entrance of the college.

The campaign is also raising between $3 million and $5 million for student scholarships.

The athletic facility will be called Knight Center and will be 36,000 square feet. It will provide locker rooms, batting cages, golf simulators and yards of artificial turf. Knight Center will be located next to the college baseball field and soccer field.

The funding campaign has been relatively quiet for six months. MLC’s approach to fundraising has been to rely on 1,200 WELS congregations nationally and internationally that use MLC ministers and teachers. MLC has resisted doing a local fund drive, other than to approach members of their congregations. Instead, a group of current and retired local business members have formed a committee to help the campaign.

Retired CPA Andy Biebl is a member of the New Ulm Supports MLC Committee. He said the other members learned of the campaign through a Rotary Club meeting. President Mark Zarling gave a presentation on the campaign.

“It was news to all of us,” Biebl said. After the presentation, several Rotary Club members began talking and formed the support committee.

Biebl said the magnitude of MLC’s impact in New Ulm is incredible. “Over the years we’ve interacted with the students and staff,” he said “The quality of people is great. They are high caliber people contributing to the community.”

The committee has sent out 350 packets seeking donations for the campaign from area businesses. In creating the information packets, Biebl reviewed the economic impact of MLC. He said the numbers were “eye-popping.”

MLC’s annual payroll is approximately $12 million and is almost entirely funded by outside money. The college employs about 160 full-time equivalents and also 375 of its students in part-time work-study arrangements.

The college’s budget is about $22 million, most of which is expended locally. The 750 ministerial students are all studying to be pastors or teachers and are great part-time workers. Parents visiting New Ulm also bring significant revenue to hotels and restaurants.

MLC’s Early Childhood Learning Center is among the largest daycare facilities in New Ulm. It serves about 70 children, with a waiting list nearly as large.

MLC is trying to spread the word about the capital campaign. Pekrul said $1.2 million of the required $18 million has been raised. Construction on the project will not begin until after the fundraising goal has been reached, but the early response has been good.

“The reactions to the committee’s efforts have been positive,” Biebl said. “There is a strong appreciation for MLC.”

New Ulm Supports MLC Committee is seeking donation responses by Saturday, Feb. 15.

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