SMWC secures $14M fed loan for land purchase

Dottie King 

A nearly $14 million federal loan will allow Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College to buy property it has been leasing from the Sisters of Providence, along with additional land.

The purchase paves the way for more academic, athletic and event opportunities at the college and provides the Sisters with additional revenue, leaders of the organizations said Wednesday in announcing the loan.

Securing the loan capped a 21/2-year process that college President Dottie King described as a “herculean effort that has taken us to Washington … to make us part of it.”

The 160 acres involved in the purchase include properties along the Avenue, the main road on the college’s campus, as well as athletic fields, horse stables and pasture.

“These parcels give the college a way to grow,” King said. “This land gives us a way to plan for our future needs.”

Dawn Tomaszewski, general superior with the Sisters of Providence, said, “As sponsors of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, we see the sale of this property as a way to strengthen both the mission of the college and the Sisters of Providence.”

The college has new space into which it can grow, and the Sisters have additional revenue to strengthen their efforts to keep both organizations vibrant, Tomaszewski said.

While the college is exploring specific uses for the property, possibilities include an equine event center and a new athletic complex with baseball, tennis and track and field, updated locker room and press box facilities and parking, King said.

“We believe this sale benefits all entities on the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods campus and will serve to unite our efforts to be a place where love dwells, where learning thrives and where hope and healing are offered to all who enter our gates,” Tomaszewski added.

“As sponsors of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, we are delighted that in this generation more land is needed to support the educational mission,” she said, taking note of recent growth at the 178-year-old institution.

The purchase includes Woodland Inn and Corbe House, where some Sisters of Providence reside. The Sisters can continue to use the properties as long as they choose, King said.

A $13.9 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan is part of the agency’s Community Facilities Direct Loan Program under which the college is restructuring its debt over a 40-year period.

The college’s eligibility for the program was due in part to its partnerships with rural neighbors and initiatives to enhance quality of life in the area through such things as the Pomeroy Wellness Program and SMWC Health Care, King said.

She said she and college board members are grateful the USDA and other partners have recognized the school’s impact on the local community, particularly the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Historic District and the town of West Terre Haute.

Rachel Leslie began working on the USDA partnership while a college staff member and has continued since launching an advocacy and strategic communications firm, RJL Solutions.

Leslie credited King for having the vision to pursue the project and thanked Terre Haute and Vigo County officials and state and federal lawmakers for their efforts in “pushing the USDA journey along.”

The college is one of three Indiana entities receiving funding as part of a $237 million USDA investment in 129 rural community service facilities in 29 states. Other Hoosier projects benefiting are Valley Professionals Community Health Center and Pulaski County Memorial Hospital.

Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.

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