New Orleans Seminary trustees approve $12 million campus renovation plan, rename student center in honor of Fred Luter

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

New Orleans Seminary trustees approve $12 million campus renovation plan, rename student center in honor of Fred Luter

The board of trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College approved a $12 million plan to make critical campus renovations including updates to student housing, the cafeteria and the student center during their spring meeting April 12–13.

In addition, the board voted to rename the student center in honor of Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. The renewed cafeteria will be named in memory of Landrum P. Leavell II.

Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, shared the news of the student center naming with Fred Luter and the members of Franklin Avenue on Easter Sunday.

“Proverbs chapter three verse number 27 says this: ‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do so,’” Dew said during the naming announcement. “Pastor Luter you are clearly a man to whom honor is due and it is within our power to do so.”

Mike Shaw, a retired Alabama Baptist pastor who has served New Orleans as a trustee for 10 years, told The Alabama Baptist the board wanted to recognize Luter, who has been “so faithful and effective” in ministry.

Luter, called as Franklin Avenue’s pastor in 1986, helped the struggling congregation with 65 members grow to one of the largest Southern Baptist Convention churches in Louisiana.

During his 36-year tenure as FABC pastor, Luter has become an important voice for the cause of Christ in the city of New Orleans and an ardent supporter of the seminary’s work.

In 2012, Luter was elected as the first African American president of the SBC and served two terms in that role.

“That little church (Franklin Avenue) was struggling when he came, and it’s a megachurch now,” Shaw said. “It was something Dr. Dew really felt like we needed to do, and we agreed in a unanimous vote.”

Additional renovations

The newly renamed Fred Luter Jr. Student Center (LSC) interior restoration is nearing completion after more than a year of work. Trustees also approved exterior upgrades to the student center to beautify the campus entrance and improve the center’s functionality. The updates include additional interior renovations, outdoor seating areas, landscaping and parking lot repairs.

The LSC renovations were funded by a $2 million anonymous gift. A gift of that size includes naming rights for the building, Dew said. In consultation with the NOBTS administration, the donor chose to recognize Luter’s humble and faithful service in New Orleans and throughout the SBC by naming this building in his honor.

In addition to the LSC improvements and naming, the multi-year campus renovation plan approved by the trustees calls for the complete renovation of student housing units and updates to essential public buildings such as the cafeteria. The project also includes the construction of one new faculty home. The updates will include numerous ADA accessibility features to better serve the campus community.

The cornerstone of the plan is a $5 million update to the cafeteria including the construction of 4,000 square feet addition to house the kitchen and storage. Additionally, the current second-floor meeting room will be remodeled, and an elevator and mezzanine will be added to offer better access to the room. The phased construction and remodeling of the cafeteria will begin in May.

In addition to the updates and new features, the cafeteria will receive a new name. Trustees voted to name the cafeteria the Landrum Leavell Dining Hall in memory of Landrum P. Leavell II. Leavell, the seminary’s seventh president, led NOBTS for 20 years with a singular focus on training men and women for kingdom work. This essential community and conferencing space on the campus quad will honor his legacy on campus.

Student housing upgrades

Close to $4.5 million will be spent remodeling and updating student housing, including the addition of eight new apartments in the former Shepherd’s Corner building. Many of the apartments covered in the renovation plan were built when the NOBTS campus relocated to Gentilly. While the structures are sound, updates and repairs are needed. The most extensive repair and restoration work will be in Willingham Manor (married student apartments). Willingham foyers, hallways, stairwells, and apartments will be remodeled. Apartments will receive new appliances as well as plumbing and electrical updates.

Campus dorms and the Lipsey/Dement/Crutcher apartments will receive significant updates to common spaces such as foyers, hallways, and stairwells. Common rooms and areas in the dorms also will be renovated, and the Courtyard Apartments will receive new furniture.

Mike Shaw

Other campus improvements include an elevator and exterior updates for the Frost Building and a new meeting space on the second floor of the student center.

Shaw, a graduate of NOBTS, said that as he rotates off the board, he believes the seminary’s future is in good hands.

“New Orleans Seminary is special,” Shaw said. “I’ve enjoyed serving. I’ve enjoyed the fellowship and met some of the finest people I’ve ever known.

“It’s been an honor, and as an outgoing trustee, I want to urge other alumni to support our seminary with our prayers and our gifts.” (NOBTS, The Alabama Baptist contributed)