Martin Methodist College (MMC) officially inaugurated Reverend Dr. Mark La Branche as the college’s 31st president in a campus ceremony on Friday, April 6.
“It’s exciting to be part of what I think can be a rural renaissance,” La Branche said before a crowd of 400 at the Curry Christian Life Center on the MMC campus. “That we can help harvest and glean the full potential of its people, its churches, its businesses and its government, while helping elevate the precious resource of community that grows in this rural space.”
Media: You can download video from today's ceremony here. Attached photos of Cal Turner Jr. and Mark La Branche require photo credit as follows: Jaymi Ray | Martin Methodist College.
Since arriving at MMC in July, La Branche has worked with the south-central Tennessee community to develop a central and compelling vision for the college to become a national model of faith-related, rural higher education.
“This college has shared with my heart a compelling vision that most institutions would envy,” La Branche said. “It is a vision that understands the success of this college and the success of rural communities, the ones that surround it, are inextricably linked.”
The inauguration featured a keynote address from retired Dollar General CEO Cal Turner Jr., who announced a $1 million donation to the college from the Cal Turner Family Foundation.
“Mark liked the thought that the way the world measures success might not be relevant to your life; that God’s bigger idea might be more learnable in a small town,” Turner Jr. said. “I liked that Mark said Martin Methodist’s role is helping students discover their God-given genius and the form of ministry that can follow.”
Martin Methodist was founded in 1870 to provide access to education for women in rural Tennessee. As the only four-year college in an 18-county area, MMC still sees its mission as one of access and success for rural communities. Martin Methodist aims to provide an oasis of learning in what would otherwise be a higher education desert.
National data indicates that students from rural areas are less likely to go to college and less likely to succeed. When they do attend college, these students rarely return to their rural homes to work and live. There is a critical need for professionals trained in this unique context who stay to serve their communities, particularly in the areas of health care and education.
As part of his commitment to rural higher education, La Branche is leading an initiative to bring together leaders of colleges that serve rural America to collaborate and support each others’ critical mission. The first Rural Higher Education Institute will be held at Dakota Wesleyan College in Mitchell, S.D., in September.
Founded in 1870, Martin Methodist College is a four-year liberal arts college related to the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. On an historic campus located in Pulaski, Tenn., the college is the only four-year institution serving an 18-county area in south-central Tennessee.
Photos from this special occasion can be seen by following this link.