MONTREAT, N.C. (ACT) — As Montreat College supporters scramble to raisemoney for the school, a letter has surfaced indicating that at least one member of the college's board of trustees discussed the college leaving Montreat.
The college board of trustees meets Tuesday evening. That's also the deadline for college supporters to raise $2 million.
But questions about the college's future remain, and they may be hampering the fundraising efforts.
"I would say alumni have expressed that concern as to what is going to happen," said Willie Mangum, president of the Montreat College Alumni Board.
Some of those questions stem from a letter written Dec. 27 to Billy Mitchell, a member of the Montreat College board of trustees.
That letter is from Pete Peery, president of the Mountain Retreat Association. The association does business as Montreat Conference Center. The college grew out of the conference center, and the two organizations have an agreement outlining their relationship.
Part of that agreement says the college and the conference center's association "will continue their affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Each party agrees that it will not become governed by, subject to nor owned by any religious denomination other than the Presbyterian Church (USA) without the consent of the other party."
Montreat College announced last summer that it was planning a merger with Georgia-based Point University, which is not affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
Mitchell apparently asked Peery about "releasing the college from the agreement," but a task force for the retreat association was not interested in pursuing that idea.
Mitchell also pitched a second proposal where the college would relocate out of Montreat within five years, according to the letter.
The proposal would deed the gym, Gaither Hall and Howerton Hall to the Mountain Retreat Association. The college would then lease the property back from the association "for up to five years."
Peery, in the letter, spelled out a series of things that would have to happen before the Mountain Retreat Association board would consider the second proposal. Peery said Monday he has not heard back from the board of trustees.
"They made an informal proposal to us, and we then laid down the terms which we would consider taking it to our board, and we have not received any official response to that at all," Peery said.
The Mountain Retreat Association board "was not going to consider any alternative proposal unless it had the full backing of their (the college's) board and Point's board," Peery said.
Peery said he's not sure what action the retreat association board would take regarding the proposal.
Mitchell could not be reached for comment Monday.
Montreat College interim president Joe Kirkland and Montreat College board of trustees Chairman Bernard H. Wright Jr. also could not be reached.
The 43-acre Montreat site has been home to the college's traditional program. Montreat has other campuses in North Carolina, including in Black Mountain, Asheville and Charlotte, according to the college website.
The college has been a part of the Montreat community since 1916.
Recent financial struggles led the college to lay off 29 employees in 2012.
Two weeks ago, supporters of the school announced a push to raise $2 million in hopes of keeping Montreat an independent college.
A letter from the chairman of the board of trustees said "If $2 million in cash is raised by Feb. 17, the college will plan to move forward for the 2014-15 academic year and will commence a presidential search. If we cannot sustain Montreat College through the next academic year, we will consider an affiliation with Point University."
An anonymous donor pledged to give $500,000 before the deadline, Mangum said. He said supporters of the college have raised $280,000 of remaining $1.5 million.
Mangum asked for an extension to the fundraising effort but said he has not heard back from the college.
Mangum said potential donors have a number of questions. "They want to know what is the merger proposal. What it is? What does it mean for Montreat College?," he said.
They also want more details about the alternative proposal that would keep Montreat operating as an independent college, he said.