Cash-strapped Antioch College Holds Last Commencement Before Temporarily Closing

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio

Cash-strapped Antioch College held a bittersweet commencement ceremony Saturday as officials moved ahead with plans to close the school this summer until it gets back on its feet.

The pioneering, private liberal arts college announced last year that because of declining enrollment, heavy dependence on tuition and a small endowment, the college would close to reorganize and would reopen in 2012, possibly sooner.

A group of wealthy alumni and former trustees scrambled to raise money to purchase the school, but negotiations broke down when the group couldn’t come up with $12.2 million to take over operations and keep the school running.

Some of the 101 graduates who gathered in an auditorium Saturday still held out hope that a deal could be reached.

“I wish I had something to tell you, but I don’t,” said trustee Sharon Merriman. “But we know many of you broke your necks to graduate, and the trustees are very proud of you.”

About 200 students were enrolled during the academic year. Faculty members and students found creative ways to finish the year, with many third-year students cramming their junior and senior years together to graduate.

Shane Creepingbear, a Japanese and media-as-communication major, said the year was one of the most intense of his life.

“I kind of envisioned it as running down the hall and out the door while the building was burning,” he said.

He and 44 other graduates still have some work to finish before fully meeting their degree requirements. Antioch awarded degrees tentatively to those students, who can finish co-ops and study abroad through the fall and still earn a 2008 degree from Antioch College.

The college, founded in 1852 and about 15 miles east of Dayton, is the flagship for Antioch University, which has other campuses on the East and West coasts.

The school is known for academic programs that produce students with a passion for free thinking and social activism. Famous alumni include “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling, Coretta Scott King and evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould.

The university has campuses in Yellow Springs and Seattle, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Calif., and Keene, N.H.

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