BENNINGTON -- Northeastern Baptist College's first president was inaugurated Monday morning before a sizable crowd.
Students, faculty and community supporters congregated in the school's chapel to witness the inauguration ceremony of Mark Ballard, the founder and president of the local Baptist college.
The most recent addition to Bennington's list of educational institutions, the NEBC "campus," at 104 Kocher Drive, leases classroom and chapel space on the third and fourth floors of the Grace Christian School, and offers bachelor of arts programs in Biblical studies with concentrations in pastoral work, church planning, entrepreneurial leadership, and creative writing, as well as a BA program in music.
According to the NEBC website, a total of 14 faculty members, including both professors and adjunct professors, preside over the student body, which is made up of fewer than 100 students.
The college was first organized by a New Hampshire-based non-profit, Project Launch 13, which was spearheaded by Ballard four years ago, this month.
The college's inception, as well as the events and circumstances that led to its creation, were common themes amongst speakers during the ceremony.
Student Body Representative Joseph Ferguson praised Ballard for having "the mind of a scholar, the heart of a shepherd, and the perseverance of a soldier," which mimicked the college's mission statement.
"President Ballard demonstrates the heart of a shaped in the way that he cares for us like no other," said Ferguson, noting that he himself had spent countless occasions with Ballard, expressing his uncertainties for the future and the stresses of everyday life, only to have Ballard comfort him and make him feel at ease. "He really wants to help his students ... He's humble -- He wouldn't tell you this himself, but it's true. It's because of this that I believe he's the perfect leader for this college."
Green Mountain Baptist College Representative Lyandon Warren and Baptist Convention of New England Representative Dr. James Wideman also expressed their gratitude and thanks to Ballard for his hard work and determination over the past four years.
"We love and appreciate him (Ballard) so much," said Warren. "I'm just so excited that the Northeastern Baptist College is going to represent the missing link in the chain that we have here in New England."
Wideman concurred, noting that the day marked a "momentous" day for all of New England.
"Mark has demonstrated his willingness to live by faith and to see the mission God has given him come to pass," Wideman said. "A thriving, healthy, endowed, Baptist college is now a done deal. Mark Ballard is the right man for this task, I'm delighted to recommend and endorse him for his work.
"What God has begun, he will continue. I can hardly wait to see how God will use this man to do in this college and in the future."
Following the speakers, Ballard received a commemorative NEBC medal from faculty and administration.
"Four years ago today, the planning and work began for this project," Ballard said. "I feel so blessed to see what it's become and I thank you all for your prayers and support."
To learn more about the Northeastern Baptist College located at 104 Kocher Drive in Bennington, visit www.nebcvt.org, find them on Facebook, or call 802-753-7233.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.