Bluffton-Findlay merger earns support of alumni

BU and UF alumni still have questions regarding the merger, but have still provided statements of support and excitement for the merger and future of both institutions

By Cassie Arnett,

March 20, UF President Dr. Katherine Fell announced the merger between UF and Bluffton University. This announcement was a surprise to students, faculty, staff, community members and alumni. While there are still many unanswered questions, the historic merger seems to have the support of both BU and UF alumni, including 2017 UF graduate Heidi Paxson, evening news anchor at WEAU 13 News in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

“We’re all still learning more about it, if both universities are going to benefit from it and still maintain their own athletic teams and traditions, I don’t see why not,” Paxson said.

The announcement of the Bluffton-Findlay merger created an abundance of interest. The merger was proposed to protect the future of these institutions as many higher education institutions across the country have faced obstacles to stay open. Following the March 20 announcement, UF and BU hosted town hall meetings providing more information on the merger, as well as answering questions from students, staff, and the community.

Paxson’s initial reaction to the announcement was curiosity, but she is hopeful the merger will benefit both universities.

“It sounds like it will benefit to everyone and the reasoning makes sense,” Paxson said.

UF and BU created a website to answer questions of students, staff and alumni and provide more information to the public. Among the frequently asked questions are concerns about the athletic departments as both universities are in different divisions. The Bluffton-Findlay merger site states UF will remain NCAA Division II and BU will remain NCAA Division III. The clarification provided for this concern was a relief to Paxson.

“I ran track and cross country and was curious if we’d stay in the same division with the same colors and traditions,” Paxson said. “I liked that we’d stick with that because I was really proud to graduate from Findlay.”

Alumni from UF and BU have expressed a positive attitude toward the merger and what it will mean for the future of both institutions. BU alumni, Ed Diller, Bluffton College class of 1969 alumni and former BU trustee, has also released a statement of support for the merger.

“What an incredibly positive and impactful announcement for NW Ohio,” Diller said. “Collaboration is often talked about, but rarely is it executed in such a big way. This is truly a gift to the communities in which these institutions serve and is a great example of the sum being greater than its parts.”

The Bluffton-Findlay merger website contains more information on the future benefits of the partnership.

“Through this merger, University of Findlay and Bluffton University would be positioned to increase educational opportunities that prepare our current and future students to lead and serve in their local communities and beyond,” the website stated. “Our students and employees would benefit from access to expanded resources on both campuses located 20 miles apart in Northwest Ohio.”

Jacob Latkofsky, 2021 BU graduate and current Physical Therapy graduate student at Mount St. Joseph University supports the merger and what it means for students pursuing a graduate degree. BU does not offer a DPT program, so Latkofsky had to go elsewhere to complete his studies.

“I support the merger based on the academic opportunities that can stem from it,” Latkofsky said. “A merger with UF could provide additional opportunities for individuals at BU who are taking the pre-physical therapy route to set themselves up for success when applying for Doctor of Physical Therapy programs.”

Paxson is also hopeful for the future of both institutions following the merger.

“It makes me feel hopeful we’re continuing down a path where we’re thinking forward,” Paxson said. “It is a partnership; if they accept this deal, it will benefit them in whatever way they see fit.”

The logistics of the merger are still being worked out. The Bluffton-Findlay merger website has answered several questions with the statement, “University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions, until legal approval is granted.”

There are many questions and concerns that are yet to be answered and won’t be until the merger is complete and the legalities are worked out.

Paxson said the announcement and town hall meetings meant to provide more information, but left her with more curiosity, but also excitement for the future of the two universities.

“I’m curious and still have questions,” Paxson said. “It’s exciting to see they’re finding new ways to make traditional campus work.”