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In Times Square - Maranatha History

May 26, 2019

We were perusing through old issues of the Daily Times in recent weeks while we were seeking topics for the In Times Square columns and we ran across a story that brought back memories for us and most likely for many of our readers as well.

It was 50 years ago, almost to the date, that the first set of graduates from what was then known as Maranatha Baptist Bible College received their degrees.

That was a momentous occasion and the culmination of a great deal of work by a number of dedicated people.

That original graduation ceremony was held for 13 students who had completed their coursework and were ready to be presented with their bachelor’s degrees.

Several programs were held that weekend 50 years ago, culminating with the actual graduation program on the grounds of the college.

The institution has come a long way since that first graduation.

The 51st graduating ceremony was held earlier this month, on May 3, and this year over 250 students received degrees, the highest in the history of the college.

Since that first graduation the changes, improvements and expansions at the campus have been nothing short of amazing, and more yet to come in the future.

Maranatha is a key part of the Watertown community and is an economic engine in addition to educating all of these students. Some of the graduates find full-time employment right here in Watertown.

Years ago the campus was operated by the Brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross at Sacred Heart Military Academy. The final class of that institution graduated on Sunday, May 26, 1968. The 62.5-acre campus was purchased by the Sacred Heart folks back in 1871. The land was purchased by the Brothers from Col. Henry Bertram who had purchased it from Patrick Rogan. Both of these men were early pioneers and leaders in Watertown.

It was just a year after the Brothers purchased the property that the facility opened as the University of Our Lady of Sacred Cross and the first enrollment consisted of 27 students.

There were many changes in the mission of the operation over the years, but by 1967 a decision was made that the educational institution was to be closed. As we said above the final graduation was held on May 26, 1968.

Some institutions of higher learning had given consideration to purchasing the property when it became available in the late 1960s. Watertown resident Elayne Senn quickly picked up the telephone and placed a call to Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm, who had been looking for the right property to open a college.

Dr. Cedarholm wasted no time and in short order a deal was made with the Brothers. Dr. Cedarholm and his supporters raised $150,000 initially and the first payments to the Brothers, effectively confirming the sale, was made on June 1, 1968. Just three months later, with 173 students and 27 faculty members, Maranatha awarded degrees to 13 students.

Over the years the campus changed dramatically. Over 40 building projects have been undertaken, many of the present buildings on the campus were erected, including the gymnasium, a number of dormitories for the students who come from most states and some foreign countries, a dining complex, a library and research center and much more.

One of the major turning points in Maranatha’s successes came in 1993 when it received regional accreditation.

In October of 2013 the board of Trustees of Maranatha approved a name change to Maranatha Baptist University. That followed with a new branding and mascot -- The Sabercat.

In more recent years the university added an online graduate program, a doctor of ministry in preaching, and leading and a master of organizational leadership was added a couple years ago.

The future of Maranatha here in Watertown is bright and there will be more good things coming.

As an aside, we grew up just a couple blocks east of the Maranatha campus, and reviewing all of this information brought back memories of the whole neighborhood making the winter trek to the hill on which the main building is situated, and enjoying sledding for hours on end.

It’s funny, as we look at that hill today, it doesn’t seem like much of a hill at all, but back when we were probably 9 or 10, it was huge.

We remember that over holidays the brothers would sometimes arrange to have some water sprayed at the top of the hill, making it glassy ice and improving the speeds of sleds. The goal was always to get all the way down the hill (traveling east) and somehow reach the Chicago and North Western Railroad track that formed the east border of the Maranatha property.

Those were some wonderful times, but they go back a long, long ways.

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