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UMO President Talks about Expanding Into Downtown Mount Olive


UMO President Talks about Expanding Into Downtown Mount Olive

MOUNT OLIVE – To help fulfill the University of Mount Olive's mission of engagement and outreach to the surrounding community, the University will locate its Institutional Advancement offices to the heart of downtown Mount Olive.

UMO has signed an agreement with Ray McDonald, Sr., owner of the property, to lease the old 7,700 square feet Southern Furniture Store on Centre Street for five years.  At the end of that time, the University will assume ownership of the property. 


The 17 office spaces will be occupied by Alumni Relations, Planned Giving, Annual Fund, Foundations and Sponsored Programs, Church Relations, Public Relations, Marketing, Gift Support, and Events Services. 


UMO President Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter said, “The expansion will provide us with an opportunity to extend the impact of the University into new parts of the town and to broaden the reach of our work.  However, this is not a new idea.  We began talks about having a downtown presence as early as 2010.”


Since that time, UMO has acquired the old Mount Olive High School Apartments and Assembly Hall at 207 Wooten Street.  Those spaces have been renovated into what is now J. William and Marvis E. “Marcy” Byrd Building containing 19 apartments, the Department of Music, and the Hazel Waters Kornegay Assembly Hall.  The University has also acquired the old library building, which it leases it to its founding body, the Original Free Will Baptist Convention.  In addition, the University has discussed opening a black box theatre downtown and one day purchasing a home to house the Office of Alumni Relations. 


“For a long time, the University, along with several community partners, including Mayor Ray McDonald, Bill Bryan with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, and Grey Morgan with Southern Bank, have talked about ways to revitalize the downtown area,” said Kerstetter. “I am particularly appreciative of the efforts of Mayor McDonald, who took the lead in helping us to make this a possibility.  We see our move to the old Southern Furniture Store as an investment in the revitalization of downtown.  It will allow our IA staff to meet community members as we build on existing collaborations, create new ones, share ideas and strengthen the partnerships between the University and the community.”


Demolition of the building’s interior located at 124 North Center Street, has already begun.  Construction is expected to be completed by the fall semester. Part of the funding for the project is coming from a Rural Economic grant of up to $200,000, which will be paid back over a 13 year period.  The remainder will come from the University’s Annual Fund operating expenses. 


“We hope our expansion into the downtown area of Mount Olive will be a catalyst for other businesses,” Kerstetter said.  “Together we can help our community grow and diversify, by collaborating, creating opportunities, and taking the risk to think outside the box.”


The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

Outside rendering of the downtown space that once housed Southern Furniture Store on Centre Street.  The space is now being renovated to house the UMO Office of Institutional Advancement.

UMO President Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter stands in the old Southern Furniture Store on Centre Street in Mount Olive.  The space is being renovated to house the University’s Office of Institutional Advancement.