Renaissance Center in Dickson, TN

Freed-Hardeman University, Jackson Foundation Reach Agreement On Transfer Of Renaissance Center

  • FHU To Begin Offering Classes In Dickson In Fall Of 2014, pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
  • Gift From Foundation to University Is Realization of Long-Term Goals of Both Institutions
NOVEMBER 18, 2013

Freed-Hardeman University has reached an agreement with the Jackson Foundation to assume ownership of the Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tenn., and offer a four-year undergraduate program and graduate degrees on site, the first such program in Dickson’s history.

Officials from Freed-Hardeman and the Jackson Foundation executed documents on Friday, November 15, 2013, effecting the immediate transfer, which was approved by a unanimous vote of both governing boards. Under the agreement, the current “Renaissance Center” name and mission will remain intact. In addition to offering college courses, Freed-Hardeman will continue to operate the Renaissance Center as a community venue for a variety of activities such as classes, meeting space and performances. The facility draws tens of thousands of school children and adult visitors every year.

“When we first started exploring opportunities to expand, we never imagined we’d be given a state-of-the-art learning facility,” said Freed-Hardeman University President Joe Wiley. “This is a transformational event in the history of our university. The Renaissance Center is the answer to a lot of prayers and represents the largest gift in the history of Freed-Hardeman University.”

“This is a landmark event for our community. The opportunities that will flow out of this partnership are almost beyond counting. We’re not only creating a new path to a college education for the people of Dickson County, but we’re also bringing in new jobs, new investment, and new residents,” said Doug Jackson, president of the Jackson Foundation. “This gift to Freed-Hardeman University will be a cornerstone on which our city can build for decades. Everyone in our community should be excited about what has been accomplished here.”

Bringing Freed-Hardeman to Dickson is the fulfillment of a long-term strategic goal of both organizations. From day one, the Jackson Foundation has made it a top priority to recruit a four-year university to the city and county of Dickson. Likewise, the board of Freed-Hardeman University has been actively pursuing opportunities to expand into Middle Tennessee.

“We recognize that the Renaissance Center is so much more than a building. It touches the heart of the Dickson community, and that’s why it is the perfect place for Freed-Hardeman to make our home in Middle Tennessee,” said Wiley. “The public mission of the Renaissance Center is very important to us. This facility is going to remain open to the community as a place of art and learning for years to come.”

The Jackson Foundation created the Renaissance Center in 1999 as part of its mission to inspire excitement about education among both youth and adults. Designed as a fine arts and technology learning center, the facility, which cost $18 million to build plus $7 million for fixtures, furniture, equipment and technology, includes 110,000 square feet of classroom space, conference rooms, film and video production studios, theater areas, offices, and more. As part of the transfer agreement, the Jackson Foundation has officially bestowed the building, the grounds, and the parking lot to Freed-Hardeman University as a gift.

Some of the Renaissance Center’s full-time staff members will become Freed-Hardeman employees on Monday, December 2, 2013, and these positions will be maintained permanently by the university. In addition, the university anticipates adding full-time positions in Dickson by the start of the fall semester of 2014.


“Unfortunately, a few employees have been displaced as part of the transition, and they have each been provided with a generous severance package,” said Jackson. “We’re going to offer them the highest recommendation and any help we can to find new positions.”

The Renaissance Center is no stranger to higher education classes. More than 300 students already attend select college courses at the facility as part of satellite programs offered by Nashville State Community College and Austin Peay State University. These programs will continue at least until the end of the spring semester in 2014. By contrast, Freed-Hardeman will be offering complete, four-year undergraduate and graduate programs on site.

Although the Renaissance Center is officially part of Freed-Hardeman University, the Jackson Foundation will continue to operate out of the facility. In addition, the Foundation retains ownership of 200 acres of land surrounding the center. The foundation’s mission also remains intact—to provide a wide range of educational opportunities to the local community at little or no cost.

“With this agreement, the resources of the foundation can now be focused on education and programs, not brick and mortar. We’re excited to expand the programs in the Renaissance Center for the benefit of our community,” said Jackson.

The Jackson Foundation is prepared to make additional gifts of land as the university requires it for additional facilities related to the operation of a four-year university, including dorms and sports facilities. Members of the Foundation’s board have been vocal in interviews about their search for an accredited college or university to offer a complete program at the Renaissance Center.

“Not only are we able to bring a four-year college to Dickson for the first time in the city’s history, but we’re doing so as part of a completely private partnership between two nonprofit organizations,” said Jackson. “No taxpayers’ money, tax breaks or tax incentives are involved. The citizens of Dickson are going to enjoy all the economic and educational benefits of a private, four-year university housed at the Renaissance Center.”

The first Freed-Hardeman students are expected to arrive for classes at the Renaissance Center in the fall semester of 2014. Decisions about what courses of study will be offered in Dickson will be made in the coming months after market research and discussions with business and academic leaders in Middle Tennessee.

Completed in 1999, the Renaissance Center is a project of the Jackson Foundation, a nonprofit institution dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the people of Dickson County and surrounding communities. Offering a wide variety of academic and artistic classes, as well as the CyberSphere Digital Theater for live performances and planetarium shows, the center has developed a statewide reputation as a premier center for arts and education. For more information, visit www.rcenter.org.

Affiliated with the Churches of Christ, Freed-Hardeman University has been providing men and women with top-tier academic opportunities in a Christian environment since 1869. Today, the school hosts more than 1,800 graduate and undergraduate students at its primary campus in Henderson, Tenn. The university also hosts an expansion campus in Memphis.


For photos and media statements, please visit the online media center at www.fhu.edu/dickson. For additional inquiries and interviews, please contact Rick Lewis, Director of Public Relations for Freed-Hardeman University-Dickson at the Renaissance Center at rlewis@fhu.edu or 615-715-5669.