Big plans for MRC campus, seeking $25 million to get started

Ethan Gray

Songwriting teacher hopes to develop college of business and entertainment
A new school of business and entertainment may be coming to Mt. Vernon according to a press release distributed for John Benton, the school's apparent founder and namesake. According to the information from Benton’s representation, the Benton School of Business and Entertainment, founded in 2017 in Fredericksburg, Va., teaches songwriting to junior high and high school students. Benton seeks to take advantage of the now abandoned campus of the Missouri Rehabilitation Center, and make it the new home for the school.
The MRC property is currently owned by Workforce Chaplains of America, and well past its glory days.
Benton himself is a music composer, as well as a self-proclaimed visionary. He currently resides in Texas, though apparently plans to move to the Mt. Vernon area shortly.

Information distributed by the group claims the school will offer doctoral, master's and bachelor's degrees in various subjects, which implies it will also be accredited by an authority of higher learning.
Claiming to be a multi-faith based institution, it will also offer a program in theology.

This type of school being put into the dilapidating MRC would require an incredible amount of funding; $25 million to start, according to public relations specialist Marc Callahan, who is promoting the undertaking. However, it is unclear at this point how much funding the group has—if any.

"The project is funded by a 501-C3 tax-exempt organization. We are seeking community, state, and federal support to expand and develop their vision,” said Callahan.

This could mean that the group hopes the citizens of Mt. Vernon will take on some of the financial responsibility of the plan.

Callahan said that the current intentions do not involve the demolition of the buildings to create new ones, but rather the buildings will remain in service following some remodeling. He went on to say that their goal is to preserve many of the historical aspects of the campus while still providing a modern touch. They did confirm that it is their hope to utilize the 350,000 square feet of building space and the 62 acres of land.

According to Callahan, Mt. Vernon Mayor Jason Haymes and other city officials have already reviewed the project, but there is still little information as to when the grandiose idea will be completed, though Callahan says they hope to be operational 18-24 months from now.

Finishing an entire university, or college, in this timeframe would be troublesome enough, but on top of the development of the school itself, there will also reportedly be an entertainment complex that would show concerts, movies and host other events.

"This multi-purpose facility will serve as a hub for concerts, events, film screenings, and more, fostering a vibrant arts and culture scene within Mt. Vernon and attracting visitors from near and far,” said Callahan.

Benton, himself, shared a statement on the potential school via a release.

"We are thrilled to announce this ambitious project that will breathe new life into the historic VA Hospital Campus,” Benton said. “Our vision is to create a thriving tech hub and educational institution that will not only attract top talent but also contribute significantly to the economic and cultural growth of Mt. Vernon and the surrounding region."


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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