Tarkio College campus to reopen as a private science college

Sunday, June 11, 2006

TARKIO, Mo. -- A Florida oil executive plans to transform the old Tarkio College campus in northwest Missouri into a science-focused private college, school officials have announced.

Chad Meek currently runs an oil and gas exploration company in Orlando, Fla. Now, he said he's ready to assume a new role as chief executive officer of a new private school to be called the Midwestern Institute of Energy.

"We want to be known for doing research and development across the world," Meek said Friday to a crowd of about 60 Tarkio residents and county officials as he stood outside the former Tarkio College landmark Ranken Hall.

Meek said the school will open in the fall of 2007, and he's hoping enrollment will peak at about 300.

One of Meek's educational goals is to promote research to find solutions to the energy crisis. Institute students will be able to earn bachelor of science degrees after fulfilling two years of general education requirements and two years of coursework in physical science, fuel-cell technology, petroleum geology and alternative energy, he said.

Tuition, room and board will cost $33,000 per year, and a pioneer will replace Tarkio College's owl as the school's mascot, said Meek.

Tarkio College went bankrupt and closed in 1991. A Maryland-based firm, Youth Services International Inc., turned the facility into a home for juvenile offenders in 1994. Before that operation closed in 2004, Tarkio Academy had been the largest employer in rural Atchison county.

Earlier this year, North Central Missouri College in Trenton and Linn State College briefly considered starting a robotics program on the campus, but those plans didn't move forward.

Meek said he hadn't realized education could be profitable until he found this opportunity.

The Midwestern Institute of Energy will lease the campus grounds and buildings for $300,000 a year from the Heartland Institute, the not-for-profit corporation that has managed the campus in recent years, he said.

The five-year lease gives the institute the right to buy the land, which was set to be auctioned off last year for $4.95 million. But Meek said the administration building, dormitories, apartments, classroom buildings and a library still need between $4 million and $5 million in renovations.

Meek said he's planning to develop an online program in the future, and hopes to help fund expansions by attracting corporate donors and grants from the Department of Energy.

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