Like so many small private colleges, Dana College, a small Lutheran institution on the outskirts of Omaha, has long been precariously close to its death.
“I’ve worried about the college as long as I’ve known the college,” says Myrvin Christopherson, a 1961 alumnus who was Dana’s president from 1986 until 2005. During those 19 years, not only did he weather several years of budget deficits and a fire that destroyed the college’s Old Main, but he also increased the college’s endowment from $1 million to more than 10 times that. “It was always able to pull through.”
For months, top administrators at Birmingham-Southern College believed they had weathered the economic downturn reasonably well.
Then, this spring, an audit revealed the truth: years of financial mismanagement and accounting errors had allowed the small college to operate for years while spending millions of dollars more than it actually had in its budget.