‘Juilliard of New Jersey:’ Gov. Kean joins Coalition to Save Westminster
PRINCETON — The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College has enlisted a former governor in their effort to stop Rider University from selling the school's property.
The Coalition's attorney, Bruce Afran, told New Jersey 101.5 that Kean joined the group because he considers Westminster to be "a vaunted cultural institution that is known throughout the world for its music education."
"It's one of the major music schools in the entire nation. It's the 'Juilliard of New Jersey' and the governor is opposed to any measure by Rider University to close this campus and cease operating as a college in Princeton."
Kean's family helped found Kean University and he served as president of Drew University after his term as governor.
Facing a multi-million debt, Rider University president Gregory Dell’Omo in March announced plans to sell Westminster and its property. While confident a buyer would come forward, Dell'Omo said a second option would be to find an institution willing to take Westminster's programs and move them to another location but sell the campus. No price tag has ever been announced.
Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown said the school has received "multiple proposals that will be evaluated by a committee of the Board of Trustees throughout the summer."
"As President Dell'Omo has said before, it remains our highest priority to find an institution that is willing to acquire Westminster Choir College and keep it in Princeton," Brown said, adding that the process remains confidential. "We will be regularly communicating on our progress as the process allows and to keep our community informed."
Princeton Public Schools started the preliminary process to become a "viable bidder" for the property, a prospect that dismays the Coalition.
"If any plan is announced by Rider to sell this to any non-university buyer then we will go to court immediately," Afran said. He called the thought of the district buying the property as "disgraceful."
Afran is pessimistic that the sale of Westminster will ever happen. He fears that any sale of the property will mean the end of the prestigious school that was started in Ohio in 1920.
"Universities don't buy colleges. Universities will merge. They will not spend millions of dollars to buy a college. So Rider's plan to sell WCC to another university is never going to happen. And so the other options Rider has will mean the closing of the Westminster campus. The other option Rider has is to sell it to a developer and turn it into some other kind of project. So what this means is Rider will wind up closing the school and this is what the Coalition will go to court to block. To close one of the most important music schools in the world is a barbaric act."
Rider said Rider gets an extra $9 million per year from WCC students. "This school has helped Rider and given it a national reputation," Afran said.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
More from New Jersey 101.5