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At old campus, The Summit arises

Goal: Build a healthier community by sharing space with partners

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A meeting area at The Summit’s Learning Center building hosts receptions and other gatherings.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
The Summit, the campus on Rudisill Boulevard formerly inhabited by Taylor University, is run by Ambassador Enterprises.

At The Summit campus on West Rudisill Boulevard, it’s not about making money – it’s about sharing a vision.

The sprawling campus, formerly Taylor University-Fort Wayne, was bought by Ambassador Enterprises in 2011. In the heart of a picturesque south-side neighborhood, the 22-acre campus offers 260,000 square feet of space in 14 buildings.

Ambassador Enterprises, a for-profit, philanthropic equity firm established in 2008, owns and operates The Summit. Ambassador has 42 employees, eight at The Summit and the rest at the corporate headquarters on East Dupont Road.

The company’s approach of investing in people and the organizations they lead is built around a belief that the partners will return that investment in the form of a healthier community.

“We want to change lives through our high-quality programs,” said Zach Lesser, director of operations.

Those programs include education, health and wellness, financial literacy, physical fitness and spiritual vitality.

The Summit currently has 11 partners at the site, including two colleges – Crossroads Bible College and Grace College. Physical fitness partners include Amateur Sports Academy, Performance Plus Volleyball and Gym Rats, while nonprofit and community development organizations include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Experience Mission, Fort Wayne Alumni and Friends, WBCL Radio and Pathfinder Services.

Undeveloped space

The newest partner is Audiences Unlimited Inc. The organization will move on campus in November, relocating from downtown to the third floor of Witmer Hall. There, the new staff of Audiences Unlimited will join Big Brothers Big Sisters, which occupies the first and second floors of the building.

Audiences Unlimited provides over 2,700 cultural experiences annually – including many musical venues – to more than 109,000 residents of long-term care.

Ambassador Enterprises is targeted when selecting organizations to share the campus, Lesser said.

“We are very comfortable with the partners we have,” he said. “The local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters is the best in the nation when it comes to the kids serviced in mentoring.”

The Summit has room for more partners and plenty of undeveloped space, but company officials are in no hurry to fill that space, preferring to select partners who share their vision, Lesser said.

“We are not in this to make money,” he said. “We want to partner with those who can offer programs with the highest and best impact on Fort Wayne.”

The Summit can do that through shared experiences, working together to deliver high-quality and high-care programs designed to change lives, he said.

The campus

The centerpiece building, Eicher Hall and the Learning Center, includes a shared, state-of-the-art digital lab, Eicher student commons and atrium, Crossroads Bible College and Grace College.

Currently, Crossroads has slightly fewer than 20 students, and Grace has just slightly more than 20 students, said Myles Smith, property leasing coordinator.

The visually striking building was constructed between 2003 and 2005. It has commercial kitchen facilities and an adjoining dining hall that can accommodate 400 guests, he said.

The Heritage Room offers meeting facilities for smaller groups or organizations, Smith said.

To the west is the newest building, the two-story, brick Ramseyer Retreat Center, built in 2007.

The center features 28 individual dorm rooms and a dozen two- and three-bedroom suites, all decorated in inviting fall colors.

The center is used for residential housing as well as corporate retreats, Smith said.

The nearby Gerig Activity Center is home to a new fitness center for partners and staff, testament to the company’s focus on health and wellness. The center also includes two full-size basketball courts and bleachers.

Between Gym Rats, Performance Plus Volleyball and Amateur Sports Academy, the sports complex is busy hosting some “huge events,” Smith said.

In the works

Starting this fall, Grace College will partner with Ambassador Enterprises to offer a three-year, accelerated bachelor’s degree program at The Summit, Lesser said.

A hybrid-online format will allow working adults to attain a degree by completing coursework online and studying on campus in one-week residencies at the beginning of every eight-week session.

The 180-acre main campus of Grace College and Seminary is in Winona Lake, near Warsaw.

Another new program The Summit hopes to grow is the Passport to Innovative Education.

Ambassador Enterprises and The Summit partnered with Indiana Wesleyan University this summer to offer the professional development program to local teachers who are in their first five years of teaching.

Participants in the one-week experience, which emphasized character development, were able to earn up to nine hours of graduate-level credit.

This year’s program had about 20 participants. The Summit would like to see that increase to about 80 teachers by next summer, Lesser said.

“We are very excited about this program and the new Grace College program,” Lesser said.

“Education is our area of highest focus.”