The landmark Marshall Grand houses East Texas Baptist University’s (ETBU) School of nursing. On the plaque that designates the building as a teaching institution, we see these etched words from Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

The Marshall Grand stands today because a dedicated group of local business, civic, political, and philanthropic leaders took it upon themselves to revitalize the building in hopes of improving Marshall’s downtown economy.

Judge Richard and Christina Anderson and Jerry and Judy Cargill spearheaded the planning and fundraising campaign to save the historic building.

Their efforts bore unexpected fruit when the building become a facility for preparing college students with valuable nursing skills and lifelong careers, saving lives, practicing in the field of medicine after being gifted to ETBU in 2013 at the request of previous president Dr. Dub Oliver.

“We love our colleges here. We love downtown,” Mrs. Anderson said. “It’s always been about what’s best for downtown economic growth and the vitality of our downtown.”

Built in the 1930s, The Marshall Grand served as a center for social and civic activity in East Texas. Designed by renowned Fort Worth architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, The Marshall Grand was built in the Italian Renaissance architectural style with art deco elements. It closed in 1970 due to competition from several new I-20 establishments.

For decades, The Marshall Grand was empty and forsaken. The community stood at odds over what to do with this forgotten structure.

“It was an eyesore,” Mrs. Anderson said. “The first step was to save the building.”

Some wanted to demolish the building. Estimated costs to implode the building were at $750,000. As the most financially feasible approach, the demolition might have taken place if the First United Methodist Church at 300 E. Houston St. had not been so close by.

The church’s sanctuary was built in 1861 and has a designated marker from the Texas Historical Commission. An implosion of a magnitude to destroy the Marshall Grand in such proximity could potentially have harmed the historic sanctuary. This concern derailed plans for demolition.

“We didn’t want to do that. It was an iconic landmark,” Mrs. Anderson said.

Guided by a passion to restore and save, the Cargills and the Andersons created the “Dream Big” fundraising campaign in 2003. They were joined by an eager and supportive community, including the city of Marshall, Marshall Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), the nonprofit Marshall Downtown Development Corporation (MDDC) and hundreds of individual contributors to MDDC.

“It was a perfect collaborative effort. It used to stand as what the community couldn’t do,” Mrs. Anderson said. “With the renovation of The Marshall Grand now standing as a testimony, if we work together and ‘Dream Big,’ we can make it happen.

“It was our labor of love,” she added. “The Cargills and the Andersons, and the labor of love for our community.”

In three short years, the two dynamic couples, with the community supporting them, raised ample funds and completed the full renovation of the building’s exterior, the lobby, mezzanine, basement, restaurant, commercial kitchen, roof, two elevators, double-pane windows, fire sprinklers, water and electric utilities, and HVAC for commercial areas, water proofing for the facade and other important features.

The newly opened Marshall Grand, an upscale boutique hotel, quickly booked more than 85 events, including weddings, reunions and banquets.

Wiley College benefited from the fully restored Marshall Grand by hosting its gala for the southern premiere of the feature film “The Great Debaters,” in 2007.

The film’s director and star, Denzel Washington, was in attendance as well as other cast members. Washington helped place Marshall on the map by making the film about Wiley College’s 1935 national championship debate team.

The Marshall Grand was renovated and repaired. Promises were kept; financial commitments were fulfilled. Yet, it was ETBU’s former president Dr. Dub Oliver whose foresight would cast the final vision for the Marshall Grand’s full restoration and its eventual academic purpose.

“Dub Oliver approached us and asked if we would ever consider gifting the building to the university. We care deeply about education,” Mrs. Anderson said. “It couldn’t be better, to have the vision that Dr. Oliver had. We made a great decision. We were honored to make that decision.”

Effective Sept. 1, 2013, the Marshall Grand was gifted by the Andersons and the Cargills to ETBU and subsequently became the home of their highly respected school of nursing. At the time of transfer to ETBU, the building was appraised at $3.2 million.

In 2015, the baton of ETBU presidential leadership was passed to Dr. J. Blair Blackburn and plans continued for the combined vision of the Andersons, Cargills, and the Christ-centered school of higher learning.

Dr. Blackburn’s expertise in master planning, architecture, interior design,and fundraising helped complete Dr. Oliver’s vision for ETBU and the Marshall Grand.

“The gifting to ETBU is a new wonderful story for our downtown,” Mrs. Anderson said.

“It was a shared vision in melding ETBU with a downtown campus,” Richard Anderson said. “ETBU is taking that vision to a higher level.”

The community gathered on May 4 to unveil the School of Nursing at the Marshall Grand. The school will be fully operational when classes resume in August.