- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

RENSSELAER, Ind. (AP) - A private Catholic college in northwestern Indiana is holding a liquidation sale after suspending operations earlier this year.

St. Joseph’s College leaders announced in February that the school would temporarily close at the end of the spring 2017 semester. Trustees say the school in Rensselaer was $27 million in debt and faced losing its accreditation. It had about 1,200 students at the time.

The school has held a series of online and on-site sales since August of property including furniture, kitchen items, band instruments and sports equipment, the (Lafayette) Journal & Courier reported.

The money raised is going to what school officials have dubbed the Phoenix Project, which as a small group of administrators and staffers working on a proposal for the future of the college founded in Rensselaer more than 125 years ago.

The school faced complaints from some graduates by offering plaques from its sports hall of fame wall to alumni or family members for about $20 before the sale of the plaques was stopped last week.

Bill Hogan, vice president for advancement for the Phoenix Project and the college’s former athletics director, said some items had been tagged as off-limits from the sale - such as campus benches that were tributes to graduates and professors, championship trophies and the Administration Building bell.

He called the plaque sale a miscommunication.

“We’re all kind of in a learning process on this,” Hogan said. “I think sometimes things slip through the cracks, unfortunately.”

Cork Atkinson, a 1972 graduate, had recently retrieved his plaque from the recreation center’s wall.

“It was just so odd,” Atkinson said. “I looked at all the other people up there. I knew a lot of them who were really good players. . Standing there with this little hammer and a crowbar, it just made me feel so sad for everyone up there. It’s like they had to buy themselves back, in a way - if they even know they can.”

Eaton-Hudson Inc. is running the liquidation sale, which will continue for about six weeks.

“All this money is going into try to save the school,” said Jim Schaye, CEO of the liquidation firm. “But we get that it was tough for some people. So many emotions wrapped up here.”

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