Baldwin The former prime minister's father preached in a 19th century English chapel that has found a new home at Baker University.
Baker University's ties to a tiny English church have resulted in plans for Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, to visit the Baker campus in October.
Dan Lambert, Baker president, said Thatcher would help rededicate a 19th century Methodist chapel that the university moved piece-by-piece to Baldwin from Sproxton, England, last year.
The chapel, in which Thatcher's father preached near the turn of the century, is being rebuilt on the Baker campus and will be rededicated Oct. 23.
"We're very excited and honored" about Thatcher's visit, Lambert said.
Lambert said officials began arranging the visit last April after learning about Thatcher's connection to the church. Thatcher, prime minister from 1979 to 1990, grew up in Grantham, a central England market town near Sproxton.
"Mrs. Thatcher's father was a pharmacist and lay Methodist minister," Lambert said. "He'd go out to the village of Sproxton to preach ... and apparently Mrs. Thatcher has memories of this little church from her childhood."
Charles Price, U.S. ambassador to England during the Reagan and Bush administrations, helped persuade Thatcher to visit Baldwin, Lambert said. Price, a Kansas City, Mo., native, presented a commencement address at Baker four years ago.
Thatcher will speak at Baker's annual fall convocation before participating in the rededication ceremony. Her visit is part of a lecture series that has included former President Gerald Ford and political columnist William F. Buckley, among others.
The stone church, purchased by Baker last year, originally was dedicated in 1864 and was abandoned in 1988. The 100-seat chapel symbolically links the university, which was founded by pioneer Methodists, to the country where the Methodist religion originated.
University officials said the relocation and reconstruction project was funded by a $1 million gift from R.R. Osborne, a retired Olathe banker and philanthropist.