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Former Temple art school campus’ new buyer appears to be religious group with ties to college snagged in embezzlement scheme

Signs point to Olivet Assembly as the “not-for-profit religious organization” that acquired the former Tyler School of the Arts campus.

The former Tyler School of Art campus in Elkins Park. The long-vacant property's new owner appears to be a California-based evangelical university.
The former Tyler School of Art campus in Elkins Park. The long-vacant property's new owner appears to be a California-based evangelical university.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

An international evangelical group with ties to a college that pleaded guilty in 2020 in an embezzlement scheme involving Newsweek magazine’s former owners appears to have purchased Temple University’s former Montgomery County art school campus.

“A not-for-profit religious organization” acquired the former Tyler School of Art campus in Elkins Park for $3 million with a mortgage backed in part by a property in the Hudson Valley, New York, town of Dover, lender Kennedy Funding said in a release on Tuesday.

Kennedy Funding did not identify the organization, but the Dover area is home to a campus of California-based Olivet University, founded by Korean American pastor David Jang, and to U.S. offices of the World Olivet Assembly ministry. The Dover property backing the Tyler campus loan is owned by a company called Duoworks Inc., whose president, Ruby Hwang, is chairman of Olivet Assembly Inc.

Graduates of the university founded World Olivet Assembly, according to the school’s website. The university and the assembly are separate legal entities, records show.

The 14-acre Tyler campus had once been part of the Cheltenham Township estate of financier George Elkins, whose family donated the property to Temple in 1934.

Temple departed the campus in 2009, when it moved its arts program to a new building on its main campus in North Philadelphia, selling the Elkins Park property to investors eight years later for an undisclosed sum. The property, academic home to 750 students before it was shuttered, has been vacant since.

“Returning purpose to this large and historic property is significant for the Elkins Park community at large, which has seen this campus abandoned for so long,” Kennedy Funding chief executive Kevin Wolfer said in the release.

A spokesperson for the Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based lender said the firm had no information about the buyer or the buyer’s plans.

Messages for Olivet Assembly and Olivet University were not immediately returned.

Cheltenham Township Manager Bob Zienkowski said that buyers of such large tracts typically inform local officials of their intentions before completing an acquisition to make sure those plans don’t conflict with area regulations, but that no “information or plans or anything” had been received from the buyers or sellers of the Tyler campus.

“It just seems a little strange and odd, but that could just be me,” he said.

Jang founded the Olivet Theological College and Seminary in 2000 in Seoul and Los Angeles to serve “as a ‘seedbed’ for missionary training and service,” according to the pastor’s website.

The school was reconstituted as Olivet University in 2004, when it relocated to Northern California, eventually moving onto a former University of California-Berkeley continuing-education campus in central San Francisco.

The university’s Northern California location has since moved from San Francisco to nearby Marin County, while its main campus has shifted south to the inland Southern California town of Anza. Student population at the main campus was 1,160 as of 2018, state data show.

It has satellite schools in seven more cities, including the Dover location on 500 acres of what had once been a psychiatric center.

The university offers programs in theology, music, journalism, graphic design, information technology, business, language education, and engineering, its website says.

“Each of Olivet University’s schools is designed to enable men and women to use various skills to reach the ‘network generation’ for Jesus Christ through vocational ministry, and to enable students to achieve a biblical worldview,” it wrote on the site.

In 2018, the university was targeted in an investigation for which the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office raided the Dover campus and the offices of Newsweek.

Prosecutors alleged that Olivet University, along with former executives of a company that owned Newsweek with ties to Jang’s religious group, had lied about the financial condition of their organizations to borrow $35 million for high-end computer servers, then used the cash for other purposes.

Olivet University pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy, a felony, and one count of falsifying records, a misdemeanor, and agreed to a pay $1.25 million.

This article was updated after initial publication.