Life University VP touts school's $230 million impact on Cobb

Jan. 13—MARIETTA — A Life University executive sought to dispel misconceptions about the university as much as he aimed to provide an update on the school at this week's Kiwanis Club of Marietta luncheon.

Founded as a chiropractic college in 1975 by Sid Williams, Life now has undergraduate and graduate degree programs and numerous sports teams, said Gilles LaMarche, the school's vice president of university advancement.

Rob White, the school's president since 2017, was scheduled to speak but had a conflict and sent LaMarche in his place.

Life's impact on Cobb County is far more significant than most people realize, according to LaMarche.

"In 2019, our economic impact was over $230 million on Cobb County," LaMarche said.

LaMarche added that the university accounts for 1,288 jobs in Cobb and enrolls around 2,700 students, including 658 living on-campus.

Kiwanis Club member Rebecca Koch has a degree in positive psychology from Life and serves as the school's director of service initiatives. She said the impact that the school and its students have on the county, especially near the school's 110-acre campus at Cobb Parkway and South Cobb Drive, is oftentimes overlooked.

Before coming to Life, Koch noted the school was forced to close for a period of time. In 2002, the school's accreditation was questioned by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Chiropractic Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

"Businesses up and down Cobb Parkway suffered, some of them went out of business," Koch said. "That impact was really evident during that time."

LaMarche touted Life's "philosophy of what is called lasting service," noting that it offers a Compassionate Integrity Training program in more than 60 countries worldwide. The program, according to the university, "cultivates basic human values as skills for the purpose of increasing individual, social and environmental flourishing."

During a Q&A after his talk, a Kiwanis member asked LaMarche if the university would ever offer a medical degree, to which LaMarche responded in the negative.

"Our train of thought is in the science of what we refer to as 'vitalism,'" LaMarche said.

Chiropractic "emphasizes the body's ability to heal itself," per the National Institutes of Health, and chiropractors often employ spinal manipulation in treatment and frequently address musculoskeletal problems in patients.

LaMarche praised the crisis intervention system in the U.S. as the best in the world, but he said that health metrics indicate the country is in a health crisis and that chiropractic can go a long way in helping people overcome their health struggles.

LaMarche shared his own experiences with chiropractic in helping him overcome cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart, in 2003.

"I was told I would be dead within two years," LaMarche said. "I retired from practice in April 2004, 31 days later I woke up and I was like, 'You're an idiot, there must be something wrong with your spinal-nervous system."

LeMarche said he was preparing to die and "dying fast" when he began receiving regular chiropractic care. Within a year, LaMarche said, he was normalized, and within two years his cardiomegaly was reversed.

"Zero medication, zero anything other than great chiropractic care," LaMarche said.

Koch said Life students in the school's business, nutrition and sport health science programs also make big contributions to the Cobb community through internships with companies around the county.

Koch told the MDJ she thinks Life has not done a good enough job of sharing its accomplishments with a broader public.

She cited the LIFE Center for Seniors, which offers senior citizens use of fitness and other self-improvement opportunities on-campus, as one example of where the university could do a better job of communicating its successes.

"So really, our impact is only a fraction of what it could be," Koch said.