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Belmont University | Belief in Something Greater
Historic photo of students in front of the Belmont Mansion in winter

Belmont History

Belmont's rich history tells a story of determination, commitment and faith. The timeline below highlights a number of moments throughout the institution's first 125 years that have contributed to the University we celebrate today.

1889

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Bell Tower
Belmont founders Susan L. Heron and Ida B. Hood choose the dilapidated, antebellum former Belle Monte estate site as the grounds for what is now known as Belmont University. The Bell Tower, Belmont’s now famous cornerstone, inspired the duo to push forward despite the property’s condition, as they later noted “It was the old tower that did it.”

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September 4, 1890

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With 90 enrolled students and $60 tuition, Belmont College for Young Women opens, bucking traditional finishing schools and providing cultural, intellectual and social learning and the empowerment of “lives of purpose.”

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1913

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Heron and Hood retire, and the College merges with Nashville’s prestigious Ward Seminary for Young Ladies, forming Ward-Belmont College.

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Ward-Belmont College
1922

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Ward-Belmont is home to the production of Nashville’s first radio broadcast, a concert by Pianist Philip Gordon before a live audience of Ward-Belmont students and their families.

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November 17, 1934

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Dr. Gabhart
In the wake of the Great Depression, FDR visits campus with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Classes are suspended, and students welcome the presidential brigade to campus.

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Late 1950

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Due to bank debts and intimidating endowment requirements, Ward-Belmont’s Board begins looking for new options.

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February 27, 1951

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The Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board unanimously votes to purchase Ward-Belmont’s property.

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Baptists purchase Belmont
Spring, 1951

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Co-Ed Institution
Ward-Belmont becomes a co-educational, four-year institution, and the former Ward-Belmont preparatory school moves to a 26-acre estate across town. Enrolling 161 girls during its first year, the school would continue on to become Harpeth Hall, one of the finest schools for girls in the nation.

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May 1951

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The newly appointed board of trustees meet to choose a name for the school. After going through a number of ideas, the decision is made – Belmont College.
Belmont College

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April 27, 1959

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President Gabhart
Dr. Herbert Gabhart, pastor of Memphis’s McLean Boulevard Baptist Church, accepts an offer to become Belmont’s President.

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March 11, 1965

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Belmont’s Board unanimously passes the recommendation to admit any student that meets requirements, regardless of race. Additionally, Dr. Gabhart signs the Certification of Assurance of Compliance with Provisions of Civil Right Act of 1964.

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1966

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Belmont begins construction on an auditorium and fine arts center, and with a gift of $250,000, Nashville businessman and philanthropist Jack. C Massey earns naming rights. At the dedication, Massey shocks Dr. Gabhart by announcing his desire to also fund a state-of-the-art business program at Belmont.
Massey Arts Center

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1968

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Women's Basketball
Coach Betty Wiseman launches Belmont’s women’s basketball program, the first of its kind in the south.

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Spring 1970

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Fannie Delores Valree is the first African-American student to graduate from Belmont College, earning a Bachelor’s of Science degree.

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1971

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Professor Robert E. Mulloy launches an Introduction to Music Business course, based on a suggestion from music legend Roy Acuff, and the school’s music business program is born.

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Music Business
December 1972

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Fire
Blanton Hall, a cornerstone for Belmont College’s campus, burns down taking with it registrar records, in-progress faculty dissertations and the College’s library, an estimated $2 million in damages.

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1982

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Dr. Gabhart retires as president of Belmont College and moves into the position of Chancellor, one he would serve in for 27 more years. During his time as president, enrollment grew from 365 to more than 2,000, and the budget grew from $480,000 to $8 million. Dr. Bill Troutt, Belmont College executive vice president, steps into the role of president after Dr. Gabhart’s retirement, making him the youngest college president in the U.S.
Trouttcampus 86 7

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1986

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Bell Tower
After being sold for desperately needed funds, Troutt and Belmont Trustee Drew Maddox bring the carillon bells back to the Bell Tower. Faculty, staff, students and neighbors gather to welcome the bells back home.

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1991

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Belmont College becomes Belmont University.

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Belmont University
1999

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Division I Athletics
Because of Troutt’s push for athletic programs to be more widely recognized, Belmont officially becomes a member of NCAA Division I.

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2000

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Dr. Bob Fisher is hired as president after a successful career as a higher education vice president, professor and economist.

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President Fisher
2003

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Beaman Student Center
Belmont opens the Beaman Student Life Center, Curb Event Center and Maddox Grand Atrium, a $52 million, three-building athletic and student life complex that further illustrates Belmont’s commitment to the student experience, both in and out of the classroom.

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November 2007

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A lawsuit between Belmont and the Tennessee Baptist Convention reaches a mutually agreed upon resolution. With the settlement, Belmont honors its Baptist heritage but steps forward as an independent, ecumenical Christian university with no denominational ties.

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October 7, 2008

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The 2008 Town Hall Presidential Debate is held at Belmont University with NBC News’ Tom Brokaw moderating the debate between then Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. With the debate comes full campaigns along with national and international media attention.
Debate 08

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October 7, 2009

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Belmont announces its intention to open a College of Law, the first newly accredited law school in Middle Tennessee in nearly 100 years.

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2011

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Rose Park
After a lengthy process requiring buy-in from both sides, Belmont funds the renovation and creation of Rose Park in the neighboring Edgehill community. Rose Park serves as a constant reminder of the partnership between Belmont, the city and the neighborhood.

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March 2013

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Belmont launches the Bridges to Belmont program, designed to enroll 26 qualified, high potential students from Metro Nashville Public Schools who may not have previously been able to consider Belmont as an option.
Bridges to Belmont

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February 10, 2014

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Alumni House
Following the renovation of an original club house, the Foutch Alumni House opens to welcome alumni “back home” with open arms.

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August 2014

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Belmont opens the Wedgewood Academic Center, a five-story 186,000-square foot building home to three University colleges and the campus’s first Chapel, supporting Dr. Fisher’s “Bob the Builder” nickname.

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Wedgewood Academic Center
January 2015

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Coach Byrd
Basketball legend and Head Coach Rick Byrd becomes the 25th head coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history to win 700 games.

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August 2015

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Belmont opens its newest addition - a four-story, 116,000-square-foot Academic and Dining Complex that will house campus' new Dining Hall, Media Studies Program and the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.
BUDAC

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Today

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Investing more than half a billion dollars in the University’s brick and mortar, Belmont’s team has put just as much into what President Fisher calls the University’s most valuable asset – its people. Ranked No. 5 in the Regional Universities South category by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont consists of more than 8,000 students. With more than 90 areas of undergraduate study, 19 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont can expand an individual’s horizon.