Belmont University

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Belmont University
Belmont University seal.png
Former names
Belmont College for Young Women (1890–1913)
Ward-Belmont College (1913–1951)
Belmont College (1951–1991)[1]
Motto"From here to anywhere"
Established1890; 131 years ago (1890)
Religious affiliation
Christian (nondenominational)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$260.1 million (2020)[5]
PresidentL. Gregory Jones[6]
Academic staff
377 Full-time and 508 Part-time (2020)[7]
Students8,440 (Fall 2020)[7]
Location, ,
United States
CampusUrban, 75 acres (30 ha)
ColorsRed and blue[8]
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IOVC[9]
MascotBruiser the Bruin
Belmont University logo.png
Belmont (Acklen Hall)
LocationBelmont Blvd.
Nashville, Tennessee
ArchitectWilliam Strickland
Architectural styleGreek Revival; Italianate
NRHP reference No.71000816
Added to NRHPMay 6, 1971

Belmont University is a private Christian university in Nashville, Tennessee. Descended from Belmont Women's College, founded in 1890 by schoolteachers Ida Hood and Susan Heron, the institution was incorporated in 1951 as Belmont College.[10] It became Belmont University in 1991. Belmont's current enrollment consists of approximately 8,400 students representing every state and 28 nations.[11] The university served as the host site for the final presidential debate in the 2020 election cycle. Although the university cut its ties with the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 2007, it continues to emphasize a Christian identity.


The university originated in the founding of the Belmont Women's College in 1890 by Susan Ledley Heron[12] and Ida Emily Hood.[13][14] on the site of the Belmont Mansion, built by Joseph Acklen and Adelicia (Hayes) Acklen. Upon the retirement of Heron and Hood, Belmont Women's College merged with Ward Seminary in 1913 and was known as Ward—Belmont College, which included both a junior college and college-prep (or high) school for women.[15][16] Today the Belmont Mansion is owned by Belmont University but maintained by the Belmont Mansion Association, a non-profit group. The mansion is open for tours and features Victorian art and furnishings. The water tower, gardens, with surviving gazebos and outdoor statuary from the Acklen era, are part of the college campus.[17] In 1991, the school became Belmont University.[18]

The university was awarded the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation for their contributions to promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the United States on December 1, 2020.[19][20]

Nashville's first radio station[edit]

Nashville's first radio station

The first radio station in Nashville went on air in May 1922 when, Boy Scout[21] John "Jack" DeWitt, Jr., a 16-year-old high school student, installed a twenty-watt transmitter at Belmont. The station, WDAA, was born when Doctor C. E. Crosland, Associate President, realized the potential advertising value to the college of a radio station. The WDAA program on April 18, 1922, marked the first time a music program was broadcast in Nashville. The broadcast could be heard 150 to 200 miles (320 km) from the school.[22] DeWitt later became WSM (AM) radio station's chief engineer, 1932–1942, and president, 1947–1968.[23]

Ties to the Tennessee Baptist Convention[edit]

In 1951, Ward-Belmont College, the finishing school operated in Nashville by Ward-Belmont, Inc., was facing severe financial difficulties. To relieve those problems, the school entered into a relationship with the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC). Under the terms of that relationship, the TBC provided the school with financial support and in exchange was granted certain management rights related to the school. In particular, all of the members of the school's Board of Trustees were required to hold membership in a Baptist church.

The TBC made Ward-Belmont coeducational in spring 1951, and shortened the school's name to simply Belmont College. Under Herbert Gabhart, who served as president from 1959 to 1982, Belmont's enrollment leaped from 365 students to 2,000, and it launched a music business program. Gabhart was succeeded by Bill Troutt, who at 32 was the youngest college president in the nation. The school's growth continued, and in 1991 it became a university.

In 2005 Belmont's Board of Trustees sought to remove Belmont University from the control of the Tennessee Baptist Convention while remaining in a "fraternal relationship" with it. Advocates of this plan presented a blueprint for change in which all board members would be Christians but only 60 percent would be Baptists in order to affirm a Christian affinity while acknowledging the diversity of both the faculty and the student body. The head of the TBC would continue to be an ex officio board member. The TBC rejected this plan.

In November 2005 The Tennessean reported that the TBC would increase its funding of two other institutions, Union University and Carson-Newman College by the amount previously given to Belmont and Belmont would replace the three percent of its budget that was funded by the TBC; this announcement seemed to mark the end of the matter. However, on April 7, 2006 The Tennessean reported that the TBC would seek to oust the existing board and replace it with one consisting entirely of Southern Baptists and amenable to ongoing TBC control.

After settlement talks failed, the Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Board filed a lawsuit on September 29, 2006, against Belmont seeking the return of approximately $58 million.

Belmont severed its ties from the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 2007, when the university announced it would be a Christian university without any denominational affiliations. On November 14, 2007, Nashville media reported that a settlement of this suit had been reached before trial. Under its terms, the TBC and Belmont would disaffiliate amicably, with Belmont agreeing to pay one million dollars to the convention immediately, and $250,000 annually for the next forty years, for a total cost of $11 million. The university has stated its intent to maintain a Christian identity, but no longer a specifically Baptist one.[24]

21st century[edit]

Belmont University became a catalyst for anti-discrimination protests in December 2010, when women's soccer coach Lisa Howe allegedly lost her job at the university on December 2 after announcing that she was having three children with her same sex partner.[25] Howe's dismissal sparked protests from students and from local and national gay-rights advocates. These events led to a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance being passed by the Nashville City Council in January 2011.[26] On January 26, 2011, President Bob Fisher announced that Belmont has added sexual orientation to the university's non-discrimination policies.[27] Belmont is a Christian university which was widely regarded for its progressive ideals until the controversy broke out over Howe's departure.[28] The college was criticized for not allowing a group with a mission to support gay students and explore the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality called Bridge Builders to officially form as a student group. At a news conference, Fisher stated that they had resubmitted the application.[28] On February 27, 2011, Belmont University officially recognized the gay student organization for the first time. Belmont Provost Thomas Burns and Bridge Builders President Robbie Maris announced the decision to recognize the student group in a joint statement.[29]

Acquisition of O'More College of Design[edit]

In February 2018, Belmont University took ownership of the O'More College of Design.[30] On March 6, 2019, Belmont University announced that its current College of Visual and Performing Arts will be separated into two distinct colleges with defined areas of focus: the College of Music and Performing Arts will include all music, theatre and dance programs while the O’More College of Architecture, Art and Design will house architecture, art, fashion, interior design and design communications.[31]

Acquisition of Watkins College[edit]

In February 2020, Belmont University announced that they would merge with Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, located in Nashville, Tennessee.[32] Belmont and Watkins will evaluate employment needs based on the number of students transferring, existing capacities and related considerations. As a long-standing Christian institution, Belmont's policy is to hire faculty and staff who support the Christian institution's mission, vision and values; however, due to the nature of merging institutions, the university announced special consideration will be given to current Watkins employees regardless of their position of faith.[32][33] In May 2021, Belmont sold the former Watkins College campus for $22.5 million, funds which the university states will underwrite scholarships for students of the visual arts.[34]

Controversy regarding connection to CoreCivic[edit]

In July 2020, group of Belmont University students and alumni began to draw attention to the university's longstanding relationship with CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America), asking the school to divest from any financial ties to CoreCivic and for-profit prisons.[35] The relationship between CoreCivic and the university extends to the early 1980s. In 1983, notable Tennessee businessman Jack C. Massey, provided a portion of the initial funding to begin Corrections Corporation of America, along with Thomas Beasley.[36] Discussed as early as 1966, Belmont's Massey Graduate School of Business was founded shortly after in 1986.[37][38] Beasley has also funded major programs at the school, including a free enterprise institute at the Massey Business School.[39] In 2018, Damon Hininger, CEO of CoreCivic, joined the Belmont University Board of Trustees.[40] Shortly after students and alumni began a petition asking for his removal.[41] Hininger is not the first board member with ties to CoreCivic. The current board includes Andrea Overby (donor to CoreCivic PAC in 2018 and wife of Charles Overby, former CCA board member)[42][43] as well as John Ferguson (former CCA President).[44] As of April 2021, Damon Hininger was no longer on a member of the board, having completed his allowed number of terms.[45]



Belmont University offers bachelor's degrees in over 90 academic majors in nine colleges with more than 25 master's and five doctoral programs.[48] Belmont and HCA created a health sciences consortium with local universities to alleviate the shortage of nurses and health care professionals in the local community,[49] and provides students with shared office space and mentoring from faculty, local entrepreneurs and attorneys.[50] Journalism students have gained work experience at The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show, CBS Evening News, and British Broadcasting Corp.[51]

Rankings and recognition[edit]

Belmont has been cited for years by U.S. News & World Report. In the 2020 rankings, Belmont was tied for No. 166 in the category of National Universities. It is also tied for No. 121 as best college for veterans, and tied for No. 17 in best undergraduate teaching. Previously, it was one of 64 institutions in the South recognized as a “Best Value,” one of 20 institutions recognized for internship offerings across the nation, one of 18 institutions recognized in the nation for learning communities, one of 23 institutions recognized in the nation for service-learning and one of 44 institutions in the nation recognized for study abroad opportunities.[52]

For the applicant class of 2017–18, Belmont admitted 81% of its applicants.[53] The class's average ACT score was 26 and the average SAT score was 1221. 27% of the class were in the top 10% of their high school's graduating, while 56% were in their class's top quarter.[53] In 2017, 3.6% of the entering freshmen class were from New England, 21.2% were from the Midwest, 49.3% were from the South, 7.0% were from the Middle States, 7.8% were from the West, 9.9% were from the Southwest and 1.2% were from “Other,” a region including the U.S. Territories, international students and those unspecified.[54]

In fall 2017, the university had 7,587 students enrolled, a 4% increase from 2016.[55] The overall, average graduation rate for Belmont is 67%.[56]

Music and music business programs[edit]

Belmont is home to the only AACSB International accredited Music Business program in the world.[57]

Belmont's Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business (CEMB) consists of current/former authors, performers, expert witnesses (for industry lawsuits), artist managers, lawyers, record label executives, songwriters, and others. Mike Curb is the CEO of Curb Records. He was a producer, songwriter and company executive and one of the most successful record men of the sixties and seventies. He is the department's namesake. The former dean of the CEMB, Jim Van Hook, is a legendary Nashville label head, especially as part of the Christian music industry. One of the hallmarks of the program is its internship program, which sends hundreds of students annually out into the Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles music industries to intern for record labels, management companies, publishing companies, booking agencies, publicists, recording studios, law firms, and other businesses.

Besides having three professional-quality recording studios on campus, Belmont owns the Belmont Studios (including Ocean Way Nashville), part of which is operated for-profit (used by such artists as Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow, and Bob Seger), and part of which is used by students. Ocean Way Nashville, purchased by Belmont in 2001, has recorded thousands of tracks including the score for “The Last of Us,” a top-selling game that won Best Audio in the global GANG (Game Audio Network Guild) Awards.[58]

Schools and colleges[edit]

  • College of Education
  • College of Law
  • College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
  • College of Pharmacy
  • College of Sciences & Mathematics
  • College of Theology & Christian Ministry
  • College of Music & Performing Arts
  • Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences & Nursing
  • Interdisciplinary Studies & Global Education
  • Jack C. Massey College of Business
  • The Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business (CEMB)
  • O’More College of Architecture & Design
  • Watkins College of Art


Main campus (Nashville)[edit]

The Belmont Mansion

In June 2006, Belmont opened the $18 million Gordon E. Inman Center that houses the Gordon E. Inman College of Health Sciences and Nursing.[59] The building has three stories of classroom space that contain learning labs equipped with Sim Man mannequins that respond to the actions of the nursing students. There are classrooms for adult and pediatric occupational therapy, maternity and neonatal care complete with Sim Man babies and a birthing Sim Woman, orthopedics lab, and many classrooms of various sizes.

Belmont houses the Curb Event Center, a 5000-seat multi-purpose arena, which is used for basketball games, concerts, and other events like the 2006, 2007[60] and 2008 CMT Awards,[61] and the 2008 Presidential Debate.[62] The facility is connected to the Beaman Student Life Center and Maddox Grand Atrium—collectively, a $52 million development.

In 2015, the university opened its R. Milton and Denice Johnson Center, home to Belmont's Curb College, Department of Media Studies, Motion Pictures and Harrington Place Dining.[63]

Regional campus[edit]

  • "Williamson Center" in suburban Franklin, Tennessee. This center for professional education and corporate meetings opened in January 2015. It includes classrooms for Belmont's adult degree, professional, and continuing education programs. It also provides space for area businesses to lease for events and meetings. This facility replaced the university's first center in Cool Springs, which had opened in 2002 on Seaboard Lane.

National campuses[edit]

  • Los Angeles, CA (Belmont West)
  • New York City, NY (Belmont East)

Student life[edit]

Belmont has over 190 student organizations. These include the Student Government Association (SGA), The Student Activities Programming Board (SAPB), Greek organizations, as well as other special interest organizations.[64]

The largest student organization on campus is Service Corps, which focuses on volunteer work inside the music industry and is open only to students enrolled in the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.[65]

Belmont's Greek community consists of five sororities and four fraternities. The sororities are Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Sigma Tau, Delta Sigma Theta, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Phi Mu.[66] The fraternities include Phi Kappa Tau, Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Mu Alpha, and Phi Beta Sigma.[67] In the spring of 2017, approximately 17% of full-time undergraduate students at Belmont were members of fraternities and sororities.[68]

Belmont has a large music program, and a variety of musical ensembles exist on the campus. There are currently 15 vocal ensembles and 23 instrumental ensembles.[69] In addition, there are three student-run a cappella groups: The Beltones (mixed ensemble), Prismatics (mixed), and Pitchmen (TTBB). All three a cappella groups compete in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) regularly. The Beltones have advanced to ICCA finals three times and placed 4th at the event in 2014. The Pitchmen qualified for ICCA finals in 2020 but the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, The A Cappella Archive ranked The Beltones at #8 amongst all ICCA-competing groups since 1996.[70] Belmont is home to two Greek-lettered music fraternities, Sigma Alpha Iota and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, as well as a chapter for the national theatre fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega.

Belmont operates one student newspaper called The Vision, published monthly.[71]

Points of interest[edit]

Main campus attractions[edit]

Off-campus facilities[edit]

  • E.S. Rose Park – Metro Nashville Parks owned property in partnership with Belmont University – hosts NCAA Div.I baseball, soccer, softball, and track.[73]


Belmont is a member of the NCAA Division I and is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference in all of Belmont's sports except men's soccer, which the OVC does not sponsor. On September 28, 2021 Belmont announced that it will become a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, beginning in Fall of 2022. [74]Until July 1, 2012, Belmont had been a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, a non-football conference.[75] The men's soccer team was most recently an independent before joining the Horizon League effective with the 2014 season.[76]

In the mid-1990s, Belmont changed its nickname to the "Bruins", replacing the earlier mascot of Rebels due to its association with the Confederacy. Bruin is Middle English for bear from the Dutch fable "History of Reynard the Fox", translated by William Caxton.

In 2011 Belmont student-athletes won the Atlantic Sun Conference Academic Trophy for the eighth time in ten years with 76.32 per cent of the student-athletes achieving at least a 3.0 grade-point average.[77]

In 2012 Belmont student-athletes won the Ohio Valley Conference Institutional Academic Achievement Award for the first time after joining the conference last year.[78]

In 2015, Belmont received the OVC's Institutional Academic Achievement Award, presented each year to the member institution with the greatest percentage of its eligible student-athletes that earn a 3.25 GPA or higher. This award marked the 4th straight year for Belmont, who joined the OVC only 4 years prior.[79]

Presidential debate[edit]

One of the on-campus advertisements for the Presidential Debate at Belmont

On November 19, 2007, The Commission on Presidential Debates chose Belmont University from sixteen finalists to host one of three Presidential election debates on October 7, 2008.[80] The debate at Belmont was a "town-hall" style debate with questions fielded from the audience.[81]

In 2019, the Commission on Presidential Debates selected Belmont to host the third and final presidential debate on October 22.[82] The second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, was canceled.[83] The Belmont debate, the final debate in the 2020 election cycle between then candidates President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, occurred as scheduled NBC News' Kristen Welker moderating.[84]

Notable alumni[edit]


Arts, film, and literature[edit]




Notable faculty[edit]

  • Alberto Gonzales, former United States Attorney General, is the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law.[130]
  • Mark Volman, a founding member of the Turtles, is an associate professor of entertainment industry studies.
  • Alan Shacklock, music producer, is a professor of audio engineering technology.


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°08′08″N 86°47′48″W / 36.13553°N 86.79661°W / 36.13553; -86.79661