Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University

Infobox University
name = Bellarmine University

motto = "In Veritatis Amore."
established = 1950
type = Private Roman Catholic Liberal Arts
president= Dr. Joseph J. McGowan
city = Louisville
state = KY
country = USA
undergrad = 2,561
postgrad = 573
staff = 240
campus = Urban
free_label =
nickname = Knights
colors = Scarlet and
affiliations = Kentuckiana Metroversity, Great Lakes Valley Conference
website = []

Bellarmine University is an independent, Roman Catholic liberal-arts university in Louisville, Kentucky; it is the largest traditional, non-profit private university in the state. The institution opened in 1950 as Bellarmine College, established by the Archdiocese of Louisville and named after the Catholic Saint Robert Bellarmine. The name was changed by the Board of Trustees in 2000 to Bellarmine University. While offering one doctoral degree, it is currently classified as a Masters-I university. The president is Dr. Joseph J. McGowan. At its spring 2007 commencement on May 12, the school awarded 443 degrees (89 graduate, 353 undergraduate). [ [ Bellarmine May commencement to feature Wendell Berry as speaker] , retrieved May 12, 2007] This followed a fall 2006 ceremony at which 238 students graduated.


Bellarmine University has been led by three Presidents: Alfred Horrigan (1950-1972), Eugene Petrik (1973-1990) and Joseph McGowan (1990-present). Each president is said to have been the right president for the time in which he has served. Horrigan, elevated to Domestic Prelate by the pope in 1955, led the school during its formative years, laying the spiritual, moral, and intellectual backbone. Petrik strengthened Bellarmine's financial footing. McGowan has taken the foundations laid by his predecessors and has led the school in a massive building program, culminating thus far in his Vision 2020 plan. In addition, Raymond Treece served as interim President for the 1972-73 school year between Presidents Horrigan and Petrik and Dr. John Oppelt served as acting President during a sabbatical by President McGowan in 1999.

Founding, 1949-1950

The first public announcement concerning the establishment of Bellarmine College was made in November 1949 by the Archbishop of Louisville, John A. Floersh. He selected Alfred F. Horrigan and Raymond J. Treece, associate editors of the Louisville Archdiocesan newspaper, "The Record", to begin the school. These two men designed a curriculum and the school's core philosophy, taking cues from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and seeking advice from a number of Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, the University of Scranton, and the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. As "The Record" reported November 19, 1949, following the announcement of the college's establishment:

cquote|The college will be under Archdiocesan control and will be staffed by Archdiocesan priests, Franciscan Conventuals, and lay professors. Through arrangements negotiated with Dr. Roy J. Deferrari, Secretary General of The Catholic University of America, it will be affiliated immediately with The Catholic University….

The college will be begun as a "day school" and no facilities for boarding students on the campus are contemplated at this time. Bellarmine College will be the only exclusively men's college under Catholic direction in Kentucky.

The first decade, 1950-1960

Bellarmine College began classes on October 9, 1950. While the year began with 115 freshmen, only 68 returned after the winter break. Sixteen more left for military service (the draft was in effect for the Korean War), but the school went forward against the rumors of closure. The school was blessed and dedicated February 18, 1951, by Archbishop Floersh, signaling the permanence of the school.

The second year began with summer classes being offered for both high school graduates and returning sophomores. A night section was offered, and the school hired its first international teacher (Leonard Latkovski from Latvia, a language professor) and student (Walter Wernhart of Austria). The school was granted provisional membership in the Kentucky Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Enrollment that year was 160: 90 freshmen and 70 sophomores.

June 20, 1954, witnessed the graduation of Bellarmine's first class, dubbed the "Pioneer Class." In December 1956, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools formally announced Bellarmine's accreditation. The first seven years of Bellarmine's history were reported by James S. Pope, Jr. in "The Louisville Times" on April 29, 1957, to have been successful, with the school being destined for greatness. In its ten-year report, presented in "The Record" November 27, 1959, the school noted that it had achieved full accreditation, an enrollment growth from 200 to 1,578, 18 academic departments, 410 alumni, 86 faculty members (including 60 full-time faculty, half of whom held doctorates in their field) and the completed construction of science and administration buildings with a gymnasium and dormitory underway. By this point in time, Bellarmine had become the largest private college in the state.

Growth, merger, and the end of an era, 1960-1972

The 1960s saw more growth at the college. 1963 witnessed the arrival of students from 17 states and two foreign countries. The 1,000th diploma was awarded in June 1964. Diplomas were first written in English with the graduating class of 1966; before then, the Bellarmine diplomas had been issued in Latin. The first computer was installed on campus in 1968.

In 1967, shortly before his death, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton designated Bellarmine College as the official repository for his works. Thus began the Merton Legacy Trust, which became the Thomas Merton Center in 1969. The Center is now located on the second floor of the W.L. Lyons Brown Library on campus.

Bellarmine College became co-educational in 1968 with the merger of it and Ursuline College (Kentucky), an all-female Catholic school established in 1938 by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. While Bellarmine had always accepted women into its night classes, beginning in the mid-1960s a program of "coordination" began, which was described by Horrigan and Ursuline President M. Angelice Seibert as "something less than 'merger' and considerably more than 'cooperation.'" In 1967, the boards of both schools approved a resolution endorsing a consultant's recommendation to merge. 1967-1968 was a transition year, with a merger steering committee working on a "Statement of Intent to Merge." In September of 1967, the Bellarmine Student Senate called for the name of the school to remain "Bellarmine College," though names such as Ursabell, Bellsuline, Bursuline, and Catholic College of Louisville had been suggested. The new board for the college chose instead another suggestion, Bellarmine-Ursuline College for a period of three years, beginning June 1968. At the end of that period, the board voted to use the Bellarmine name exclusively, leading to some feelings of betrayal by the former Ursuline faculty and alumnae.

In 1970, President Horrigan stepped down from the day-to-day running of the college to focus on fund-raising and long-term planning. In the late 1960s, independent colleges were struggling due to reduced contributions and fewer students. Horrigan began the "70s Development Program," wherein he set the goal of raising over $20 million. By November of that year, he announced the first million to be pledged toward the first phase of the program.

In May 1971, Horrigan issued a report describing the state of Bellarmine College, especially in light of the Second Vatican Council, noting that the school's board of trustees consisted of representatives from a number of groups, reflecting the "open, progressive, ecumenical and experimental spirit" of that papal council. Also mentioned were the various distinctions achieved by Bellarmine's students, including 14 Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, seven National Science Foundation Fellowships, three Fulbright Scholars, two Danforths and two East-West Fellowships, achievements which he attributed to Bellarmine's commitment to excellence.

The silver anniversary and the Petrik years, 1973-1990

Dr. Eugene V. Petrik was appointed President in 1973 following Horrigan's resignation in 1972 and a year by Treece as interim President. Petrik worked to bring Bellarmine back from its slump around the turn of the decade. Bellarmine's first graduate program, the Master of Business Administration degree, was established in 1975. Enrollment climbed back to more than 2,000 after having been at 1,306 in 1973. Ten years after that low, a record enrollment of more than 2,800 was realized in 1983.

The "modern era," 1990-present

Dr. Joseph J. McGowan became president of the college in 1990 and began a massive program of growth on campus. From his October 12, 1990, inauguration speech forward, McGowan has sought to make Bellarmine the premier private institution in Kentucky, citing Stanford University in California, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and Duke University in North Carolina. Indeed, he called it a "vision to be the region's premier residential liberal arts college."

In 1991, McGowan began instituting change in the form of a Five Year Strategic Plan, which would later in the decade become the Master Plan. In 1994, the school began making perennial appearances in the "Princeton Review" and "U.S. News and World Report", which both list Bellarmine among the top regional universities.

In the 1980s, the subject of changing the name of the school from "Bellarmine College" to "Bellarmine University" had been broached, but it was decided that the school should become a university in fact before it became one in name. Accordingly, in 2000, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the school to "Bellarmine University" in order to reflect its status as a Masters-I university.

The future and "Vision 2020"

In 2006, Bellarmine President McGowan announced an ambitious expansion plan, dubbed "Vision 2020," which seeks to give Kentucky its first large private university and to firmly establish BU as the premier Catholic university in the South. Among other things, the plan calls for tripling enrollment, doubling the number of buildings on campus, and adding schools of architecture, law, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine by the year 2020. In addition, the possibility of moving the remaining athletic programs to NCAA Division I (joining lacrosse) will be considered.


Bellarmine University is divided into seven schools: Bellarmine College, the W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, the Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing & Health Sciences, the Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, the Center for Interdisciplinary Technology & Entrepreneurship, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the Bellarmine University Graduate School. Among these schools are offered more than 50 different degree tracks in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Bellarmine's study-abroad program provides students with opportunities for study in more than 40 countries, with programs available on every continent except Antarctica.

Public recognition

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the school is perennially ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top-tier Southern masters university, and the BU W. Fielding Rubel School of Business is one of the select few to receive AACSB accreditation.

Campus facilities

Over 30 buildings, including seven residence halls and a new chapel, now stand on the rolling hills of the 135 acre (546,000 m²) campus in the Highlands neighborhood of Louisville. The Owsley B. Frazier Stadium was completed in the summer of 2007 and is used for field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer games and track and field events.


Most of the university's sports teams, the Knights, compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, considered by many to be the toughest conference at the NCAA Division II level. The men's lacrosse team, the only one in Kentucky, competes at the NCAA Division I level as a member of the Great Western Lacrosse League. The school's colors are scarlet and silver.

Notable people related to Bellarmine University


*John Y. Brown, III, former Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
*Joseph C. Burke, former President of State University of New York at Plattsburgh, former Acting Chancellor of the State University of New York
*Joseph P. Clayton, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sirius Satellite Radio
*Kelly Downard, Louisville Metro Councilman (16th District) and former candidate for Louisville Metro Mayor (2006)
*Shawn Evans, National Lacrosse League player
*Chad Hall, television actor
*Liz Curtis Higgs, author, public speaker, and former radio personality
*Susan M. Ivey, Reynolds American CEO; former CEO at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation
*John F. Lansing, President of Scripps Networks and Executive Vice-President of Scripps Networks Interactive
*Quentin Letts, Daily Mail journalist
*John MacLeod, veteran NBA coach
*Shawn James Seymour, founder and member of the band Lullatone
*Marianne Silber, reporter for Fox News Channel
*Kyle Sorensen, National Lacrosse League player
*David T. Stosberg, Judge, United States Bankruptcy Court
*Michael D. Thieneman, retired Executive Vice President of Whirlpool Corporation
*Tom Thomas, President and COO of GXS, Inc.; former Chief Information Officer at 3Com, Palm, Inc., and Dell Computer
*Todd Wellemeyer, Major League Baseball player


*Thomas E. Bennett, Ph.D. - Professor of biology and human physiology who has twice had experiments flown on the NASA Space Shuttle
*Edward E. Manassah - Executive Director of the Bellarmine Institute for Media, Culture and Ethics; formerly President and Publisher at The Courier-Journal
*Eric P. Roorda, Ph.D. - History and political science professor and recognized authority on US/Dominican relations. [] Dr. Roorda is also a co-director of The Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at Mystic Seaport. []
*Frederick Smock, M.A. - English professor and poet-in-residence with several published works


External links

* [ Bellarmine University] official site
* [ GLVC Home] official site

Further reading

cite book
last = Hall
first = Wade
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = High Upon a Hill
publisher = Bellarmine College Press
date = 1999
location = Louisville, Kentucky
pages = 337 pages
id = ISBN 0-9638927-2-X

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