|Montgomery Bell Academy opened its doors on September 9, 1867, with twenty-six scholars in two rooms. The student body was divided into grammar school and high school departments. The school found favor in Nashville and grew rather rapidly. By the end of the first year, MBA's student body had grown to seventy-four. MBA's heritage, however, goes back to the University of Nashville, Cumberland College, Davidson Academy and the earliest days of the pioneer settlement on the Cumberland River. Actually, MBA was born on the campus of the old University of Nashville on "College Hill" in South Nashville. The stone structure is the one formerly occupied by the Children's Museum. |
Montgomery Bell Academy is closely linked to James Robertson, the founder of Nashville, who secured the passage of "an act for promotion of learning in the County of Davidson" while he was a representative in the legislature of North Carolina in 1785. Nine trustees were named, and the institution was called Davidson Academy. The school was located at a meeting house on the road to Gallatin, near the present site of the Spring Hill Cemetery.
In 1806, by legislative act, Cumberland College was chartered as the successor to Davidson Academy. Under the direction of trustees Andrew Jackson and James Robertson, a new building was constructed on "College Hill" in South Nashville on college property. Among the outstanding trustees appointed over the years were Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.
The Reverend Thomas Craighead, who was the first principal of Davidson Academy, was succeeded as President of Cumberland College in 1810 by Dr. James Priestly. Unfortunately, the college was closed in 1816 because of financial difficulties.
|Montgomery Bell Academy offers young men an exemplary college preparatory experience, assisting them to be "gentlemen, scholars, and athletes" and young men of wisdom and moral integrity who will make significant contributions to society.|
|Under the leadership of the Reverend Phillip Lindsley, to whom historians have referred as a "giant of intellect," the college was revived in 1824, and the name was changed to the University of Nashville. Under the influence of this astute man, Nashville became the "Athens of the West" -- later changed to become the"Athens of the South."|
In 1855, Dr. John Berrien Lindsley, who had succeeded his father Phillip as president, merged the Western Military Institute with the University of Nashville. With the approach of the Civil War, military instruction was added and became very popular. The school grew rapidly.
It was during this period that Sam Davis, a farm boy from Smyrna in Rutherford County, signed his name on the roll book that is still used today. Sam Davis was hanged at Pulaski, Tennessee, in November of 1863, by Federal troops for refusing to betray a friend. His home today is a public shrine, and his statue stands on the grounds of the State Capitol in Nashville.
Montgomery Bell, a Pennsylvanian, came to Dickson County, Tennessee, circa 1800 and purchased the Cumberland iron furnace from James Robertson. Mr. Bell had unusual financial success with his holding, and when he died in 1855, he left to the University of Nashville twenty thousand dollars -- a considerable sum in those days. The money was wisely invested by Dempsey Weaver of the Planters' Bank in Nashville. By 1867, the investment had grown to forty-six thousand dollars and was used by John Berrien Lindsley to open Montgomery Bell Academy.
At this early stage, MBA included a two-year college program as well as a grammar and high school.
In 1875, as a result of money received from the Peabody Fund, the University of Nashville became the Peabody Normal School. A new board of trust took command of the Normal School while the old board of the University of Nashville retained control of MBA. The trustees moved Montgomery Bell Academy in 1881 to a six-acre tract which was east of the old site because the Normal School wanted to occupy all of the University's buildings. MBA kept the income from the Bell trust fund.
Gradually the University of Nashville ceased operations, and its campus and buildings were given to Peabody College. Peabody attempted a "take over" of the remaining assets of the University of Nashville, including MBA, but the old trustees of the University were in control of the Academy and refused to permit the usurpation. The two schools thus gradually drew apart.
MBA was to encounter many difficulties in the years ahead, but in 1911 circumstances began to improve when Judge Robert Ewing, a trustee, was fortunate enough to engage Mr. Isaac Ball to head the Academy. For thirty years, Mr. Ball was the highly successful headmaster at MBA. The school "blossomed" under his leadership, and he was farsighted enough to see the need for expansion. After being located for two years on Seventh Avenue, North, near the Capitol, the school was moved to the former estate of Garland Tinsley, a thirty-two acre tract on Harding Road. The Board of Trustees arranged for this purchase and had the house remodeled for school use. The school opened on this site in the Fall of 1915. At the time, the school was advertised as "The Country School for the City Boy." The ad further stated that "it is noise, dust, confusion, cramped spaces, and the infinite distractions and associations of the streets versus pure air and open sunlight, wide green lawns and ample playgrounds, and a centering of a boy's interests on his school and his school life, the proper interests for a boy." This was one of the earliest ads for a suburban school.
A disastrous fire destroyed the main building in 1925, and there was little insurance. While the trustees struggled to rebuild, students were taught in the field house, and meals were served on the playing fields.
In the fall of 1942, Mr. Ball retired. Mr. J. M. Farrell and Mr. Howard Allen filled the position of headmaster for a period of one year each. In 1944, Dr. R. Lee Sager became headmaster and served with distinction for thirteen years. During his administration, the School continued to prosper, and the great traditions of the Honor System and the honor society, known as Totomoi, were instituted. Mr. Francis E. ("Nick") Carter, Jr., succeeded Dr. Sager in 1957 and served twenty-two years as headmaster.
It was during the period from 1957 to 1979 that MBA became recognized as one of the finest preparatory schools in the country This status was attained as a result of the dynamic leadership of Francis E. Carter, Jr. Mr. Carter introduced into the curriculum the use of various national academic tests and Advanced Placement courses. MBA then became well-known for the large number of Merit Scholars among its students. Graduates of the school were admitted into some of the finest colleges and universities of the United States. Another of his contributions was the guidance system designed to help each boy reach his maximum potential as gentleman, scholar, and athlete. In addition, Mr. Carter was instrumental in adding a major and two minor sports to the athletic program, a program that produced teams achieving several state championships. Mr. Carter, thus, worked tirelessly to make MBA outstanding; his high ideals in all the facets of human development were reflected in his accomplishments.
In 1956, the Board of Trustees decided to embark on a rebuilding program. Under the astute leadership of Mr. John Sloan, President of the Board of Trustees, funds were raised to build the Brownlee O. Currey Gymnasium in honor of the distinguished head of the MBA Board of Trustees from 1943-1952. Before the gymnasium was completed in 1957, the Board decided to include laboratories for the science department in the basement of this building. The Board of Trustees, the fathers of MBA students, alumni, and friends of the school were most generous in their contributions. As soon as this project was completed, the Wallace Alumni offered $75,000 in a matching fund to convert the old gymnasium into a school house. The renovated structure was named Wallace Hall in honor of the former head of Wallace School, and Wallace Alumni were incorporated as members of the MBA-Wallace Alumni Association. As a result of a most generous gift by Mrs. Justin Potter, the Patrick Wilson Library was constructed in 1968, in memory of Mrs. Potter's grandson, Patrick Wilson. In the meantime, a language laboratory had also been given to the school by Mrs. Potter and her daughter, Mrs. David K. Wilson. The Fathers Club of MBA provided the funds for a wrestling building in 1968. In the summer of 1972 a Fine Arts Building was completed in order to offer better facilities for art and speech.
During the 1978-1979 academic year, Mr. T. Michael Drake, who joined the MBA faculty in 1969, served as interim headmaster. Mr. Gordon E. Bondurant became the headmaster in 1979, with Dr. Drake serving as assistant headmaster. Mr. Joe C. Davis succeeded Mr. John Sloan, Sr., as Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1979.
After a lengthy self-study of the academic program, extracurricular activities, and the physical plant, the Board of Trustees under the leadership of Mr. Davis embarked upon a major fund drive. Mr. DeWitt Thompson, IV, Class of 1964, was selected as Campaign Chairman. As a result of the generosity of trustees, alumni, parents, and friends, 1982 became the year of building on campus. The Jack C. Massey Hall for the Junior School was constructed. The Old Science Building received a complete renovation and additions and was renamed Carter Hall in honor of the memory of Francis E. Carter, Jr. A complete new football stadium with an all-weather eight-lane track, a beautiful new baseball field, and five additional tennis courts were significant projects completed in 1982. The 1983-1984 school year brought additional construction. A new gymnasium, incorporating a large basketball floor, a wrestling room, a weight room, a training room, and a greatly enlarged locker room, had a significant impact upon the athletic program. Also, the Frank Andrews Athletic Field was graded and new stands installed to serve as the soccer stadium and the practice field for other sports. With all of the construction, the major commitment of the trustees in the funding effort was to the school's endowment.
In 1988, Dr. Douglas Paschall, formerly Professor of English and Dean at The University of the South, succeeded Mr. Bondurant as headmaster, and Mr. Ridley Wills, II succeeded Mr. Joe Davis as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Among the numerous significant improvements to the school's facilities achieved during Dr. Paschall's six years as headmaster were the renovation and reequipping of two science laboratories and the addition of a third, installation of a new Sony language lab with satellite dish, construction and equipping of computer rooms, renovation of the weight training room, installation of new visitors' seats for the Tommy Owen Stadium, addition of bleachers in Currey Gymnasium, lights for Frank Andrews Field, and resurfacing of the track and tennis courts.
The Patrick Wilson Library was notably enhanced by the installation of a computer-catalog link with the Heard Libraries of Vanderbilt University, giving students and faculty access to these entire collections, by the addition of reference material on CD-ROM and by expansion of audio-visual capacity, and by conversion of the library collection to computer-run systems.
The most noticeable physical changes, however, were brought about by the construction of the Joe C. Davis Building in 1992, and the complete renovations of Wallace Hall and the Ball Building in 1992 and 1993. Integral parts of the striking changes made to the heart of the campus during this period were new roads, walks, landscaping, and the Massey Court, all of which served to enhance the John E. Sloan Quadrangle formed by the new and renovated buildings.
Led by Mr. J. Barry Banker, member of the Board of Trustees and Class of 1969, and Mr. Thomas S. Weaver, Jr., Director of Alumni and Development, MBA successfully completed a $7.5 million capital campaign in 1994, and achieved a significant increase in the number of alumni and parents who contribute to the school (from 23.4% alumni participation in 1988-1989 to 55.9% in 1993-1994 and from 41.6% parent participation in 1988-1989 to 80.9% in 1993-1994).
In November 1993, Dr. Paschall informed the MBA faculty and student body that he had terminal cancer and would be forced to retire following the 1993-1994 school year. Through his courage and determination that his heart should prevail over his body, Dr. Paschall was able to fulfill his responsibilities as headmaster, including presiding over MBA's 127th annual commencement in June. In doing so, he touched the MBA community in a remarkable and lasting manner. Dr. Paschall succumbed to cancer on December 23, 1994.
A Headmaster Search Committee, chaired by Mr. Ridley Wills II, Board Chairman, worked from November 1993 until May 1994 to identify and recruit Dr. Paschall's successor. That effort was successfully concluded with the appointment of Mr. Bradford Gioia as Headmaster, effective July 1, 1994. A 1976 graduate of the University of the South where Dr. Paschall was one of his teachers, Mr. Gioia came to MBA from the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, where he had a distinguished record as teacher, administrator, and headmaster.
Since Mr. Gioia became Headmaster in 1994, the school has flourished. Through his initiative, the Trustees launched a strategic planning process which involved all the school’s constituencies. The plan, “48 Goals for 48 Months,” was adopted at the Spring 1996 Board Meeting. Most of those goals have been accomplished, and the Trustees approved a new strategic plan during the 2004-2005 school year. For the past eight summers, Trustees and their spouses have attended summer retreats outside Nashville, gaining valuable exposure to other outstanding independent schools in Chattanooga, Atlanta, Boston, Washington D.C., and Dallas.
MBA’s physical plant has changed dramatically since 1994. In 1997, the $2.3 million renovation and enlargement of the Patrick Wilson Library was completed. Completed in 1999 were the new front entrance, the Ingram Science Building, a major addition to the Massey Building, the Centennial Entrance to the Tommy Owen Stadium, and the new Gambill quadrangle. Completed in 2000 were the reconstruction of the Carter Building with twelve new classrooms and a new student commons area, as well as the complete renovation of the entrance and basement of Currey Gym. All of these projects were made possible by gifts to the Bold Pathways and Proud Traditions Capital Campaign, which raised $41.5 million for the school between 1996 and 2001.
MBA now spans the globe with exchange programs. Since 1995, MBA has hosted international exchange students through the ASSIST Program. Beginning in 1997, MBA has established student and faculty exchange programs, initially with Eton College and Winchester College in England, and more recently in Australia with The King's School in Sydney and Melbourne Grammar School, Michaelhouse in Balgowan, Natal, South Africa, Lindesfarne College in New Zealand, and Athens College in Greece. Also, a growing number of MBA students have participated in the Experiment in International Living Program in France, Chile, Poland, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.
Other notable achievements include: the continuing success of our debate teams, including the Novice National Champions in 2001-2002; approximately 40% of the 2002-2003 seniors were recognized by the National Merit Corporation; national recognition for MBA artists; strong and competitive college admissions; highly successful interscholastic athletics including numerous Division II state championships; and a dramatic increase in the numbers of young people attending MBA summer programs including sports camps, leadership camps, science experiences, enrichment courses, summer school, and academic and test preparation courses.The Class of 2004 once again had the most National Merit Scholars in the state of Tennessee and gained admission to many great colleges, matriculating at over 60 different colleges and universities. The new junior school athletic fields on 42nd Avenue opened in September 2004, giving relief to the school’s need for additional athletic space. For the first time, annual giving reached $1 million by the end of the 2004 calendar year and grew to a record-breaking $2 million by the fiscal year end.
At the 2005 graduation, Ridley Wills’ long-awaited history of MBA, titled "Gentleman, Scholar, Athlete" was published. The highlight of the 2004-2005 school year and one of the best moments in MBA’s history happened in Philadelphia. MBA’s two policy debate teams of Tripp Rebrovick and Alex Lamballe and Matt Bodnar and Kevin Wieck reached the finals of the National Forensics League National Championship. This was the first time in the 75-year history of the National Forensics League that two teams from the same school closed out policy debate. The night before the finals, MBA’s teams decided to declare themselves national co-champions.
During the school years 2005-2008, MBA accomplished a number of new milestones. Our theater program not only won the regional competition for one-acts, but also presented its first Junior School musical, Tom Sawyer
, in 2006. In the 2007 school year we celebrated MBA’s 140th year, and in the fall of 2007 the school celebrated the 80th anniversary of Ball Hall, the historic main building on our campus. In the 2007-2008 school year, MBA marked its fourth consecutive year of earning the Inman Trophy, a competition for the superior athletic program among middle schools in Davidson and Williamson County. Our swimming team earned a national ranking, and the debate squad continued its success throughout our country. The MBA mock trial team also earned the regional championship, and MBA embarked on construction of an observatory and cabins on the Long Mountain campus. We also entered into two new exchange programs with Melbourne Grammar School in Melbourne, Australia, and Athens College in Athens, Greece. Finally, the school began a new Chinese program and established an exchange program in China in the summer of 2009.
The period from 2009 to 2012 has seen tremendous growth on campus and around the world. Following the purchase of the remaining property on Brighton Road, MBA began the development of the South and East sides of campus. Construction included the Keeble Tennis Center; an underground parking garage with soccer field on top and the Rochford Family Riflery Center attached; Mary Helen Lowry Hall, a 42,000 square-foot classroom building that features a student center and debate facility; and a new dining hall and classroom building that is expected to open in early 2013. The school’s environmental conscience resulted in Lowry Hall receiving a LEED Gold certification. MBA’s Long Mountain Observatory opened in 2011, providing research opportunities for MBA students and the scientific community throughout the Southeast.
Thanks to the bequest of David K. Wilson (W’37), MBA’s reach has continued to grow with hundreds of MBA students provided afforded grants to further their studies throughout the United States and abroad. The Wilson Grants offer the opportunity for language immersion, studies in science, English, history, mathematics, and the arts. The MBA exchange program has grown to include programs in Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Singapore, and Colombia.
MBA students continued to excel in the classroom, producing dozens of Advance Placement Scholars each year, numerous National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test recognitions, and state championships in Science Olympiad, Envirothon, and Math Counts.
Service to the community continued to grow, with MBA students supporting Race For the Cure, The Wounded Warrior Project, Autism Speaks, and many other worthwhile projects each year.
The Big Red continued to excel in the athletic arena, capturing back-to-back state titles in Cross Country, two swimming championships in three years, and rifle state titles in 2011 and 2012. In the fall of 2012, MBA offered 15 varsity sports, including the addition of the Crew team in 2011.