Bellarmine College was opened on October 3, 1950, under the sponsorship of
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville and with the special assistance of
the Conventual Franciscan Fathers. It followed third in a proud line of diocesan
institutions of higher learning founded by this diocese, the oldest in inland
America. The earlier predecessors were St. Joseph's College in Bardstown
(1820-1889), which was closed in the 1860's by the tumult of the Civil War, and
St. Mary's College near Lebanon begun in 1821, which functioned as a liberal
arts college until 1929 and exclusively as a seminary until 1975.
The Bellarmine campus of today stands on property that was a part of a royal
land grant from King George III to James McCorkle for his service in the French
and Indian War. When the American Republic was born, the land was retitled by
Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia, of which Kentucky was then a part.
During the antebellum period, this land was a plantation owned by the Griffin
family, who, impoverished by the Civil War, sold the estate to Bishop William
George McCloskey for a seminary, Preston Park, which opened in 1871 and lasted,
with interruptions, until 1909. During the Civil War, the Griffin estate house
served as a military hospital. Old Preston Park also served at times as
orphanages staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth: St. Vincent's for
girls (1892-1901) and St. Thomas for boys (1910-1938).
In 1950, the year of Bellarmine's inception, the new school became one of the
first in the Commonwealth of Kentucky open to all races. The first forty-two
graduating seniors, "The Pioneer Class," received their diplomas in 1954. In
1968, Bellarmine merged with Ursuline College, a Catholic college for women
established by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville in 1938. It was at the time of
merger that the traditional student body became coeducational (the evening
division was coeducational already), and Bellarmine became independent with a
self-perpetuating governing board.
In 1963, Bellarmine opened the Thomas Merton Studies Center devoted to the
works of Thomas Merton, a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Today this
internationally significant archive contains over 20,000 items; over 100
doctoral dissertations plus masters theses and numerous books have been written
based in part on work at Bellarmine's Center. In the spring of 1997, the Thomas
Merton Center moved into the second floor of the W. L. Lyons Brown Library into
a suite designed to house the collections and provide space for scholars to meet
Bellarmine began its first graduate program, the Master of Business
Administration, in 1975. Today the University also offers graduate degree
programs in Communication, Education, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Executive MBA, and a dual
MSN/MBA masters degree.
In 2000, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the institution
from Bellarmine College to Bellarmine University to reflect its true status as a
Masters I university. Bellarmine University now is made up of the Bellarmine
College of Arts & Sciences, the Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing
& Health Sciences, the W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, the Annsley
Frazier Thornton School of Education, and the new School of Continuing and
Professional Studies. In 2000, President McGowan announced the creation of the
Bellarmine Center for eWorld Education and Bellarmine became the education
partner in the downtown eMain Technology Corridor Initiative, and in 2001,
Bellarmine added four new degree programs in the Health Sciences – respiratory
therapy, cytotechnology, and clinical laboratory science, and the masters degree
in physical therapy - providing students a wider, richer selection of academic
programs and strengthening all of the sciences at Bellarmine.
On April 9, 1997, the College dedicated and celebrated the opening of the W.
L. Lyons Brown Library. Built at a cost of $10,000,000, the library is the
realization of a dream of twenty years and stands as a visible symbol of the
centrality of teaching and learning at Bellarmine.
The Library is the information hub of the College. It contains the latest in
reference and instructional technology, including a reference center with
electronic access to the on-line catalog, databases, the campus network and the
Internet: over 400 data drops for PC and laptop computers; an information
literacy classroom; student computer labs and a collaborative learning center;
and a media retrieval center to distribute computer programs, CDs, satellite and
cable television to twelve multi-media classrooms throughout the campus. A Help
Desk on Level B provides ongoing training and support to faculty and students.
In 2001, the University implemented a major upgrade in information technology
with the addition of 265 new Dell computers, software upgrades to all computers,
enhanced networks, and wireless drops to all rooms in Kennedy and Newman
In 2001 Bellarmine added the Bellarmine President’s House, Our Lady of the
Woods Chapel, Bellarmine University Campus Center, Anniversary Hall, the Sports,
Recreation and Fitness Center; and major renovations to Pasteur, Miles, and