Bellarmine University
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  History of Bellarmine University  

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 and work.

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 residence halls.

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 Lenihan Halls.

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Bellarmine University | 2001 Newburg Rd. | Louisville KY | 40205 | 502.272.7100 | 800.274.4723