1. Founding Principles
2. Development of Lipscomb's Association with the Churches of Christ
3. Development of Mission
4. Academic Excellence and Relevance
5. Facility Growth and Development
1. Founding Principles. (back to top)
David Lipscomb and James A. Harding established Lipscomb University as the Nashville Bible School on Oct. 5, 1891. Despite their choice of name for the institution, both men were eager to extend to an underserved region the type of education they had received — a broad-based liberal arts curriculum presented in a Christian context. Each man was well educated for his day. Lipscomb was an 1849 graduate of Franklin College, located in Nashville and the largest college in Tennessee at the time. Franklin emphasized agriculture, but its faculty taught traditional liberal arts subjects. Lipscomb studied Latin, Greek, botany, navigation, surveying, and mental and moral philosophy. Harding graduated in 1869 from Bethany College, Bethany, W.Va., a liberal arts college whose graduates gave birth to such institutions as Butler University, Culver-Stockton College, and Texas Christian University. Franklin College and Bethany College included Bible instruction as part of their broader curricula, and Lipscomb and Harding held that Bible study was foundational to academic preparation for any career choice or life pursuit.In founding the Nashville Bible School, Lipscomb wrote, “The supreme purpose of the school shall be to teach the Bible as the revealed will of God to man … and to train those who attend in a pure Bible Christianity. … Such other branches of learning may be added as will aid in the understanding and teaching of the Scriptures and as will promote usefulness and good citizenship among men.” Harding articulated the school’s design as being “to train males and females, young and old … for the greatest usefulness of life,” and asserted the founders’ academic goals: “We aspire to stand in the front ranks of the great educational institutions of the world.” A medical doctor from The University of Tennessee was retained to teach the sciences in the school’s second year. By the mid-1890s the school was noted for its classical education and emphases in Greek and Latin. The founders emphasized in course catalogs the school’s openness to all students, its integration of spiritual exploration and academic excellence, and suggested opposition to the notion of their school as seminary. “We purpose to present in the way of a liberal education as extensive a curriculum as can be found in any school, college, or university in the land, and at the same time to thoroughly drill its students in the Bible, the divine source of wisdom and goodness. It was not our design to make professional preachers, but to train males and females, young and old, all who might become members of the school, for the greatest usefulness in life. Each student is left to choose his own calling” (Catalog, 1896-97).
With the turn of the century, the school took on the broader scope of a small college. Literary societies appeared, offering competition among students in academic matters such as debate, oratory and declamation. Alumni attested anecdotally to the validity of the school’s educational concept. Batsell Baxter, who later served as president of three universities, including Pepperdine University, said, “After leaving the Nashville Bible School in 1911, I attended in turn three universities. I was agreeably surprised to learn that the instruction received in the Nashville Bible School was as thorough and efficient as the best of instruction in these more pretentious institutions of learning.”
2. Association with Churches of Christ (back to top)
Lipscomb and Harding were associated with a fellowship that was becoming known in the late nineteenth century as the Churches of Christ. The Churches of Christ were among three groups that emerged from the American Restoration Movement, which coalesced in 1832 from independent efforts led by men from North Carolina to New England. These leaders believed that divisions among believers in Jesus Christ resulted from creeds that dominated institutional churches. The common belief was that restoring unity among believers could only be accomplished by returning to the Bible, “excluding all human opinions and philosophy, as the only rule of faith and practice,” as Lipscomb explained. Despite the attractiveness of this call to many, divisions asserted themselves in the mid-nineteenth century. By the time the Nashville Bible School was established, the Disciples of Christ, the Independent Christian Church, and the Churches of Christ were emerging as distinct identities. Churches of Christ generally held more closely to the ideals of conforming to the New Testament in all congregational practices, subordinating the goal of unity to the goal of strict restoration, said Harold Hazelip, in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture (Tennessee Historical Society, 1998). Churches of Christ “accept much of mainstream historical orthodoxy as Biblical. Their view of human knowledge of God is that God reveals himself primarily in scripture, ultimately in Christ, but also in nature. The Bible is accepted as entirely trustworthy. They understand God in Trinitarian terms — as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. [This view is harmonious with the first four ‘ecumenical’ councils of the first 500 years A.D. These councils centered on the nature of Christ before and during the Incarnation, and the nature of God as Trinity.] They believe God created everything that exists ex nihilo. Evil entered the human experience through the fall of Adam and Eve; original (inherited) sin is not accepted. Jesus is understood to be both God and man; his death accomplished sacrificial atonement for all human beings who genuinely trust in him. The Christian hope is for eternal life in heaven; eternal punishment is a reality as well.” (Hazelip, supra.)
In addition to congregational autonomy, Churches of Christ are distinguished by a cappella music in worship assemblies, observance of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, the priesthood of all believers, rejection of man-made creeds, and the practice of believer’s baptism for remission of sins. Congregational autonomy has resulted in a broad range of interpretation as reflected in worship styles that range from very formal to very informal, and in varied beliefs regarding the exclusivity of the church. The term “Churches of Christ” is more appropriate than “Church of Christ” because of this congregational autonomy. Unlike denominations with central organizations that exert influence over individual churches and associated organizations, centers of influence among Churches of Christ tend to be universities, lectureships, and publications. Nineteen colleges and universities are associated with the Churches of Christ. Of these colleges and universities, Lipscomb represents the broadest range of thought that characterizes these churches, with more than 70 individual congregations represented among its teaching faculty and staff. Churches of Christ today include more than 2 million adherents worldwide, with congregations in most nations.
3. Development of Mission. (back to top)
The founders’ referred to their educational design as a “complete education.” Rather than a “finished” education, this vision focuses on the comprehensive development of each student — spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically — as represented in today’s mission statement: “Lipscomb University is a private coeducational institution whose principal focus is undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, combined with a number of pre-professional fields and master’s degree programs. Its primary mission is to integrate Christian faith and practice with academic excellence. This mission is carried out not only in the classroom but also by involvement in numerous services to the church and the larger community” (Catalog, 2002-03, p. 7-8).
The first “wing” of this distinctive, integrated mission, “Christian faith and practice,” is approached in several ways. Daily Bible classes and chapel are required for all full-time students. Instructors are encouraged to present a “faith-informed” perspective – the notion that all truth is God’s truth and that all knowledge and skills are to be used to God’s glory, regardless of the individual’s career or life path. Two Scholars in Residence for Christian Studies each year focus on faith-informed learning and provide resources that assist instructors in this pursuit. Students are encouraged to participate in service organizations, and social organizations are encouraged to make service projects central to their activities. Lipscomb offers more than 70 student organizations. Students are also encouraged, while not required, to be active in churches of their choosing, and domestic and international mission programs create additional opportunities for students to exhibit their faith and use their abilities for the good of others. “We want to draw our students into a learning environment that addresses the heart and the mind, and in doing so, to help our students take their faith and begin to understand how to use it in their daily lives. We don't want them to see life as being fragmented, with their campus life, spiritual life, and academic life as separate components. Instead, we want to teach our students to see life as a whole. We want them to see, act and think like the whole person God made them to be,” said Provost Craig Bledsoe (http://academics.lipscomb.edu.)
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” From this spiritual imperative grows the second wing of Lipscomb’s mission – academic excellence. Lipscomb is strategically committed to be a nationally recognized Christian university with a premier academic program, encouraging the highest level of performance and service among employees and students. Students are taught by faculty who combine the highest academic preparation with ongoing practical experience and scholarship. Class sizes encourage faculty and students to create relationships that are constructive, beneficial and personal, and to maintain these relationships throughout life. Academic programs prepare graduates for roles of superior leadership and service in their chosen professions and an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. These programs also encourage students to develop a sense of world citizenship through a geographically and ethnically diverse student body, wide-ranging cultural and professional growth opportunities afforded by the city of Nashville, study-abroad curricula and foreign mission programs. Classes and a broad program of intramural and intercollegiate athletics encourage the awareness of physical health and growth, and the concepts of leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship and selflessness.
A comprehensive recitation of historical examples of the consistency and impact of this integration of Christian faith and practice with academic excellence would be prohibitively lengthy, but consider these examples:
• In the 1920s, a church was established by Lipscomb faculty in downtown Nashville that provided shelter and food to persons displaced during the Great Depression years.
• By 1941, Nashville Bible School/David Lipscomb College had influenced establishment of 23 educational institutions, including Pepperdine University, Abilene Christian University, and Harding University.
• In 1954, Lipscomb’s International Relations Club hosted a three-day model United Nations Assembly featuring delegates from 15 mid-South colleges and universities.
• In 1969, Lipscomb student Michael F. Adams, a member of the campus Circle K service organization, was elected president of Circle K International. Lipscomb’s Circle-K and K-ette programs were the largest campus chapters in the nation for much of the 1970s. Today Adams is president of the University of Georgia, one of approximately 20 alumni who have served as college or university presidents.
• In 1989, a marketing class designed a project by which relief supplies would be gathered, including food and medicines, and shipped with U.S. government assistance to Eastern European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The project was so successful that it grew into a non-profit organization, Healing Hands International, which has distributed more than $50 million in humanitarian aid (nearly 300 semi-trailers full) throughout the world. Faculty and students continue to be instrumental in the success of this organization.
• In fall 2003, more than 350 incoming freshmen participated in local community service projects their first week on campus, as part of an orientation program designed to stimulate an understanding of individual responsibility to the community and a desire to participate. In spring 2004, nearly 800 students and faculty participated in spring service day More than 1,500 students participated in domestic and/or international mission and service trips or community service days during the 2003-2004 academic year.
• Another class project, requested by the Metro Nashville Public School system, provided suggestions for increasing parent participation in schools.
4. Academic Excellence and Relevance (back to top)
The academic excellence that characterized the founders’ vision has been a driving force for each successive administration. The college attempted an advance to senior college status in the late 1920s and awarded several bachelor’s degrees, but the Great Depression thwarted that initiative. Following World War II, however, this goal was achieved and the college graduated its first senior class in 1948. In 1954, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) granted accreditation to the college. SACS is a federally sanctioned accrediting body for all institutions in its region — the 11 southern states of the United States, and Latin America. The federal government requires educational institutions to be accredited by a regional body such as SACS before institutions are permitted to receive any federal assistance, from building loans to federal student aid. Lipscomb has been granted reaffirmation of accreditation in each ten-year period since its initial accreditation, and in 1988 was granted Level III, or master’s degree, status. At that time the institution was renamed David Lipscomb University, then Lipscomb University in 1994. To receive SACS accreditation, Lipscomb’s education quality must undergo careful examination. SACS reviews are conducted by external evaluators who examine curricula offered, qualifications of the faculty and whether there are sufficient, properly credentialed faculty in each degree program offered by the university; admission procedures and standards, degree requirements, adequacy of financial support, adequacy of facilities, equipment and instructional support for each program; and adequacy of library materials.
In addition to SACS accreditation of the comprehensive educational program, Lipscomb also holds specialized accreditations and approvals in specific areas. These areas include computer engineering and engineering mechanics, accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET); Bible, associate member, Association of Theological Schools; Social Work, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education; the Department of Music, an accredited national member of the National Association of Schools of Music; the College of Business, by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs; the Teacher Education Program, approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education and nationally accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education; the Didactic Program in Dietetics, approved by the American Dietetics Association; developmental accreditation of the Dietetics internship program by the American Dietetics Association; and the Professional Chemistry Major, approved by the Committee on Professional Training of the American Chemical Society.
Lipscomb University today offers 80 undergraduate major fields of study and several pre-professional programs in five academic colleges and 24 departments, featuring more than 800 specific courses. Graduate programs lead to master’s degrees in various areas: accountancy, biblical studies, business administration, conflict management, counseling and education. An undergraduate evening program is also offered for non-traditional students. On average, approximately 2,600 students are enrolled annually in undergraduate and graduate programs. (Approximately 1,500 additional students are enrolled in Lipscomb’s K-12 academy.) Unlike many institutions widely recognized for quality that employ teaching assistants and graduate students as classroom instructors, classes at Lipscomb are taught by professional faculty, 85% of whom hold terminal degrees in their teaching emphases. While many of Lipscomb’s full-time faculty hold undergraduate degrees from institutions associated with Churches of Christ, their terminal degrees have been awarded by 54 different institutions, only one of which is associated with Churches of Christ. This breadth of preparation further illustrates the quality and integrity of the academic program at Lipscomb. Lipscomb is consistently ranked in the top tier of U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Universities-Master’s” list and other appropriate U.S. News rankings.An example of Lipscomb’s commitment to adding programs that benefit underserved academic needs and the quality and relevance of such programs is the new Raymond B. Jones School of Engineering. Of the first two engineering graduates, who completed their requirements in May 2002, one was accepted for graduate study with all-expenses paid to Harvard University. The second was accepted on a full research assistantship to Vanderbilt University. Lipscomb's programs in engineering mechanics and computer engineering received retroactive accreditation from the American Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) in August 2004. In addition to its own engineering majors, Lipscomb offers dual-degree programs with Auburn University, Tennessee Technological University, the Nuclear Engineering Department at The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Vanderbilt University.
The largest percentage of Lipscomb graduates earns degrees in Business. The largest accounting firms aggressively recruit Lipscomb graduates, some of whom are now partners in these firms. The chair of the Department of Accounting is a member of the Tennessee State Board of Accountancy, the state regulating board for the accounting industry. Coursework taught at Lipscomb satisfies state requirements to sit for the Certified Public Accountant examination, and for continuing education credit required by the state. The second largest percentage of graduates earns degrees in Education, and Lipscomb courses meet state requirements for licensure. More than 800 Lipscomb graduates are teachers in Tennessee public schools. Because this program is approved by the State of Tennessee, graduates may also teach in 45 other states with which Tennessee has reciprocal agreements. The fastest growing academic area since 1995 has been the College of Bible, and Lipscomb was the first institution associated with Churches of Christ to offer a children’s ministry concentration and a worship ministry concentration in its Bible major. Many students attend Lipscomb because of its exceptional rate in placing graduates into medical and medically related schools. At the conclusion of the 2001-2002 academic year, 100% of students applying to medical schools during the year were accepted. Ninety-seven percent of all students applying to medical or medically related schools were accepted. These statistics demonstrate that Lipscomb programs meet or exceed established standards for entering medical professions following completion of applicable medical, nursing, or medically related professional programs. Lipscomb offers a joint bachelor’s degree program in nursing with Belmont University, and a joint program that leads to bachelor and master’s degrees in nursing from Vanderbilt University. Lipscomb also offers a joint program in medical technology with Vanderbilt. Substantial numbers of graduates enter a wide range of other professions, including law and public service. Many of these graduates enter careers in the Nashville area, serving the public good by contributing to economic health and quality of life in the community.
5. Facility Growth and Development (back to top)
Throughout its history, Lipscomb University’s facilities have been expanded and enhanced as would be expected of a leading educational institution. Significant facility expansion and improvement has resulted from student body growth, addition or enhancement of educational programs to meet heightened educational demands of a changing world, and technological advancements. Anticipating a large influx of returning World War II veterans and a move to senior college status, the Lipscomb Expansion Program began in 1944, resulting in addition of College Hall (now Burton Bible Building), McQuiddy Gymnasium, Crisman Memorial Library; temporary science facilities, and new and expanded residential facilities, by 1952. Fanning Hall, a women’s residence; High Rise Dormitory for men, McFarland Hall of Science, and the Dining Center were added in the 1960s. Another wave of construction resulted in Yearwood Hall, a women’s residence, in 1983, and the Axel W. Swang Center for Business Administration in 1984.
The 1986 reaffirmation of accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools noted a dramatic need for new facilities to replace the aging Crisman library and to provide recreational and physical education space. These facilities were included in an initiative that was substantially complete by the university’s centennial in 1991 and resulted in Beaman Library, the Student Activities Center, an addition to the Swang Center, renovation of Crisman for use as administration building, installation of a campus-wide fiber optic data network, and a variety of campus beautification projects. Since 1997, Elam, Sewell and High Rise residences have been renovated, the Dining Center was “reinvented” into a true Student Center, and Allen Arena, a 5,028-seat multipurpose facility, opened in October 2001. Yearwood Hall was eliminated in construction of Allen Arena. In Summer 2004, Johnson Hall underwent a 148-bed expansion.The newest construction on campus is of the 77,000 square-foot Ezell Center for Biblical Studies, which house the College of Bible & Ministry and the College of Educational and Professional Studies, among other departments and offices.
In 2007, Lipscomb University began a multiphase development initiative, called Lipscomb 2010. Phase I of the plan began in the late spring of 2007 and additional plans are slated for the future. This initiative includes a new two-story music wing addition to south side of the A.M. Burton Building and Williard Collins Auditorium. This addition will be a substantial an enhancement to Lipscomb's Music facilities. In addition, the A.M. Burton Building will be completely renovated for the College of Pharmacy and a complete renovation of Williard Collins Alumni Auditorium will happen concurrently. Other projects during Phase I: a geothermal field for the A.M. Burton Building; renovation of the Bennett Student Center's lower level and an addition of an amphitheater; a new apartment-style residential village; upgrades to the grounds with the completion of a campus-wide watering system and storm water improvements, including an storm water detention area; Fanning, Johnson, High Rise and Sewell Hall dorm lobby renovations. In addition, to building projects, initiatives in the academic programs will be taken.
6. Conclusion (back to top)
Lipscomb’s commitment to Christian values serves to enhance the pursuit of excellence in all areas. Lipscomb delivers Christ-centered liberal arts and professional education for students and parents of all backgrounds who seek a premier academic program in a Christian context to prepare graduates for lives of superior leadership and service. Students are taught from a faith-informed perspective by highly trained and experienced faculty who encourage scholarship and spiritual exploration in a location that enhances education, resulting in preparation of the total individual for life and eternity.