University Profile Bethel College is a Cumberland Presbyterian college in McKenzie, Tennessee. Bachelors and Masters degrees are available through Bethel College. The sports teams are nicknamed the Wildcats and the Lady Wildcats. They participate in the NAIA's TranSouth and Mid-South Conferences. The school also maintains a center in Nashville known as the "Success Program", aimed at the "non-traditional" student (employed adults aged over 24). Named a top 100 Liberal Arts School by Washington Monthly magazine - Bethel was 59th and the only West TN school on the top 100 list. Bethel has an average 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, so students can enjoy a small classroom setting. Enrollment has tripled in the past 10 years and quadrupled since 1995. Bethel is home to students from 22 states and 14 countries.
Bethel's Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) were among the top eight in the nation at the SIFE National Convention in May 2008. The SIFE team also earned a third place finish in the nation for an Anti-Piracy public service announcement contest judged by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Bethel offers more than 25 clubs, organizations, fraternities, and sororities in which students can participate.
Bethel students are also being recognized nationally with one student earning the prestigious Alvin Rohor Service Leadership Award at the SIFE National Convention in May 2008.
Renaissance Performing Arts Program provides scholarships at the same level as for athletics. Choral, Instrumental and Theatre components comprise the program.
Every full-time student at Bethel gets a state of the art laptop computer. Tuition is $3,000 below the average for Tennessee Independent Colleges.
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University HistoryBethel College was established in the flourishing frontier town of McLemoresville in 1842. An outgrowth of McLemoresville Academy or the "Brick Academy," the school was founded as Bethel Seminary and operated under the fostering care of West Tennessee Synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Bethel College was granted a charter by the State of Tennessee in 1847. Primarily, Bethel was devoted to the training of young men for the ministry but was open to other young men who were interested in higher learning.
Reuben Burrow was Bethel's first president. He served as president for 20 years, during which time he also served as fundraiser, member of the Board of Visitors, head of the Theology Department and teacher.
The Civil War brought hard times for Bethel College and for McLemoresville. The area around McLemoresville was equally divided between the Union and the Confederates and at times the site of Bethel was occupied by each of the armies. The buildings were used as barracks, and much physical equipment was destroyed by the soldiers. Not only were the laboratory and classroom equipment lost but the student body was also taken from the college. Most of the young men were serving in one or another of the armies. When the war was over, Bethel had also lost its endowment.
Bethel reopened in 1865 following the war under the administration of the Rev. Mr. B.W. McDonnold, and the doors of the institution were open to women for the first time. Bethel College has been a co-educational institution since that time.
In 1872, Bethel College was moved from McLemoresville since the building of the railroad had missed it and ended up just north in McKenzie, Tenn., which was the crossroad of the N.C. & St. L. and the L. & N. Railways. The Rev. Mr. W.W. Hendrix was president at the time of the move to McKenzie.
The plot of ground on which Bethel is located was deeded to the Board of Trustees by J.M. McKenzie on Feb. 2, 1872. A large brick building with the capacity of 300 students was erected on the campus and remained the only building for 50 years. It contained a kitchen in the basement, classrooms on the first floor, an auditorium on the second floor and 16 individually heated dormitory rooms above the auditorium.
Many lean years were to follow for Bethel College. When the Union of 1906 closed all 10 Cumberland Presbyterian schools, only Bethel re-opened and was left to become what it is today: The only Cumberland Presbyterian college.
In the early 1920s the City of McKenzie donated land and constructed a new building for Bethel College. Professor N.J. Finney, who had seen Bethel through its leanest years, was president at that time. The old building, which stood in front of Bethel’s present library, was left up for some time. It had been the entire college for 50 years and was used for a while as a boy's dorm and a home for married students after Laughlin Home, the first girls' dorm was built. When Laughlin Home and the boys' dorm, were built, the old administration building was no longer needed and was torn down.
Bethel College was able to survive the depression of the 30s and another World War which followed in the 40s. From a mid-war low of 75 students, Bethel's enrollment climbed steadily to a record high of 508 in fall 1951. In the late 1960s the enrollment rose to around 800 but leveled off in the late 70s to around 500 students. In the past several years, Bethel has again set new enrollment records, topping 1,000 for the first time in 2001, 1,100 in fall 2002, and 1,200 in spring 2003.
Several recent innovations at Bethel have spurred this new growth. The Success Program, a concentrated curriculum designed for adult learners, has added hundreds of new students and new satellite campuses to the college. Bethel's Physician Assistant Studies master's degree program is one of only two in Tennessee. The first graduates from this two-year program graduated in 2003. Also, The Laptop Initiative, which provides a notebook computer for every full-time student, was the first of its kind in Tennessee.
Additional buildings were added to the Bethel campus in 1960. McDonald Hall, a dormitory of women and Moore Cafeteria were open in 1960. The Dickey Fine Arts Center, the Burroughs Learning Center and the Roy N. Baker Field House were also built, as well as two additional dormitories. Ground was broken on Prosser Hall, a new residence life center, in April 2003.
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