Montgomery Bell Academy

Last updated
Montgomery Bell Academy
Montgomery Bell Academy
4001 Harding Road


United States
Coordinates 36°07′44″N86°50′13″W / 36.1289469°N 86.8369443°W / 36.1289469; -86.8369443 Coordinates: 36°07′44″N86°50′13″W / 36.1289469°N 86.8369443°W / 36.1289469; -86.8369443
TypePrivate all-male college-preparatory
Motto"Fortitudo Per Scientiam."
Sister school Harpeth Hall School
HeadmasterBradford Gioia.
Gender Male
Color(s)Cardinal and Silver
MascotBig Red
NewspaperTop of the Hill, The Bell Ringer
YearbookThe Bell
Endowment$60 million[ citation needed ]
Website School website

Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) is a preparatory day school for boys in grades 7 through 12 in Nashville, Tennessee.



MBA was established in 1867 in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It is the successor to two well-known schools, the Western Military Institute, which Sam Davis, the "Boy Hero of the Confederacy", attended, and the former University of Nashville. The school's board operates under the corporate title, "Board of Trustees of the University of Nashville", although the university was disbanded in 1909.

From 1870 to 1875, former Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith was the chancellor of the University of Nashville, which operated both a two-year college operating as the University of Nashville, and MBA, the preparatory high school and grammar school. In 1875 a financial crisis and a donation from the Peabody Fund caused an organizational separation of the university and the preparatory school. The university was operated under a new board of trustees and used the proceeds of the Peabody Fund to operate the university under the name of Peabody Normal College, later called the George Peabody College for Teachers. The board of trustees of the University of Nashville continued to operate MBA as a preparatory school.

In 1881, the campus of MBA was moved to an estate which was at the time well west of downtown Nashville which was previously known as "Totomoi". The military nature of one of the predecessors notwithstanding, under its current name it has always operated as a civilian institution, as a day school rather than a boarding school. The school is named in honor of Montgomery Bell, a Pennsylvania native who made his fortune as the early 19th century "ironmaster" of Middle Tennessee and whose will endowed it, with the stipulation that it forever be an all-male institution.

In the 1970s, the school's enrollment surged as white parents withdrew their children from racially integrated public schools. In 1980, the headmaster Michael Drake told a newspaper "Every time the court rules in the Metro desegregation case, our enrollment goes way up." [1]

Dead Poets Society , the 1989 motion picture that featured Robin Williams, depicts a school patterned after Montgomery Bell Academy, although events in the movie were fictional. Thomas Schulman, who graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in 1968, wrote the movie's screenplay. Robin Williams portrayed a character based on Sam Pickering, one of Schulman's teachers during his MBA education. [2]

Campus and resources

The front of the Davis Building during school dismissal. TheDavisBuilding.JPG
The front of the Davis Building during school dismissal.

Montgomery Bell Academy's campus consists of eight academic and administrative buildings, a gymnasium, and numerous on-campus athletic facilities.

Montgomery Bell Academy also owns and operates a 24' telescope in McMinnville, Tennessee at Long Mountain. This site is noted for having the least ambient light in the Southeastern United States, making conditions favorable for astrophotography. [3] Annually, the Montgomery Bell Academy faculty and student body journey to the facility to hold the school's annual Leadership Retreat. On the facility grounds, there are two football fields, a lake, a high ropes course, and a low ropes course. The main feature of the campus (besides the observatory) is the large cliff to the west of the building. Students are challenged each year to rappel down the cliff and climb up the cliff as well. On occasion, the school's climbing club comes to the facility to practice all-natural rock climbing.

The rear view of the Carter Building. Carter building, Montgomery Bell Academy.JPG
The rear view of the Carter Building.

In 2011, Montgomery Bell Academy added the new Lowry Building in late December. In 2012, the school's new building, the Wallace Building, was completed. In addition to these new structures, a geothermal heating and cooling system was added. The school has also constructed new, porous parking lots to facilitate the new irrigation system.

Montgomery Bell Academy also has exchange links with other boys' schools throughout the English-speaking world; these include Eton College and Winchester College in England, Kearsney College and Michaelhouse in South Africa, and The Southport School, The King's School, Parramatta and, most recently, Melbourne Grammar School in Australia, Christ's College, Christchurch in New Zealand and The Raffles Institution in Singapore. Winchester College and Eton College are similar to MBA through discipline, dress code, and having an all-male student body.[ citation needed ]

Notable individuals who have spoken to the student body include Michael Crichton, Ted Turner, Charles Townes, and Robert Orr, Jr.[ citation needed ]

A statue of Sam Davis was installed on the school grounds, until 2020. [4]

In 2019, MBA began construction a new 200,000 square foot athletic and wellness center. It is scheduled to open in early 2021.[ citation needed ]


In addition to its academics program, Montgomery Bell Academy offers a variety of sports for students to choose from, most notably football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse.

The school has won the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's football championship fourteen times, from 1915 to 2014. [5] [ third-party source needed ]

The school has also gained recognition for its Cross Country team. Since its inception in 1995, the team has claimed a total of thirteen state championships. [6] Most notably, the team claimed a perfect sweep in the state championship of 2010, in which all top five places were claimed by the school's runners. [7]

The school's tennis team was able to claim the state title of 2013 over the Gulliver Preparatory School by a margin of 5-to-4. [8] The team also hosts its own tennis tournament each spring, entitled the Francis Carter Invitational. [9]

The MBA Soccer Program is led by the former Coach of Waterford United (Irish Premier League), Giles Cheevers. [10] MBA Soccer captured the 2015 TSSAA Tennessee State Soccer Championship (DII-AA) with a 3-0 win over Christian Brothers High School (CBHS). [11]

Debate and forensics

In addition to its academics programs, Montgomery Bell Academy has a separate debate and forensics program. The school offers Policy Debate to its students.

Annually, Montgomery Bell Academy hosts its speech and debate tournament, the Southern Bell Forum. Recognized as one of the National Forensics League's most prestigious tournaments[ citation needed ], the tournament is distinguished from others because of its unique ranking system, where speaker points are accounted for in the final ranking system. This system encourages teams to try to compete without losing a single round. The Billy Tate Forum is also a noted[ citation needed ] extemporaneous speech tournament.

Visual and Performing arts

The Montgomery Bell Academy theater program has won awards at the Tennessee Theater Association.[ citation needed ] The school also performs its annual student-directed one-acts in April and May, where it invites the students to write and direct their original scripts. MBA also performs its annual musical with students from the Harpeth Hall School. The high school orchestra is known as the MBA Sinfonia.

Notable alumni

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