Bellarmine University, Home of the Knights, in Louisville, Kentucky, is a private Catholic college founded in 1950. Today there are seven colleges and schools with more than 50 academic majors. The undergraduates currently number nearly 4,000.
The planning for this men’s college first appeared in November 1949 in an announcement by Archbishop of Louisville, John Floersh. He selected Monsignors Alfred Horrigan and Raymond Treece, associate editors of the Louisville Archdiocesan newspaper at the time, to develop the curriculum. They turned to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and a number of other Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, the University of Scranton and the University of St. Thomas, Houston, for advice. The campus was named after Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine, an Italian Jesuit who played an important role during the Counter-Reformation. (This was an effort by the Catholic Church in the 16th and early 17th centuries to respond to the Protestant Reformation.)
The pope elevated Horrigan to Domestic Prelate in 1955. As the first Bellarmine College president, he lead the campus until 1972. The next president, Dr. Eugene Petrik (1973-1990) strengthened the school’s financial position. Dr. Joseph J. McGowen (1990-2016) oversaw a “…massive building program.”
The school welcomed students of all faiths and races. The first freshman class numbered 115. The Korean War interrupted the paths of several attendees. The first senior class graduated 42 collegiates in 1954. The 1,000th diploma was delivered in 1964. In 1969 the campus installed its first computer.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, President Horrigan in 1971 noted that the school’s board of trustees “…consisted of representatives from a number of groups, reflecting the ‘open, progressive, ecumenical and experimental spirit’.” (The Second Vatican Council [1962-1965] “…addressed relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world.” Bishops were given a greater role in the conduct of regional affairs. Other changes included increased lay participation, “… widespread use of vernacular languages in the Mass instead of Latin and…modern aesthetic changes encompassing contemporary…liturgical music and artwork.”)
Bellarmine received its accreditation at the end of 1956 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Enrollment rose to 1,033 by 1959. In 1968 the campus merged with Ursuline College to become co-educational and independent of the Archdiocese. At that time several Bellarmine students had achieved scholarships in Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, National Science Foundation Fellowships, Fulbright Scholarships, Danforth Fellowships and East-West Fellowships. The first MBA program was established in 1975.
In his inaugural address in October 1990, Dr. McGowan’s goal was that the institution become the most sought-after liberal arts college in the region. On the college’s 50th anniversary the Board of Trustees changed the designation of the campus to Bellarmine University. Alums and former students have gone on to prominent careers in government, business, science, medicine, education, sports and entertainment.
In sports, women first competed in basketball in 1973. Men’s soccer and women’s volleyball began in 1976. Other women’s sports, such as softball, track, cross country, tennis and field hockey were added in the ‘80s. Other sports followed. The Knights compete in the NCAA Division II. For the first time in the university’s history, the men’s basketball team won the division’s national championship in 2011. Bellarmine athletes have frequently been noted as scholars by several sports organizations, including the Academic All-Southern Conference, the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the Golf Coaches Association of America.
Owsley B. Frazier Stadium is the home of several Bellarmine sporting events. Diamond Ticketing Systems provides the ImagiTix software for the stadium’s POS and ticketing systems. The university saves a considerable sum as Diamond charges a small, one-time payment for the license – no annual licensing fees. The ImagiTix program can be downloaded to as many box office and concession stands that are required. Diamond Ticketing is a pioneer in providing box office and online ticketing since 1999.