Montgomery Bell Academy

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Montgomery Bell Academy
"Fortitudo Per Scientiam."
4001 Harding Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37205
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Type Private all-male college-preparatory
Established 1866
Headmaster Bradford Gioia
Grades 7-12
Gender Male
Enrollment 713
Color(s) Cardinal and Silver
Mascot Byron
Newspaper Top of the Hill, The Bell Ringer
Yearbook The Bell
Endowment $60 million[citation needed]
The Ball Building and the Massey Building
The Patrick Wilson Library

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


MBA was established in 1866 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 still operates under the corporate title, "Board of Trustees of the University of Nashville", although that institution was otherwise disbanded in the early 20th century.

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 timely 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. That this practice has survived into the 21st century has proved to be quite startling to some, but in recent decades there has been little local sentiment in favor of a change since a number of excellent girls-only and coeducational academic options have developed in Nashville. Probably more of its graduates go on to attend Vanderbilt (down to 7% in recent years) than any other university, but no single institution of higher learning attracts a very large proportion of the graduates.

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.[1]

The front of the Davis Building during school dismissal.
File:Carter building, Montgomery Bell Academy.JPG
The rear view of the Carter Building.

Campus and resources

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.[2] 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.

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, Canterbury 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]


Annually, the students of the senior class take an average of four Advanced Placement programs. The school offers an array of these classes, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Statistics, Multivariable Calculus, Comparative politics, and Latin.


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

The school has won the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's football championship fourteen times, from 1915 to 2014.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] The team also hosts its own tennis tournament each spring, entitled the Francis Carter Invitational.[7]

Debate and forensics

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

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, 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. In January 2012, the winner of the tournament was the Greenhill School. The Billy Tate Forum is also a noted extemporaneous speech tournament.

Visual and Performing arts

The Montgomery Bell Academy theater program has won awards at the Tennessee Theater Association with its annual "Rick Seay Prodizzles." For its 2012-2013 school year, the MBA thespians won the competition with the English play, The Elephant Man (play), by Bernard Pomerance.[8] The theater troupe also claimed victories in 2010 and 2011, with its performances of Homer's Odyssey and Clark Gesner's You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. 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. Other than the one-acts and the annual performances in the Tennessee Theater Association competition, the school also performs its annual musical with students from the Harpeth Hall School, which have received acclaim in the local periodicals, such as the Nashville Scene and The Tennesseean. In recent history, the school has performed Rebecca Feldman's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Lynn Ahrens' Lucky Stiff.

In addition to its visual arts program, Montgomery Bell Academy also has a performing arts program. Annually, many of Montgomery Bell Academy's musicians participate in the Tennessee Mid-State and All-State musical ensembles. In 2012, six students were recognized as Tennessee's best musicians.[9] In the past, Montgomery Bell Academy's high school orchestra, the MBA Sinfonia has performed such popular pieces as Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite and John Williams' John Williams Trilogy, including music from Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. Montgomery Bell Academy also has four jazz bands, the Basie Band, the Ellington Band, the 7th Grade Jazz Band, and the 8th Grade Jazz Band. The school's all-boy choir is also an option for students, and won "Superior" ranks at the annual Tennessee Choral Competition in the past.[10] In 2012 alone, six students were chosen to attend the Tennessee Mid-State and All-State Choirs.[11]

Notable alumni


  1. Baker, K.M.; See, Jessica. "Dead Poets Society: Death of a Romantic". Archived from the original on 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2015-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Quinn, Erin. "The sky's the limit for Academy observatory". The Tennessean. Retrieved 10 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Montgomery Bell Academy". High School Football Database. Retrieved 20 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Montgomery Bell Academy Cross Country Stats". Athletics. Retrieved 20 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "MBA repeats as cross country champion with perfect score". Tennessee MileSplit. Retrieved 8 November 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "SECOND ROUND [BOYS A DIVISION] -- MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY 5, GULLIVER PREP 4". High School Tennis Championships. Retrieved 21 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Huggins, Harold. "MBA tennis team, guests face stern tests at Francis Carter Invitational". Nashville City Paper. Retrieved 21 May 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Elephant Man Wins One-Act Competition". Montgomery Bell Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Six Students Place in Middle Tennessee Honor Orchestra". Montgomery Bell Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Six Students Selected For Mid-State Choirs". Montgomery Bell Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "MBA to Present Fall Instrumental Showcase". Montgomery Bell Academy. Retrieved 9 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Will Bartholomew Bio - UTSPORTS.COM - University of Tennessee Athletics". Retrieved 4 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Parks, Joseph Howard, General Edmund Kirby Smith, CSA, LSU Press, 1954.

External links