Belmont celebrated the first week of the Spring 2017 semester this morning with the grand reopening of the Gabhart Student Center, which recently underwent a $2.6 million renovation. Built in 1981, the Gabhart Student Center is named in honor of the late Dr. Herbert C. Gabhart, who served Belmont University for 50 years, leading as president of Belmont College from 1959-1982 and inspiring the campus as chancellor for 27 years.
The renovation resulted from an inclusive process to determine the best uses of space made available when a new campus dining hall, Harrington Place, opened in the Johnson Academic Center. Following a campus-wide request for proposals in Fall 2015, the University’s Senior Leadership team reviewed ideas submitted by students, faculty and staff on how to best use former cafeteria space on the first floor of Gabhart. In addition to measuring overall design and financial feasibility of each proposal, the most important criterion for the proposals was determining how the suggestions aligned with Belmont’s efforts to achieve its Vision 2020 strategic plan.
The renovation of the Gabhart Student Center represents the first implementation of approved proposals and unites a number of student service areas at the center of campus, including Belmont Central, Campus Security, Student Financial Services, Bridges to Belmont, Registrar’s Office and University Ministries/Spiritual Development. Moreover, the renovation provides new meeting space for student organizations and offers a visible and easily accessible home to Belmont’s new Office of Multicultural Learning and Experience.
“What was amazing to us was to see the significant alignment that emerged from the proposals,” said Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher. “One key theme was the request for more meeting space for student groups, and we’ve certainly provided that with this renovation. In addition, the offices now located in the Gabhart Student Center enhance the overall student experience by putting so many service areas in one convenient space, at the fingertips of our student body. I believe Dr. Gabhart would love how the building named to honor him is being dedicated anew to building community and serving our students well.”
Dr. Gabhart served as president of Belmont College from 1959 until he retired in 1982 and began his term as chancellor of Belmont. During his tenure as president, Belmont experienced phenomenal growth in enrollment and physical space. When he arrived at Belmont College in 1959, the school’s enrollment was 360 students. When he retired as president in 1982, Belmont’s student population had grown by 500 percent to more than 2,000. He oversaw a budget increase from $480,000 to $8 million, and the campus also saw physical expansion with the addition of nine new buildings. Belmont also expanded academically by adding many majors and degrees, including music, nursing, business and more. Under his leadership, Belmont forged numerous relationships with community leaders—including Jack C. Massey and the Maddox family—that brought the institution to new heights.
The grand reopening of the Gabhart Student Center represents the first step in an ongoing space reallocation process. The process will continue later this semester with the renovation of the Hitch Building on campus to provide more practice rooms for music students as well as office and classroom space for the University’s sport science program. Additional conversations are expected to begin later in the spring to allow input on potential uses for spaces now open in other buildings following several offices’ recent moves into Gabhart.