In the spirit of giving thanks, Belmont University dedicated its chapel on November 27 in honor of a man long deemed the “heart and soul” of the institution. Dr. Herbert C. Gabhart passed away in September 2009, but the former chancellor and president left behind a 50-year legacy of impact on the campus and surrounding community. The Herbert C. Gabhart Chapel will now bear his name in gratitude for his service to Belmont and in honor of the committed Christian example he set.
“Dr. Gabhart represented the heart and soul of Belmont, and we still miss him deeply,” said Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher. “He led this institution through incredibly challenging seasons, forging relationships and casting a vision that set Belmont on a course to achieve what then seemed impossible. His guidance, compassion and dedication cannot be replaced, but by naming our chapel—a centerpiece of campus life—in his honor, we intend to keep his memory alive to nurture our future course.”
During Gabhart’s tenure, 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, including the Massey Performing Arts Center, the Hitch building, and the library, among others. Belmont also expanded academically by adding many majors and degrees, including music, nursing, business and more.
His fingerprints are evident across the campus, including in the Gabhart Student Center which is also named in his honor. 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. Dr. Gabhart also guided the college through significant challenges in its early history as a four-year institution, including a fire that destroyed an academic building and several periods of financial strain. Following his retirement, Gabhart inspired the campus as chancellor from 1982 until his death in 2009.
Betty Smith, Dr. Gabhart’s daughter, noted, “When he retired, my father said, ‘Every day I live I will say a good word and do a good deed for Belmont.’ He certainly lived up to that promise, and his commitment and belief in this University can still be felt. He would be so proud of what Belmont University has become, but he would be most pleased to see how this campus remains true to its Christian roots and continues to help students strengthen their faith. Naming the Chapel in his honor brings our entire family great joy.”
The Gabhart Chapel first opened in August 2014 as the first space on the ecumenical Christian university’s campus intentionally designed for worship services. Located on the ground floor of the Janet Ayers Academic Center at the corner of 15th and Wedgewood Avenues, the 300-seat chapel hosts services three times a week during the fall and spring semesters, as well as special services of worship throughout the year. The speaker schedule and livestream link can be found here.
The chapel’s impressive two-story layout includes arched, double height clear glass windows on the exterior that are mirrored on the interior and are veiled by a layer of art glass. The art glass includes the motif of three crosses and creates a sanctuary experience filled with both breathtaking beauty and peaceful stillness. An art glass rosette, named the Holleman Rose Medallion, provides the focal point for the front of the chapel and is named in loving memory of Christa Holleman, wife of former Belmont Trustee Jim Holleman.