The annual Ward-Belmont College Alumnae Reunion was held last weekend as dozens of graduates gathered Oct. 17 in the Belmont Mansion to relive their glory days at the well-respected school and to take part in Belmont’s 125th anniversary celebration.
In 1913, Ward Seminary (a school for girls then located in downtown Nashville) and Belmont College (a school for girls that started in 1890 on the site of Belmont’s campus after the death of Adelicia Acklen) merged to form a new school called Ward-Belmont. It was primarily a boarding school for young women seeking a two-year college degree, but over the years also included a boarding and day school for high school girls, a grammar school and a music conservatory.
Often, the college girls went on to Vanderbilt or other major universities for their last two years of higher education. Ward-Belmont was the first junior college in the South to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In the spring of 1951, after several years of financial problems, the board of trustees decided to sell Ward-Belmont to the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and in the fall of 1951, the new Belmont College had its first co-educational freshman class.
Many prominent women from the era attended Ward-Belmont, including Sarah ‘Ophie’ Cannon (better known as Minnie Pearl), actress and singer Mary Martin, Clare Booth Luce (founder of Vogue magazine) and Lila Acheson Wallace who, with her husband, founded Reader’s Digest.