Bethel University (Tennessee)

Bethel University is a private Christian university in McKenzie, Tennessee with satellite campuses in Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Paris, and Clarksville.[2] It is accredited to award degrees up to the master's level.

Bethel University
Former names
Bethel Seminary (1842–1847)
Bethel College (1847–2009)
TypePrivate university
Established1842; 180 years ago (1842)
Religious affiliation
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
PresidentWalter Butler
Students4,579 [1]

36°08′33″N 88°30′54″W / 36.1425°N 88.5151°W / 36.1425; -88.5151Coordinates: 36°08′33″N 88°30′54″W / 36.1425°N 88.5151°W / 36.1425; -88.5151
Purple & Gold
Sporting affiliations


Founded in 1842 as Bethel Seminary in McLemoresville, Tennessee, it was renamed to Bethel College in 1847. In 1872, Bethel President W.W. Hendrix led the initiative to move Bethel from McLemoresville to its current location in McKenzie, where the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway intersected the Louisville & Nashville Railway. The school assumed its current name in 2009.[3] Bethel University student enrollment as of Fall 2017 consisted of 4,579 students.[1] On August 4, 2014, Bethel University and the Board of Trustees officially announced Dr. Walter Butler as its 40th president, a position he held on an interim basis since August 1, 2013 after longtime President Dr. Robert Prosser retired.[4]

In the 2010s, Bethel University began renovating and building new facilities to accommodate its rapidly growing enrollment numbers.[5] This included a new student center, football stadium, three new dorm buildings, and a new basketball arena. Additionally, the seminary, library, and old cafeteria buildings were extensively renovated to serve the changing needs of the school's academic programs.

On May 8, 2010, the university held a dedication service for its newest building, the Ray and Linda Morris Science Complex, featuring new laboratories, additional classrooms, and a lecture hall. Also dedicated that year was a new residence hall, University Hall, which houses up to 250 students. [6]

June the following year saw the reopening of the Odom Hall math building after extensive renovations, along with Heritage Hall, a new three-story residence hall which was dedicated in August 2011.

The university's most ambitious construction plan also saw its first of four phases completed in August 2011. Phase I of the Vera Low Center for Student Enrichment features a new cafeteria, student services offices, bookstore, enrollment offices and a student activities room. Phase II of the Rosemary and Harry L. Crisp Arena, which opened in Spring 2012, consists of a new gymnasium, athletic training facilities, offices, and a fitness center for students, faculty, and general public. Phase III, the Cumberland Chapel, was under construction as of May 2012.[7]

In conjunction with the Henry County Medical Center, in November 2012, Bethel University opened its new satellite campus for the Physician Assistant Program along with the medical centers' new Diagnostic Center.[8]

Student bodyEdit

The bulk of students attending Bethel University are residents of Tennessee,[9] but the school does take students from other states and countries. Each year, two international students are chosen to receive the Honors Scholarship for International Students which includes full tuition, room, meals, and all fees.[10]


Bethel University consists of three colleges: the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Professional Studies, and the College of Health Sciences. The university offers Associates, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Arts, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science degrees through a variety of academic programs.[11] Since 1988, it has hosted the two-day academically based Hendrix Scholarship Competition offering full tuition and board for the winner, with full tuition for the runner up.[12] Students who qualify may enter the Honors program, receiving a $10,000 scholarship per academic year.[13]

Bethel University is currently accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. They are currently in probationary status due to concerns on financial responsibility.[14]


Music, drama and performing arts are organized through a variety of entities within Bethel University. The academic branch of Bethel University houses the department of music, as well as the department of theatre. The department of music offers academic classes that fulfill requirements for graduation in the areas of music education, music performance, music business, and church music. Music performing ensembles found in the department of music include the Wildcat Marching Band, Academic Concert Symphonic Band, Academic Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Brazilian Drum Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Jazz Band, Choir (Bethel University Singers,) Chamber Choir, and various student-led performing groups. Students can receive healthy scholarships (regardless of their academic major) through membership in the Wildcat Marching Band, Wildcat Symphonic Band, and the Bethel University Singers. The department of theatre offers traditional performance experiences through productions that span through both fall and spring semesters.

Renaissance performance groups include: The Renaissance Choir, Vocal Authority, The Renaissance Quartet, The Renaissance Bluegrass Bands, Renaissance Theatre, Renaissance ACTS, and The Renaissance Regiment.[15]


The Bethel athletic teams are called the Wildcats. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Mid-South Conference (MSC) in all sports since the 2020–21 academic year (after spending a year as an affiliate member for certain sports from 2003–04 to 2019–20). Prior to joining the Mid-South as a full member, the Wildcats previously competed in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC; formerly known as Georgia–Alabama–Carolina Conference (GACC) until after the 2003–04 school year) from 2013–14 to 2019–20; in the defunct TranSouth Athletic Conference (TranSouth or TSAC) from 2006–07 to 2012–13 (which they were a member on a previous stint from 1996–97 to 1997–98); and in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC; now currently known as the River States Conference (RSC) since the 2016–17 school year) from 1998–99 to 2005–06; as well as being a charter member of the Volunteer State Athletic Conference (VSAC).[16] Their mascot is the Wildcat.[17]

Bethel competes in 28 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, football, golf, in-line hockey, soccer, swimming, tennis and track & field (indoor and outdoor); while women's sports include basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field (indoor and outdoor) and volleyball; and co-ed sports include archery, bass fishing, cheerleading, eSports and shooting sports. Former sports included men's & women's triathlon and co-ed dance.


Bethel offers intramural sports in a wide variety of areas. Activities include: beach volleyball, dodge ball, co-ed soccer, tennis, softball, flag football, basketball, and many other events.[18]


Some of the sport teams' accomplishments include:

  • Men's Soccer – NAIA National Champions 2008. Played four of five years at the National Tournament.[19][20]
  • In-Line Hockey – National Champions in 2011-2012 and 2018-2019 National Champions; Southeastern Champions, second place in the National Championship for 2010 against club teams.[21][22]
  • Bass Fishing – Southern Collegiate Champions for 2010–2011, Match Champions, Invitation Champions, first Triple Crown Champion.[23]
  • Women's Basketball – Three straight National Tournament appearances, ranked in “top ten” in the NAIA for 2010–2011.[24]

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ a b "Quick Facts". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Location". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2012-08-20.
  3. ^ "History". Bethel University.
  4. ^ "Bethel University board appoints Walter Butler president". Jackson Sun. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  5. ^ "150 Years of History: A Vision For Eternity | Bethel University". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  6. ^ "Bethel University | History | Plexuss". Retrieved 2022-08-30.
  7. ^ Glass, Jennifer. "Bethel University Breaks Ground on New Chapel". The Cumberland Presbyterian. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  8. ^ Hedges, Becky. "Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting for Diagnostic Center and Bethel Paris Campus". Henry Medical Center. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Bethel University". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Traditional Undergraduate Scholarships". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2012-11-09.
  11. ^ "All Programs". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2012-08-25.
  12. ^ "Hendrix Scholarship". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2014-04-17.
  13. ^ "Honors Program". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2012-11-09.
  14. ^[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ "Bethel University - Renaissance The Performing Arts Experience". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-14.
  16. ^ Bethel Athletics
  17. ^ "History of Bethel Athletics". Bethel University. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  18. ^ "Intramural Sports". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2012-08-28.
  19. ^ "Bethel College Men's Soccer - 2008 NAIA National Champions!". Bethel University. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  20. ^ "2008 NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship Final Recap". NAIA. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  21. ^ "Bethel Hockey Claims National Championship!". Bethel University. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  22. ^ "HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 1073" (PDF). Tennessee State Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  23. ^ "Bethel Bass Cats to be Honored at Southern Collegiate Championships". Bethel University. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  24. ^ "Lady Cats Continue to Rise in Polls". Bethel University. Retrieved 13 August 2012.

External linksEdit