Belmont University made a $100,000 donation to American Baptist College Thursday to establish an endowed scholarship for the Nashville-based college and seminary.
The concept announced at a news conference was dually developed by Belmont President Bob Fisher and American Baptist President Forrest Harris as a way to connect the two schools with vastly different histories and backgrounds.
“It’s important for us to partner with them because we share common connections to Christian higher education,” Fisher said. “It helps bring us together in a world where we just lived separately for way, way too long.”
The funding for the scholarship came from an annual, anonymously-donated fund that Fisher is allowed to spend at his discretion. Previously, he said that funding has been used to donate to and partner with Nashville-area groups.
“It’s nothing new for us to help another non-profit,” Fisher said.
American Baptist College, established in 1924, was also officially designated a Historically Black College or University Thursday. The school has never enrolled more than 150 students, but is rooted with history in the Civil Rights movement with alums such as John Lewis and Bernard Lafayette.
That faith-based history, combined with the current real-world work the school now does, was a major reason the school elected to start the scholarship, said Vice President of Spiritual Development Todd Lake, who attended Thursday’s event as the university’s representative.
“Having close ties with one of the only schools with the black Christian denomination is a beneficial partnership,” Lake said. “They are an institution on Christian higher education that people know about.”
The school’s substantial ties with the Civil Rights movement made it even more important to keep it “thriving in the 21st Century,” Lake said.
Even though both institutions have Baptist roots, Fisher felt major economic and historic divides left the two schools further apart than they should be.
“I just thought it would a great way to bridge that divide by investing with them,” Fisher said.