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Union University

This article is about the Union University in Tennessee. For other institutions of this or a similar name, see Union University (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 35°40′59″N 88°51′23″W / 35.6830°N 88.8565°W / 35.6830; -88.8565{{#coordinates:35.6830|-88.8565|type:edu_region:US-TN|||||| |primary |name= }}

Union University
Official crest of Union University (Trademark of Union University)
Motto Religio et Eruditio
Established 1823
Type Private
Affiliation Tennessee Baptist Convention
Academic staff
Students 4,259
Location Germantown, Tennessee,
Hendersonville, Tennessee, and
Jackson, Tennessee
Campus Urban, Script error: No such module "convert".
Colors Cardinal & Cream
Nickname Template:If empty

Union University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university located in Jackson, Tennessee, with additional campuses in Germantown and Hendersonville. The university is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and relates to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Union is one of the top tier institutions in the Southern Region, listed for each of the past eleven years by U.S. News & World Report, and is notable for having trained a United States Supreme Court justice, and in the sports world as the place where Bear Bryant began his football coaching career.[1]

For 2012–13, U.S. News ranked Union 14th among "Regional Universities" in the South, the 16th consecutive year U.S. News ranked Union as a top-tier school. It has been recognized by Peterson's Competitive College Guide, the Time/Princeton Review, and Templeton's Colleges that Encourage Character Development. Union is a recipient of the President's Higher Education Community Service Award and has been listed as one of America's Top 100 College Buys. In addition, U.S. News cites Union as an "A+ option for serious B students," among "Up and Coming Schools" and among schools "where the faculty has an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching."

Union University is the heir to some of the oldest universities in the Southeast. The school is a union of several different schools: West Tennessee College, formerly known as Jackson Male Academy, Union University of Murfreesboro, Southwestern Baptist University, and Hall-Moody Junior College of Martin, Tennessee.[1]

Union University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Union University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).[2] On July 14, 2013, Union University announced their Business Program had earned accreditation from The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).[3]


Miller Tower at Union University

Union University has ranked as one of the South’s top tier universities for the 11th straight year by U.S.News & World Report.

Union also ranked in 16 subcategories:

  • 3rd in “faculty resources” category (includes classes with fewer than 20 students, faculty salary and the proportion of professors with the highest degree in the field).
  • 4th in the “percent of classes with fewer than 20 students” category – 73%.
  • 4th (tied) for SAT/ACT score category.
  • 5th (tied) for the “student/faculty ratio” category (ratio of 12/1), placing Union in the top 18 southern universities in this category.
  • 7th (tied) in “selectivity rank,” which includes test scores and class rank for incoming students.
  • 9th (tied) for “freshmen in top 25 percent of high school class"; 66 percent of freshmen meet that description.

Union is also recognized in:

  • Peterson's Guide to Competitive Colleges;
  • The Templeton Foundation Guide for Colleges That Encourage Character Development;
  • America's Best College Buys and
  • America's Best College Scholarships.[2]


Early history

File:Jackson Male Academy Ad - 1822.JPG
1822 ad for Jackson Male Academy.

Jackson Male Academy was founded in 1823 just after West Tennessee was opened for settlement.[4] Only five years earlier in 1818 was the land purchased from the Chickasaw Indians.

In 1907, Dr. T. T. Eaton, a trustee of Southwestern Baptist University, left his 6,000 volume library to the college. Eaton was a former professor of Union University at Murfreesboro, where his father, Dr. Joseph H. Eaton, was a former president.

Southwestern soon changed its name to Union University in honor of the Eatons and others from Union at Murfreesboro who had impacted Southwestern as faculty, administrators, trustees, and contributors.

In 1925 the Tennessee Baptist Convention secured a charter that vested the rights, authority, and property of Union University in the Tennessee Convention. This charter included the election of the University’s trustees. Two years later, the Convention consolidated Hall-Moody Junior College at Martin (1900–1927) with Union University; the former Hall-Moody campus subsequently became the location of the University of Tennessee Junior College, now the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In 1948 the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted Union University accreditation.

In 1962 Union developed a nursing program with the assistance of Jackson-Madison County General Hospital at the request of local physicians.

In 1975 Union moved from downtown Jackson, Tennessee, to a new campus located near the Highway 45-Bypass in north Jackson.

The Craig and Barefoot Administrations

During President Robert Craig (1967–85) and President Hyran Barefoot's (1987–1996) administrations:

  • enrollment increased from fewer than 1,000 students to more than 2,000;
  • the Penick Academic Complex was enlarged several times;
  • additional housing units were erected;
  • and the Blasingame Academic Complex (1986) and the Hyran E. Barefoot Student Union Building (1994) were constructed.

From the early 1950s to the early 1970s, Union operated an Extension Center in the Memphis area. From 1987-95, Union offered the degree-completion program leading to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN track) in Memphis. At that time there were over 300 graduates of this program.

David S. Dockery's Administration

David S. Dockery was elected as the fifteenth president of Union University in December 1995. Dockery brought a desire to take Union to a regional and national prominence in Christian higher education. Thus far he has realized:

  • headcount increase from 2200 (in 1996) to more than 3500 (in 2004);
  • increased giving to Union, including ten of the largest commitments in Union history;
  • construction of two residence halls, Miller Tower, Jennings Hall, Hammons Hall, Fesmire Field House and the new White Hall science building;
  • successful completion of the $60 million comprehensive “Building a Future” campaign (1998–2005) (now at $69 million);
  • renewed commitment to scholarship and research among Union faculty-part of Union's new Center for Faculty Development;
  • new undergraduate majors in political science, physics, theology, digital media studies, church history, ethics, sports management, sports medicine, engineering; and graduate programs in education (M.Ed., Ed.S., and Ed.D.), nursing (MSN with tracks in education, administration, and nurse anesthesia), and intercultural studies (MAIS);
  • SACS Level V accreditation was achieved;
  • added programs in undergraduate research;
  • Addition of LIFE group programs, student retention programs, student mission involvement, giftedness assessment program for freshman students;
  • the establishment of an extension campus in Germantown, Tennessee, which now has almost 700 students;
  • the establishment of the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership;
  • the establishment of the Charles Colson Chair for Faith and Culture;
  • the establishment of the annual Scholarship Banquet (1997–2004);
  • achieving top tier recognition in U.S. News & World Report and other important listings.
  • Implemented the $110 million "Union 2010" plan that includes the future addition of new tennis courts, new intramural fields, and an amphitheatre, which has already included the completion of a second soccer field,the Fesmire Fieldhouse, and the state-of-the-art science building, White Hall.[5]
  • a Doctor of Pharmacy program.[1]

The Storm - February 5, 2008

One of the Union dorms that was destroyed by the February 5, 2008 tornado.
File:Supercell Tennessee.gif
Radar loop of the Nashville, Jackson and Christian County, Kentucky supercells. Those supercells were responsible for at least 32 deaths (courtesy of NWS Nashville)
On February 5, 2008, at 7:02 p.m., the university was struck by an EF4 tornado, with winds between 166–200 miles per hour. The tornado destroyed 18 dormitory buildings and caused over $40 million worth of damage to the campus, which suffered a direct hit, rendering almost 80% of the dormortory space to be either totally destroyed or unlivable. None of the approximately 1,800 students on campus at the time were killed. David Dockery, the president of the University, said:
I'm convinced-nobody will ever convince me otherwise-that God's angels were unleashed to come as ministering spirits to protect those students in the most precarious of situations.

Fifty-one students were taken to Jackson-Madison General Hospital. While most students were released after being treated, nine were kept overnight. Some students were trapped for hours while emergency crews worked to rescue them. A total of 31 buildings received damage of varying degrees.[6] The devastation captured nationwide attention and was featured by CNN, Fox News,[7] The New York Times [8] and numerous regional news outlets. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, FEMA Director R. David Paulison and Governor of Tennessee Phil Bredesen all visited the campus after the disaster.[9]

The Commercial Appealreported that due to extensive damage, the campus would not reopen until February 18.[10] Lambuth University, a rival area university, reportedly offered to open its dormitories to displaced Union students. The congregation of Englewood Baptist Church, which owned the Old English Inn in Jackson, voted unanimously to open the Inn to Union students. The church's move accommodated almost 300 students until December 2008. The University also expected that around 200 students would be housed in the private homes of Union faculty, staff and friends.

The February 5, 2008 event was the second time in just over five years that the campus was hit by a tornado. On the evening of November 10, 2002, during the Veterans Day Weekend tornado outbreak, the school was struck by an F1 tornado, with winds of approximately 100 miles per hour, which did approximately 2 million dollars worth of damage to the school. There were no serious injuries.[11] Union president David Dockery stated that the February 5, 2008 tornado was about 15 times as bad at the 2002 tornado. The damage caused by the February 5th tornado was estimated at $40 million.[12]


President Tenure Institution
1 Dr. Joseph H. Eaton 1848–1859 Union University (Murfreesboro)
2 James Madison Pendleton Union University (Murfreesboro)
3 Charles Manley Union University (Murfreesboro)
4 John W. Conger 1907–1909 Union University (Jackson)
5 Isaac B. Tigrett 1909–1911 Union University (Jackson)
6 Robert A. Kimbrough 1911–1913 Union University (Jackson)
7 Richard M. Inlow June 1913–December 1913 Union University (Jackson)
8 Albert T. Barrett 1913–1915 Union University (Jackson)
9 George M. Savage 1915–1918 Union University (Jackson)
10 Henry Eugene Watters 1918–1931 Union University (Jackson)
11 John Jeter Hurt 1931–1945 Union University (Jackson)
12 Warren F. Jones 1945–1963 Union University (Jackson)
13 Francis E. Wright 1963–1967 Union University (Jackson)
14 Robert E. Craig 1967–1986 Union University (Jackson)
15 Hyran E. Barefoot 1986–1996 Union University (Jackson)
16 David S. Dockery 1996–2014 Union University (Jackson)
17 Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver 2014–present Union University (Jackson)


Jackson facilities

The campus is Script error: No such module "convert". and includes a 2,200-seat gymnasium, dormitories for men and women including a married housing complex, separate lodges for the fraternities and sororities, academic halls, an administration center, baseball and softball parks, two soccer fields, an indoor swimming pool, and wellness center.[13]

Germantown facilities

Union also has a Script error: No such module "convert". campus in Germantown, Tennessee, (suburban Memphis) offering graduate degrees in business, education, Christian studies & nursing. The degrees in education include the M.Ed., M.A.Ed., Ed.S., and Ed.D.[14]

Hendersonville facilities

Union's newest location is in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. This campus offers graduate degrees in education and Christian studies.[15]

Olford Ministries International

In early 2007, it was announced that Olford Ministries would be merged into Union University. Olford is an institution that focuses on pastors' training and theological courses. The Olford campus is a Script error: No such module "convert"., wooded retreat setting in Memphis, Tennessee.[16]


In Jackson, Union has apartment-style living. Each student has a separate private bedroom that shares a common living space with three roommates. All apartments feature a high-speed Internet connection, as well as kitchen unit. Some apartments feature private phone lines or a washer and dryer. All private living spaces have a window and the common areas have cable TV access. There is no student housing at the Germantown campus. Temporary off campus housing was at The Jett (the former Old English Inn) for the majority of the spring 2008 semester.[17]


Union University teams, nicknamed athletically as the Bulldogs, are part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II level, primarily competing in the Gulf South Conference as provisional members. The Bulldogs formerly were part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), competing in the TranSouth Athletic Conference (TSAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf and soccer; while women's sports include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, golf, softball and volleyball.

Union began the three-year transition to full NCAA Division II membership in 2011.

The women's basketball team won NAIA national championships during the 1998, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010 seasons.

Union also claimed NCCAA National Titles in men's soccer (2003), volleyball (2003), and softball (2001, 2002, 2004, 2013).[18]

Greek system

There are six social fraternities and sororities on campus, two music fraternities and numerous academic fraternities.

Each of these groups is relatively large in size relative to the size of the institution and consistently contributes to philanthropies, both regionally and globally. The number of members in the social fraternities can range between 50 to 80 members per chapter.

The fraternities and sororities are an active presence on campus through philanthropy, intramural sports and Greek Olympics.[19]


The fraternities represented on campus are:

Fraternity Chapter Chartered locally
Alpha Tau Omega Tennessee Beta Tau February 28, 1894
Lambda Chi Alpha Lambda-Zeta Zeta December 5, 1964
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Tennessee Eta July 4, 1857


The sororities represented on campus are:

Sorority Chapter Chartered locally
Chi Omega Upsilon 1904
Kappa Delta Zeta Beta February 10, 1990
Zeta Tau Alpha Beta Omega December 11, 1935


The academic fraternities are:

Fraternity Discipline
Alpha Psi Omega Theater
Phi Alpha Theta History
Phi Beta Lambda Business
Pi Gamma Mu Social Sciences
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music
Sigma Tau Delta English


  • The Cardinal and Cream is the campus newspaper
  • The Torch is the English Department's award winning literary and arts publication

Guest lecture events

Annual Scholarship Banquet

Union's Scholarship Banquet has brought prominent national and international figures to Union including: former president George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Russian president and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Senator Bob Dole, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, former British Prime Minister John Major, Tony Blair, and Winston S. Churchill, Grandson of the former British Prime Minister.[20]

The Union Forum

Union's Forum is an annual speaker series that has brought several national figures to Union, including Peggy Wehmeyer, William Kristol, Michael Medved, Robert Novak, Stephen CarterTemplate:Disambiguation needed, Morton Kondracke, Clarence Page, Juan Williams, and Margaret Carlson.[21]

Notable people


Faculty and administration

File:BL Arnold.jpg
Benjamin Lee Arnold Union University professor, later president of Oregon State University


External links

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