Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Montgomery Bell Academy
Montgomery Bell Academy is a preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a day school for boys in grades 7-12. The present (as of 2005) U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, is an alumnus. Other alumni include Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank F. Drowota III, Grove/Atlantic Inc. president Morgan Entrekin, noted novelists Madison Jones and Madison Smartt Bell, Band of Brothers actor Richard Speight, Jr., and Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, a former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and Ambassador to China. Earlier in the school's history, its graduates included journalist J. Frederick Essary (1881-1942), diplomat Ralph James Totten (1877-1949), and U.S. Secretary of War Jacob McGavock Dickinson (1851-1928). Lt. Gen. Frank Maxwell Andrews, the aviation pioneer and World War II European commander for whom Andrews Air Force Base is named, graduated from the school in 1901. A large number of other Nashville business and professional leaders are also alumni.
"MBA", as it is often called, was established in the 1860s in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It is the successor to at least two well-known predecessors, the Western Military Institute, which was attended by Sam Davis, the "Boy Hero of the Confederacy", and the preparatory school for the former University of Nashville. (Indeed, the school's board still operates under the corporate title, "Board of Trustees of the University of Nashville", although that institution was otherwise disbanded in the early 20th century.) It was later moved to an estate which was at the time well west of downtown Nashville which was previously known as "Totomoi". The military nature of one of the predecessors notwithstanding, under its current name it has always operated as a civilian institution, and as a day, rather than a boarding, school. The school is named in honor of Montgomery Bell , a Pennsylvania native who made his fortune as the early 19th century "ironmaster" of Middle Tennessee and whose will endowed it, with the stipulation that it forever be an all-male institution. That this practice has survived into the 21st century has proved to be quite startling to some, but in recent decades there has been little local sentiment in favor of a change since a number of excellent girls-only and coeducational academic options have developed in Nashville. Probably more of its graduates go on to attend Vanderbilt (down to 7% in recent years) than any other university, but no single institution of higher learning attracts a very large proportion of the graduates.
The 1989 motion picture Dead Poets Society starring Robin Williams, depicts a school patterned on Montgomery Bell Academy. The Alumni Department of Montgomery Bell Academy, according to a website  about the film, has stated:
- The movie Dead Poets Society was written by Thomas Schulman, a 1968 graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy. The teacher portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie was based on one of Mr. Schulman's teachers while he was at MBA, Mr. Sam Pickering . The events in the movie, however, are purely fictional.
MBA also has extensive exchange links with boys' schools throughout the English-speaking world; arrangements are in place with Eton College and Winchester College in England, Michaelhouse and Kearsney Colleges in South Africa, and The Southport School in Australia.
The school has a long and proud athletic tradition, particularly with regard to football; in 2002 it won the state championship of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's "Division II", which consists of private schools which allow students on scholarships to participate on varsity sports teams. It has a long history in soccer by the standards of schools in the Southern United States; the first state championship in that sport dates back to 1975. Another sport unusual for the region is lacrosse.
The school is noted for a large number of National Merit and other scholarship winners; whether this is a product of the quality of the school or the relative privilege into which most of its students are born and raised is debated. Like many old-line prep schools, MBA is still governed by a traditional honor code in which students vow not to lie, cheat, or tolerate those who do so.
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