General Information

Founded in 1842, Cumberland received its Tennessee State Charter the following year. It was founded by the leaders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. A School of Law, the first in Tennessee and the first west of the Appalachian Mountains, was added in 1852 and a School of Theology began in 1854.

The Civil War interrupted Cumberland’s progress when University Hall, designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland, was burned to the ground after Union occupancy. A student wrote across a ruined Corinthian column the Latin word Resurgam – I will arise – and the mythical phoenix became the institutional symbol. By 1866, all departments were in operation in various locations in the town of Lebanon. In 1892, Cumberland moved to its present location.After World War II Cumberland experienced several changes in sponsorship and programs. In 1946, The Tennessee Baptist Convention assumed control of the University, ending a century of operation under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church. In 1951, the Tennessee Baptists closed the College of Arts and Sciences and operated only the School of Law. In 1956, the Board of Trust secured an amendment to the Charter, changed the institution to a private, independent corporation, and reopened the College of Arts and Sciences as a two-year institution, known as Cumberland College of Tennessee. In 1962, the assets of the School of Law were transferred to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Board of Trust expanded the academic programs of the Junior College in 1982, returned Cumberland to a four-year, degree-granting institution, and resumed the name Cumberland University. Since then, Cumberland has expanded the academic program to include many new majors and specialized student learning opportunities. Cumberland University has maintained a reputation for academic excellence throughout its history and continues to do so.

The University believes that a broad education, based in the liberal arts, is the best foundation for a lifetime of learning in a complex world. Students from every state in the nation and from many foreign countries have attended Cumberland. Its alumni include 14 governors, more than 80 members of the United States Congress, two United States Supreme Court Justices, three United States ambassadors, a United States Secretary of State and founder of the United Nations. Today, Cumberland University continues to grow as a distinguished institution offering educational opportunities responsive to the changing needs of society and the workplace.