SCARRITT-BENNETT CENTER was organized in 1988 as a non-profit education, retreat and conference center with a strong commitment to promoting racial equality, cross-cultural understanding, the empowerment of women and spiritual renewal.
Initially founded in Kansas City, Missouri, the school was established for the purpose of training young women missionaries. It moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1924, where it became Scarritt College for Christian Workers.
Scarritt Hall, Bennett Hall, the Tower and Wightman Chapel, known collectively as the Belle Bennett Memorial, were built between 1924-1927 with funds raised by the Woman’s Missionary Societies and the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The Dining Hall, built at the same time, was paid for from local funds.
Mr. Henry Hibbs, a Nashville architect, won national awards for his work on these buildings, which are a modified Collegiate Gothic style. The buildings were constructed from colored Crab Orchard (Tennessee rubble) stone, which was quarried in East Tennessee, and the casement windows of the original structures were imported from England.
However beautiful, the Center is more than just buildings, and it was here at Scarritt, that students were educated about different cultures, languages and traditions. Staff and fellow students were often from other countries serving to further enrich the learning experience. The skills and knowledge acquired on this campus equipped men and women to function in the midst of wars, famine, and severe poverty as they served in countries needing assistance, as well as in domestic situations. This began the legacy upon which the Center’s current mission was founded; promoting social justice issues including racial equality, cross-cultural understanding, the empowerment of women and spiritual enrichment.
Keeping in stride with the changes in the country and the world, in 1957, Scarritt College hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke in Wightman Chapel during the civil rights movement. Instruction on peaceful demonstration was held on the campus.
In 1981, Scarritt College became Scarritt Graduate School, providing educational degrees in Church Music and Christian Education.
In 1988, when the college closed, the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church purchased the buildings and grounds, and the 10 acres became Scarritt-Bennett Center, under the direction of the SBC Board.
For many years Scarritt has opened its doors, welcomed and embraced without discrimination based on racial, social or faith issues. Today Scarritt-Bennett Center remains dedicated the legacy of Scarritt College and Scarritt Graduate School and the missionaries, educators and musicians who were trained here, by providing a haven for those seeking to gather in an environment that is nurturing, conducive to opendialogue, and available to all faiths and cultures.
In 2013, in honor of our 25th Anniversary as a non-profit, we collected oral histories from key people that have been involved in shaping the Center. These interviews tell the story of Scarritt-Bennett Center. You can view a compilation of these oral histories here or visit our research library to watch these great oral histories in their entirety.