NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Curb, a Nashville music industry executive and major contributor to Belmont University, says the school should rehire a coach who left after revealing she is gay.
Curb is also a former trustee at Belmont and gave the university $10 million toward construction of an event center that is named for him.
The Tennessean quoted Curb in response to the departure last week of former women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe.
“It’s time for Belmont to change and to recognize that we have gay students, faculty and staff,” he said. “I want to see this board and the school leadership act like Christians.”
Belmont officials have denied Howe was forced to resign, but several team members and Curb said she was.
“Belmont has to decide whether they want to be a national recognized university particularly with their school of music business or they want to be a church,” Curb said.
Belmont’s mission statement, posted online, reads, “Belmont University is a student-centered Christian community providing an academically challenging education that empowers men and women of diverse backgrounds to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.”
Curb said he called university president Bob Fisher and discussed his concerns. Fisher offered no comment about his conversation with Curb or the donor’s concerns.
The Faculty Senate passed a resolution Monday in support of gay faculty and students.
Asked by The Associated Press for comment on it, Interim Provost Pat Raines responded on Tuesday in writing, stating, “Members of the Belmont community our students, employees, administration and board represent a wide array of diverse perspectives on this issue (sexuality), and we welcome hearing their voices in this ongoing dialogue.”
Howe sent a statement to The Tennessean on Monday, stating that, while she regretted being the subject of the controversy, she hoped the issue will now be openly discussed.
Howe resigned after telling the soccer team that she is a lesbian and that her same-sex partner is going to have a baby.
“I am proud of who I am and my family and our future, and I want every person no matter what race, religion, nationality, or sexuality they represent to feel the same way.”
Howe did not address whether her departure from Belmont was forced.
Curb is a conservative donor and served as lieutenant governor of California from 1979 to 1983. He was a national co-chairman of the successful Ronald Reagan presidential campaign in 1980.
He told the newspaper that discrimination against gays would tarnish the university’s image and could prevent it from hosting major events, such as a 2008 debate between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.