A History of Eastern Kentucky University

A History of Eastern Kentucky University: The School of Opportunity

William E. Ellis
with a Foreword by Thomas D. Clark
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j0rz
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  • Book Info
    A History of Eastern Kentucky University
    Book Description:

    Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond, Kentucky, was originally established as a normal school in 1906 in the wake of a landmark education law passed by the Kentucky General Assembly. One hundred years later, the school has evolved into a celebrated multipurpose regional university that is national in scope.

    The school was built on a campus that had housed Central University, a southern Presbyterian institution. In its early years, EKU grew slowly, buffeted by cyclical economic problems and the interruptions of two world wars. During that time, however, strong leadership from early presidents Ruric Nevel Roark, John Grant Crabbe, and Herman L. Donovan laid the groundwork for later expansions.

    President Robert. R. Martin oversaw the rapid growth of the institution in the 1960s. He managed an increase in enrollment and he had additional facilities built to house and educate the growing student population. A savvy administrator, he was at the forefront of vocational education and initiated programs in nursing and allied heath and in law enforcement education. His successor, J.C. Powell, built on Martin's work and saw EKU mature as a regional university. He reorganized its colleges to better balance the needs of general and technical education students and kept educational programs going despite decreases in state funding.

    In addition, Powell's years were a magical time for EKU's sports programs, as the Colonels captured national football championships in 1979 and 1982 and finished second in 1980 and 1981. Today, EKU continues to offer students a quality education and strives to meet the diverse needs of its student body. Three Eastern campuses, as well as distance learning programs through the Kentucky Telelinking Network, offer more options to students than ever before as EKU prepares them for the challenges of a new century.

    InA History of Eastern Kentucky University, William E. Ellis recounts the university's colorful history, from political quandaries surrounding presidential administrations and financial difficulties during the Great Depression to its maturing as a leading regional university. Interviews with alumni, faculty, staff, and political figures provide a personal side to the history of the school. Reflecting on the social, economic, and cultural changes in the region during the last century, Ellis's examination of the growth and development of EKU is an essential resource for alumni and for those interested in the progression of public higher education in Kentucky and the region.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5960-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Thomas D. Clark

    WRITING THE HISTORY of a century-old academic institution is akin to wandering footloose in a literary canebrake. By necessity an author must deal with founding years, bewhiskered presidents, hiring a skeleton faculty, gathering in students, placating an idiosyncratic public, and even overseeing construction. The historian must be concerned with all these elements. Too frequently the documentary record is skimpy or lost. The charge to the author is to be factual, inclusive, and coyly creative. The cardinal rule, however, is to be aware that he or she is writing about an extremely human institution.

    In this instance, Professor Bill Ellis has...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Center of a Storm: Kentucky Presbyterians, Central University, and American Higher Education
    (pp. 1-20)

    CENTRAL UNIVERSITY, founded in 1874, formed at the nexus of several important nineteenth-century themes in American history: political, regional, national, religious, and educational.

    If the Civil War officially ended in April 1865, it had just begun for many Kentuckians. Though Kentucky never officially seceded from the Union, it has been frequently said that the state joined the South after the war. While more than two-thirds of Kentucky combatants fought for the Union, after the war, former Confederates, from governors to members of the General Assembly to local county officials, dominated leadership in the commonwealth. Moreover, Kentucky’s economy became more directly...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “The Best Is Hardly Good Enough”: Founding a Normal School, 1906–1916
    (pp. 21-38)

    AS THE TWENTIETH century opened, public school education in Kentucky limped along at the bottom of the states. Walters Collegiate Institute occupied the old Central University site and turned out semi-elite graduates, young men who would take their places in Kentucky society with a better than average education. Only in Louisville and a few other urban areas in the commonwealth did children receive a reasonably good education. The best that most children could expect was a grade school education, perhaps graduating from the eighth grade. There were no county high schools in the state. In a rigidly segregated society, the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 From Normal School to Teachers College, 1916–1928
    (pp. 39-58)

    THE RESIGNATION OF President Crabbe quickly drew thirty applicants for the job as president of Eastern. Within days, however, the Board of Regents settled on Thomas Jackson Coates, a native of Pikeville. Apparently Coates did not seek the presidency and had to be persuaded to take the post on a one-year trial basis. Educated at Southern Normal in Bowling Green and at State College in Lexington, he served as superintendent of Richmond schools before becoming supervisor of rural schools for the state of Kentucky in 1911. A lifelong friend of Cherry, he told the Western president, “I am going to...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER 4 The Donovan Years: Prosperity, Depression, and the Shadows of War, 1928–1941
    (pp. 59-90)

    DURING THE COATES YEARS, Eastern grew from a normal school into a state teachers college. From its founding in 1906, the school—its students, faculty, and administration—faced numerous challenges. Eastern was never isolated from the world. The coming decades would place even greater stress on a college, region, and state with limited resources.

    When Coates died on March 17, 1928, the Eastern Board of Regents soon moved to name his replacement. With Dean Homer E. Cooper serving as acting president, business went on as usual. However, there must have been undue pressure on the regents from some quarters. In...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Trials of War and Peace: The O’Donnell Years, 1941–1960
    (pp. 91-116)

    THE ADMINISTRATION OF a new president started uneventfully enough in mid-1941 with life on the little campus in Richmond flowing much as it had for years. Most students came to Eastern to prepare for teaching, while a minority sought a degree for other careers. The sons and daughters of farmers, shopkeepers, and factory workers, Eastern students were career-oriented and self-directed. They wanted to escape the privations of the Great Depression that were still on everyone’s mind.

    Whereas Donovan tended to be something of an autocrat, William Francis O’Donnell, “O’D” to his friends, was much more low-key, perhaps even intimidated by...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Robert R. Martin: “A Vision of Greatness,” 1960–1976
    (pp. 117-152)

    AS PRESIDENT O’DONNELL neared the mandatory retirement age of seventy, the political nature of Kentucky education emerged. There is little doubt that Robert R. Martin, class of 1934, had in mind returning to Eastern as president. He plotted his course well, working his way through public school teaching into administration at the state department of education in Frankfort. All the while he kept a strong dedication to the Democratic Party.¹

    Before military service in World War II, Martin earned a master’s degree at the University of Kentucky. With a postwar doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University, specializing in...

  12. CHAPTER 7 J. C. Powell: The Maturing Years, 1976–1984
    (pp. 153-172)

    FROM 1976 TO 1984, Eastern Kentucky University matured as a regional university. In contrast to the Martin era, program growth slowed as student enrollment stabilized. Students continually asked for change but not with the insistence of the Martin years. In addition, they increasingly felt the consequences of tougher economic times.

    Change came mostly from within, a tendency that demonstrated both good and bad aspects. Several trends from the Martin years continued. For example, faculty became increasingly involved in university governance. Periodic state budget shortfalls kept EKU, along with other state schools, from developing to its fullest potential. Moreover, by the...

  13. CHAPTER 8 “To Make a Good University a Better One”: The Funderburk Years, 1985–1998
    (pp. 173-192)

    THE WEAR AND TEAR of the years on J. C. Powell led to his retirement. Even with the relative decline in state support, stagnant student enrollment, and the uncertain state and national economy, much progress had been made during his administration. Older and newer programs matured, women made some progress on campus, and the Faculty Senate now had more say in university governance. However, Powell could never escape the considerable shadow of Robert R. Martin and the impression that he had been handpicked by his predecessor.

    With Powell’s resignation some of the old demons of Kentucky education and politics arose....

  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. CHAPTER 9 Change, Controversy, and Continuity, 1998—Present
    (pp. 193-220)

    WITH THE RETIREMENT of President Funderburk scheduled for the end of June 1998, the regents began their search for his successor in April 1997. Just about everybody had an opinion about what type of person was needed to lead the university into the next century. Although praising Funderburk for his fiscal savvy, theEastern Progresswanted a new president “who will listen to the students and faculty about problems and ideas.” Board of Regents chairman James Gilbert asked for “a reformer” with “vision.” This time the search committee chaired by Gilbert included a broad cross section of the Eastern community,...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 221-266)
  17. Index
    (pp. 267-284)