Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University

Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 376
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Western Kentucky University
    Book Description:

    Most Hilltoppers believe that Western Kentucky University is unique. They take pride in its lovely campus, its friendly spirit, the loyalty of its alumni, and its academic and athletic achievements. But Western's development also illustrates a major trend in American higher education during the past century. Scores of other institutions have followed the Western pattern, growing from private normal school to state normal school, to teachers college, to general college, finally emerging as an important state university.

    Historian Lowell Harrison traces the Western story from the school's origin in 1875 to the January 1986 election of its seventh president. For much of its history, Western has been led by paternalistic presidents whose major battles have been with other state schools and parsimonious legislatures. In recent years the presidents have been challenged by students and faculty who have demanded more active roles in university governance, and by a Board of Regents and the Council on Higher Education, which have raised challenging new issues.

    Harrison's account of the institution's development is laced with anecdotes and vignettes of some of the school's interesting personalities: President Henry Hardin Cherry, whose chapel talks convinced countless students that "the Spirit Makes the Master"; "Uncle Ed" Diddle, whose flying towel and winning teams earned national basketball fame; "Daddy" Bur-ton who could catch flies while lecturing; Miss Gabie Robertson, who held students into the next class period; the lone Japanese student who was on campus during World War II.

    Harrison also recalls steamboat excursions, the Great Depression and the Second World War, the astounding boom in enrollment and buildings in the 1960s, the period of student unrest, and the numerous fiscal crises that have beset the school.

    This is the story of an institution proud of its past and seeking to chart its course into the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5763-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Chronology
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. One In the Beginning (to 1906)
    (pp. 1-18)

    THE ORIGINS of Western Kentucky University include the development of normal schools for the training of teachers, the deplorable state of public education in Kentucky, and the presence of an exceptional Kentuckian who devoted his life to the cause of education. These factors converged in southcentral Kentucky in the late nineteenth century.

    The idea of special schools for training teachers did not originate with Horace Mann, but he did more than any other American to create normal schools. The 1838 act of the Massachusetts legislature that provided for the establishment of three such institutions was a true landmark in education,...

  7. Two The Normal Years (1906–1922)
    (pp. 19-58)

    HERMAN LEE DONOVAN of Maysville was the first student enrolled in the State Normal School. A nineteen-year-old youth who had already taught several schools, he had saved enough money by 1906 to continue his education. Without even writing for information, he arrived at the Bowling Green railroad station at 4:30 A.M. on a September morning in 1906. When Donovan entered the Southern Normal building a few hours later, “Mr. Cherry greeted me cordially and made me feel at home.” Professor Frederick W. Roman enrolled him, and by that afternoon Donovan was in class. His classmates “were ambitious to succeed and...

  8. Three . . . And Teachers College (1922-1930)
    (pp. 59-87)

    WHEN THE General Assembly added “Teachers College” to the titles of Western and Eastern in 1922, the change indicated the growth both of the two schools and of the public school system. Progress had been slower than educators wished, but the number of public high schools had increased rapidly after passage of the 1908 act that required at least one in each county. The state had 106 in 1910, 400 in 1920. As more students entered college with a high school diploma, the normal division work decreased while the junior college level work increased. The state normals had been recognized...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. Four End of an Era (1930-1937)
    (pp. 88-107)

    THE CHANGE of name in 1930 was not nearly as significant as the change in 1922 had been. Becoming a degree-granting institution had necessitated extensive changes in many aspects of the institution’s life; dropping the normal school designation was easily done. The change in title merely ratified what had already been largely achieved.

    Of course there were changes during the next several years. Psychology broke away from education to become a separate department, but it was the only new one. Other changes were minor: modern languages and Latin merged into foreign languages, while manual arts became industrial arts. Most of...

  11. Five An Interlude (1937-1955)
    (pp. 108-138)

    THE SELECTION of President Cherry’s successor was a matter of great concern to everyone interested in Western’s future. Whoever inherited the position would be considered one of the state’s educational leaders, so the succession had more than local interest. TheCourier-Journalcalled for a careful, deliberate search to find the right man; “If it takes a year to find him, Western Teachers College is well enough organized to operate under provisional management that long.” There was considerable sentiment for choosing from within the organization, and the name mentioned most frequently was that of M.C. Ford. Some concerned persons believed that...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. Six More Stately Mansions (1955-1965)
    (pp. 139-174)

    DURING HIS final illness, as he continued to deal with some college business, President Garrett referred to his assistant, Kelly Thompson, as “my eyes, legs, and ears.” Thompson carried much of the administrative burden that Garrett found irksome even before his illness, and from 1953 on Thompson provided much of the leadership for the institution. On March 26,1955, the regents made him acting president until a successor to Garrett was named, and instructed him to move forward with projects to alleviate yet another housing shortage. It was typical of Thompson that plans were already far advanced for two large dormitories.¹...

  14. Seven Forming the University (1966-1969)
    (pp. 175-204)

    PRESIDENT THOMPSON had often warned zealous supporters of Western against too hasty demands for university status, but by 1965 he believed that the time had come. In his ten-year report to the Board of Regents, he pointed out the advantages of the change of status and recommended “that such a change in Western’s name should be considered at the earliest possible date,... Western is ready for such change.” To achieve it, however, legislation was required, and here careful preparation was vital. The major stumbling block was likely to be the University of Kentucky which had consistently opposed each step in...

  15. Eight Leveling Off (1969-1979)
    (pp. 205-231)

    ALTHOUGH MANY names were mentioned as a possible successor to Thompson, five received the most attention. Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties Raymond Cravens and Vice-President for Administrative Affairs Dero G. Downing were generally considered the top candidates, but Deans William Jenkins of the Bowling Green College of Commerce and Marvin Russell of The Ogden College of Science and Technology also had support for the position. The off-campus person most often mentioned was Wendell P. Butler who had been a candidate in 1955 when Thompson was selected. A Western graduate, as were all except Jenkins, Butler was...

  16. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  17. Nine Troubled Times (1969-1979)
    (pp. 232-259)

    THE STUDENT unrest that became evident on the Hill in the late 1960s continued into the next decade. Although it was mild by national standards—Western students did not burn any buildings or “trash” any administrative offices—President Downing was determined that radicalism would not interfere with Western’s continued progress. He accepted some relaxation of traditional mores and regulations, but he would maintain essential standards. Profoundly shocked by the turmoil he had seen on the Berkeley campus in 1965, Downing was determined that it not spread to the Hilltop. Potential problems should be resolved if possible before they escalated into...

  18. Ten New Departures (1979-1986)
    (pp. 260-288)

    FINDING a successor to Downing, Chairman Cole told the other regents, is “the most important decision which we ... will make in the life of the board.” Before the meeting adjourned on September 9, he appointed a committee to determine criteria and formulate plans for Western’s first formal, national search for a president. Speculation about possible successors began almost the moment news of the resignation became known. The on-campus names often mentioned were these of Paul Cook, Raymond Cravens, James Davis, Rhea Lazarus, Marvin Russell, and J.T. Sandefur. Off-campus speculative possibilities included Governor Julian Carroll, State Superintendent of Public Instruction...

  19. Appendix A. Board of Regents (to January 1986)
    (pp. 289-291)
  20. Appendix B. University Faculty Distinguished Service Awards
    (pp. 292-294)
  21. Appendix C. Major Buildings
    (pp. 295-296)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 297-329)
  23. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 330-336)
  24. Index
    (pp. 337-350)