Eastern Kentucky State College in 1953

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Eastern Kentucky State College in 1953


I recently came across a paperback book titled “Eastern Kentucky Review 1953.” It was actually the 1953 college catalog for the then Eastern Kentucky State College. Reviewing the booklet I recognized two of the Regents, Wendell Butler, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Cecil Sanders, an attorney from Lancaster. There were a total of five Regents, prescribed by state statute as two Democrats, two Republicans and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This superintendent made up the swing vote in all politically sensitive issues.

The booklet presents a number of administrative leaders who are still familiar names on campus and around Richmond. Can you match up the names with the positions from long ago? W.F. O’Donnell, W. J. Moore, G.M. Brock, D. J. Carty, Emma Y. Case, Noel B. Cuff, Richard Edwards, Mary Floyd, Charles A. Keith and Melvin Mattox. Familiar names also chaired the various Divisions of Instruction: Applied Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, Biological and Physical Sciences, Education, Health and Physical Education, Languages, Mathematics, Military Science and Social Studies.

According to the History section of this catalog:

“The year the state of Massachusetts established normal schools for the preparation of teachers, Kentucky established a public school system. The first Superintendent of Public Instruction of Kentucky in his initial report requested the General Assembly to pass legislation for ‘the founding of one or more normal schools for the purpose of training sons of the soil for teaching.’ Fifteen different state superintendents appeared before more than thirty sessions of the legislature making the same plea for a school for teachers. Sixty-eight years passed before the General Assembly of 1906 heeded this request. The late J. C. W. Beckman, Governor of the state at that time, signed the bill establishing the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School on March 21, 1906, and shortly after a commission selected the campus of old Central University at Richmond as the site of the new school.

The curriculum has been improved from the short review and certification courses of the first years. Eastern now [1953] offers four-year curricula leading to the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in teacher education and in general or professional areas. A one-year graduate curriculum leads to the Master of Arts degree in Education. Requirements for college entrance have been raised from eighth grade graduation or possession of any kind of certificate to graduation from an accredited high school.”

Buildings are mentioned that have long disappeared or are lost in newer construction. Where were the Rural Demonstration School, the Home Economics Practice House and the Telford Music Building? In 1953, dorm rooms cost between $30 and $45 per semester,student loans were available and attendance at assembly was mandatory. In addition to students with a high school diploma, other applicants might apply for admittance by “special approval.” Books and supplies were estimated to cost the average student some $20 per term. Have you seen the price of books lately?

Eastern provided qualification for both provisional and standard teaching certificates to meet the overwhelming needs of the commonwealth in this post-war period. I graduated from Eastern in 1951 with majors in math and commerce, so the names and the buildings in this catalog are familiar to me.

Many of these people are now only vaguely recalled, as names on buildings constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At one time, they were human beings, visionary leaders trying to do their very best under often difficult circumstances to “prepare sons [and daughters] of the soil for teaching.” Today they make up a silent, but enduring part of Madison’s heritage.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Eastern Kentucky State College in 1953,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/1807.