EKU x 100: A History of Eastern in 100 Objects, People, and Places
Historic Arlington, a three-story mansion constructed in the 1870s, sits on an estate of 181 roving, green acres. The old home of the Hanger family, the Georgian style house now watches as people from all over Madison County, especially those associated with Eastern, enjoy the University Club at Arlington. An Olympic-sized pool of crystalline waters and an 18-hole golf course along with the Arlington Grille and Pro-shop are all ready to serve members. The Mule Barn, located on the property, is a casual, banquet-style venue for club-hosted events. Donated in 1967 by W. Arnold Hanger in honor of his parents, Colonel and Mrs. Harry B. Hanger, Arlington has served as a social hub for EKU and others for decades.
It’s Friday night, and you’re faced with an important question: stay in or go out? College students, for every decade and every campus, have asked this question time and time again. In the 1930s and 1940s, Eastern students went to Club Madison to dance the night away. Bars all over Richmond welcomed students, whether they were of the drinking age or not. This was before the Kentucky Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) cabinet started cracking down on Richmond bars. Specks, The Family Dog, J. Sutters Mill and Hurricanes were only a few downtown nightclubs. After the ABC crackdown, Hurricanes installed a Plexiglas barrier between the bar and the dance floor. This segregated underage drinkers from those sidled up to the bar. The nightlife in Richmond has quieted down, but downtown is still the place to be. Cafes, restaurants, and the farmers’ market provide a more accessible night out with the squad.
After learning that the University of Kentucky was not interested in creating its own law enforcement program, President Robert R. Martin asked John Rowlett to create one for Eastern in the 1960s. At that time, there were only two law enforcement programs in effect in the region. Robert W. Posey volunteered to teach the first class in January 1966. With the program expanding, Martin wanted a building for the program. Governor Wendell Ford helped break ground for the law enforcement center on October 16, 1972. The building was dedicated in 1975 and the next year was named the Robert R. Martin Law Enforcement, Fire Science, and Traffic Safety Center, comprised of the Henry D. Stratton Building, the Robert W. Posey Auditorium, the Robert Clark Stone Fitness Center, and the Leslie H. Leach Driving Range. Today, EKU’s bachelor’s degree is the only four-year policing program in Kentucky. Eastern also offers an associate’s degree and online degrees. The Equestrian Statue of a Kentucky State Trooper symbolizes the prominent position that Eastern's law enforcement program has in the nation, and was commissioned along with the Stratton Building. It was designed by sculptor Felix de Weldon, who also created EKU’s landmark Centennial Man Statue.
You take your seat in the theater. Your chair is reclined back at a slight angle, so you can better see the screen arching above your head. The room goes dark, the screen illuminates with a nighttime sky and you forget you’re on EKU’s campus, in the Arnim D. Hummel Planetarium. If it wasn’t for Professor Jack Fletcher’s patience and perseverance, EKU might not have had a planetarium. The planetarium was supposed to be finished in 1979 but shoddy equipment kept it from opening. After years of court battles, EKU finally got the planetarium the working equipment it needed and opened in 1988. Now, Hummel Planetarium is one of the largest and most sophisticated planetariums in the United States, especially on a university campus, and currently seats 194 viewers.
With a campus and facilities as large as EKU’s, it’s hard to imagine going back to one-room schoolhouse days. The very first graduates of Eastern were teachers, and they may have went on to teach in a rural school like the Granny Richardson Springs One Room Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was originally built in 1900 in Estill County with 31 students enrolled in its first year. It closed in 1964 with only three students. The schoolhouse was moved to Eastern in 1976 after being donated by the heirs of the late Eli Sparks and furnished by the Lee County Board of Education. It was renovated in 2008 and hosted tours and even a few education classes as late as 2016.
Over 100 years ago, Model Laboratory School was established with a unique relationship to Eastern. Model was conceptualized as a school for observation and training by Eastern students. According to Three Decades of Progress: Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College, 1906-1936, “academic work is done in every school, and all branches of learning including the theory of education, may be pursued in other institutions of learning; but only in a training school for teachers are pupils taught the art of teaching as well as the science, and given systematic instruction in both theory and practice.” The school has been located in the University Building, the Roark Building, the Cammack Building, and its current location in the Donovan Building as of 1961. Model continues today not only as an award-winning school, but as an opportunity for Eastern students to gain field experiences and training opportunities. *Note: Model is a functioning K-12 school with their own visitor policies and regulations. Please contact the Model main office for more information: (859) 622-3766.* *To continue the EKU x 100 tour, travel across the Eastern Bypass to the other side of campus.*
There was a time when students didn’t have to worry about parking, because not every student had a car. Times change, and a big automotive boom in the 1950s brought parking problems to EKU. Parking, it needn’t be said, has always been a hot topic among EKU staff and students. With every solution, another problem seems to pop up; when the Lancaster Lot was established, there was debate on whether commuters or residents would get to use it. Sought after parking lots near the center of campus have been replaced with green space. Schwendeman Green, named after Joseph R. Schwendeman (longtime VP of Administrative Affairs), marks the spot of one of the first parking lots to go. Knowing that parking has always been an issue makes you feel a bit better, right?
EKU’s home arena for basketball, the Paul S. McBrayer Arena, has been in use since 1963. Students may know this arena better as Alumni Coliseum, a structure most recognizable on campus. Its arching form, constructed from southern pine, is viewable from many places on campus. Its arches weren't as sturdy in the building's developing stages. In fact, as it was being built, Alumni Coliseum collapsed due to a cable malfunction. With two workers injured, a beam damaged, and equipment under rubble, it was hard to say if Alumni would finish on time. But after the collapse, President Martin saw the project to its end. From its dedication in September 1963 to the present, Alumni has provided a home for EKU's basketball team. Today, Alumni Coliseum is also home to EKU’s volleyball team, which has played there since 1991.
Turkey Hughes Field is named after one of the most distinguished athletics figures in Eastern’s history - Charles “Turkey” Hughes. From 1929 onward, Hughes held multiple posts as a coach at Eastern. He coached football from 1929 to 1935, but also coached basketball, tennis, and track. In 1941, he took on coaching the baseball team as well. He held this post until 1971. Hughes was also involved on the administrative side of athletics. He served as the Director of Athletics for Eastern and the chair of the Department of Health and Physical Education. Hughes was an athlete in his own right as well. As a student at the University of Kentucky in the 1920s, Hughes played football, baseball, and ran track and even set national records on the field. Beyond athletics, Hughes was remembered fondly by those who knew him. As one of his players reminisced, Hughes was, “one of the nicest persons I’ve ever met.”
When we think of “America’s pastime,” the unanimous answer is “baseball.” EKU is no stranger to the cherished sport. The baseball team began around 1906-1907, just as Eastern was beginning as well. However, baseball was also played on campus in the late 19th century when Central University students studied here. While Eastern’s original baseball diamond was located close to the University Building, the team plays near the Alumni Coliseum today. The names of two great connections to Eastern athletics grace the stadium. The field itself, established in the 1960s, is Turkey Hughes Field, named for the legendary football, basketball, tennis, track, and of course, baseball coach, Charles “Turkey” Hughes. That field is a part of the Earle B. Combs Stadium. Combs came to Eastern as a student in 1917, where he quickly rose as a baseball star and went on to play for the New York Yankees from 1924 to 1935, alongside Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.
Upon first glance, you may not notice that the Roy Kidd Stadium is the alternate face of the Begley Building. In order to justify a stadium in the political climate of the late 1960s, President Robert R. Martin built an “academic-athletic showplace” that served as both classroom space and a stadium. The stadium was later named for Eastern’s famed football coach Roy Kidd, who coached at EKU from 1964 to 2002. Coach Kidd joined the elite group of coaches who reached their 300th win in 2001, after bringing home two national championships to EKU in 1979 and 1982. Kidd was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2003. The following quote speaks to Kidd’s humility in spite of his success. "Somebody asked me what it felt like to be placed with people like Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. The great thing is the players, though - not Roy Kidd. I'm just one guy in the spokes and I feel very lucky to be a part of it. I credit all the administration, coaches and players here at EKU for being a part of this day." A statue of him in the north end zone, completed in September 2017, honors the man who won 314 games as the head coach of the Colonels.
One of the more unique architectural features on campus is the tiny dome-shaped observatory on the corner of Kit Carson Drive and John Hanlon Drive. Named for Eastern’s first chair of Physics, Smith Park, the observatory was opened in 1965 and housed a telescope given to Eastern from the University of Kentucky. The observatory regularly opened to student and public stargazers alike. Sometimes students even caught a glimpse of something more unusual. In 1974, student Ernest Wells spotted an object he described as, “elongated with yellow, red, and green revolving lights” hovering above the Blue Grass Army Depot. However, as Eastern and Richmond increased in size, light pollution made the observatory useless and the telescope was moved and put on display in the Hummel Planetarium.
Everyone knows the dreadful feeling of waking up with a slight tickle in the throat that only gets worse as the day goes on. When illness strikes, what’s an Eastern student to do? The health of students at EKU has long been a topic of conversation on campus and Student Health Services has helped serve those in need. Throughout the years, Student Health Services has tended to the ill, provided vaccinations, special health programs, and other clinical services. It’s adapted with the times and has offered birth control, education on sexually transmitted illnesses, and smoking cessation programs over its years of operation. Students have had a say in their healthcare, too. In 1970, a Student Health Advisory Committee was formed to give students a voice in the kinds of services offered by the on-campus clinic.
Established in 1965 under the leadership of President Robert R. Martin, Eastern’s nursing program is recognized as one of the best and is one of the school's most popular programs. Martin recognized the need for vocational programs, and that forward-thinking vision gave birth to both Eastern’s law enforcement and nursing degrees. Well-regarded by professional organizations, the program is approved by the Kentucky Board of Nursing and accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. EKU offers a wide variety of courses for Nursing starting with a BSN (Bachelor in Science Nursing) all the way to DNP (Doctors of Nursing Practice). The programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Based out of the Rowlett Building, EKU’s program boasts state-of-the-art facilities and dedicated, hardworking faculty that are well known leaders in the health discipline on state, regional and national levels.
Did you know EKU has its very own Spiderman? Wyatt “Spider” Thurman gained his nickname after being bitten by a spider as a child. While he didn’t go on to develop superhero powers, his athletic prowess was undeniable. Born in 1917, Thurman grew up playing football, basketball and running track in Harlan County, Kentucky. He set records in all three, and his skills did not go unnoticed by college recruiters. The University of Kentucky, the University of Tennessee, and Louisiana State University all attempted to recruit Spider, but he chose to play at Eastern, enrolling in 1937. Though he lettered in track and basketball, Spider’s best known for his success as quarterback under Coach Rome Rankin, where he led the football team to victories in what used to be Hanger Stadium, itself memorialized with a historical plaque. The team’s 1940 undefeated season still inspires and invokes awe, but Thurman’s legacy at Eastern goes far beyond the field. He served as the Director of Alumni Affairs from 1963-1983 and was instrumental in helping to raise funds for the construction of the Meditation Chapel, which sits on the same spot where he played football. The alumni banquet was named after him beginning in 2018.
The next time you’re sitting in class in the Wallace Building, take a look around you. It might be hard to believe, but you’re sitting in the spot where Eastern used to play football and conduct ROTC training. Located where Wallace and the Meditation Chapel now sit, Hanger Stadium stood from 1936 to 1968. During its 33 year history, it was home to 139 football games (Eastern won 88 of those!). The stadium also included living quarters for athletes under the concrete bleachers. If you search, you’ll find a plaque dedicated to the stadium - but don’t believe everything it says! The plaque states that Hanger Stadium was named for W. Arnold Hanger, but according to Eastern’s Board of Regents minutes, the real namesake of the stadium was his father, Harry B. Hanger!
In 1968 the University Alumni Association started the Century Fund to raise money to construct a non-denominational chapel where all were welcome. $375,000 later, a dream four years in the making was finally underway. By May 13, 1972, the Meditation Chapel had been officially dedicated. The intricate architecture, central placement on campus, and unique features make the Chapel a well-known landmark on campus. On each entrance there is a Sun of Knowledge symbolizing learning and life-giving force with detailed designs of plants and animals drawing life from the sun. It is open to students, faculty, and alumni of all faiths to worship, meditate, or contemplate life.
*Walk toward the Powell Building to view this statue.* The Centennial Man Statue was a gift from EKU Alumni to celebrate 100 years of Higher Education in Richmond in 1974. Designed by Felix de Weldon and crafted in Italy, this statue tells the story of the first trip to the moon. It portrays a man holding two space shuttles, one landing and the other taking off while riding on dolphins in the ocean as the Earth and Moon orbit around him. The statue was designed to symbolize how far we as Americans have come, and how far EKU students will go. Though he is supposed to symbolize deep meaning and inspiration, he is often referred to as “The Naked Man,” and is a great meeting point for EKU students and staff.
Universities are not exempt from wartime issues. EKU students have been involved in military activity since WWI, when students and teachers were called to aid in conflict. The university saw a spike in veterans and military activity during WWII. At the end of this era, EKU had “Vet’s Village,” a living community for married veterans, set up on campus. The Vietnam War was a polarizing time on campus, as the student population protested United States involvement. John Hanlon Drive and Paul Van Hoose Drive are streets on campus that were named after alumni who served and were paralyzed and died, respectively, in Vietnam. EKU has been ranked in the top 10% of "Best for Vets: Colleges" in the nation by Military Times since 2012.
Until recently, if you wanted to grab a bite to eat on campus, your best bet was the Powell Building. Dedicated in 1971 and named for former Eastern president J.C. Powell, this structure was built to serve as a student union and a place for recreation. It had an upstairs cafeteria and downstairs dining options (which have been relocated to the new Case Dining Hall next door). The Student Center also had ample opportunities for recreation. It was the largest and most expensive building on campus when it was constructed, and included at various points in its history a 12-lane bowling alley, pool tables, arcade games, game rooms, lounge areas, a barber shop, and even a dry cleaning facility. More recently, the bowling alley was replaced with Tech Commons. The Powell Building has changed along with the tastes and needs of students, and those changes continue today. Currently, the building is undergoing renovations to become a more modern student union for the campus.
From its early place in the “Barn,” a temporary gymnasium built in 1922, to the Fitness & Wellness Center today, health and fitness has always been an important part of student life at EKU. Eastern offers a variety of services to students interested in sports, group activities, or anyone who wants to get moving. EKU has several fitness buildings, such as the Fitness & Wellness Center and the Weaver Gymnasium. Construction of a new fitness and wellness center, where the old Todd and Dupree Halls once stood, began in the spring of 2018.
Ellendale Hall, also known as Stateland Hall, was purchased in 1922 as part of the William Gibson farm. The farmhouse was transformed into a dormitory for student athletes and agriculture students. It was later turned into a counseling center before it was eventually torn down in 2000 to make room for the Whitlock Building. The house had a large staircase in the center of the entrance with wide woodwork going up the railing, and there was also a wrap-around porch. When EKU decided to demolish the building, there was a lot of criticism from alumni stating that Ellendale was part of the school's history.
*To view the Hazel Warford Plaque, enter the left entrance of the Weaver Building.* Hazel Warford was a loyal and devoted custodian of Eastern who took great pride in the care and upkeep of the Weaver Building from 1931 until his death in 1961. One of only a few African American employees on campus, Warford experienced Eastern’s initial resistance to the desegregation movement of the 1950s. Warford was highly respected by faculty and students alike, however. Throughout his 30 years of service, he maintained a deep interest in the students who attended Eastern. He offered advice on physical fitness and even instructed some students on boxing. His memory serves as an inspiration to those who knew and loved him and to other generations of students who are to come. To honor him, this plaque was installed in 1977.
If you’re ever dreamed of spending your summer or semester somewhere across the globe, study abroad might be for you. Today, EKU students study all over the globe through both Eastern’s own programs and with various other study abroad organizations that contract with universities across the country. The history of students spending time learning abroad dates back to before Eastern even existed, but it developed more fully in the 20th century after World War I. After the war, higher education administrators saw the value in allowing students to gain a global understanding of politics and culture and worked to facilitate the experiences. The Eastern Progress highlights some of the opportunities open to students. In the 1950s, students were encouraged to sign up for programs. The article indicates that studying abroad and gaining an understanding of global relations was “essential to a proper understanding of the problems which best our times.” The EKU Education Abroad Office, located in the Keith Building, makes the same case today. If you’re lucky, you might even win a chance to study abroad through the office’s annual Spin the Wheel Scholarship.
Eastern Kentucky University isn’t known as “The Campus Beautiful” for nothing. Walking through campus at any time of the year is a reminder of how that nickname was earned. Cozy brick buildings and finely cultivated gardens are a testimony to it. The campus has a crown jewel in the form of the Carloftis Garden, dedicated in 2017. Named after and designed by Rockcastle County native and gardener Jon Carloftis, the garden lies in front of New Martin Hall. Wild bergamot and maroon hibiscus flowers fill the air with intoxicating aromas. The gurgling fountains add another layer to the experience. The Carloftis Garden’s plants are still growing, and one can only imagine how increasingly beautiful they will be in years to come.
Donated by Board of Regents Chair Craig Turner and his wife Madonna, this gateway has led to a new tradition for Eastern - the Welcome Walk. The Welcome Walk for freshmen through the gateway symbolizes the life changing significance of the Eastern experience. The structure is distinguished by four simple, yet powerful words: Wisdom and Knowledge on one side, describing what students seek; and Purpose and Passion on the other, detailing what they acquire during their studies to use for the betterment of society. Inscribed on the plaque are the following words: "Enter these gates with humility, Acquire knowledge to gain wisdom, Depart these gates with confidence, Live life with passion and purpose." Both Turners graduated from EKU in 1975 and wanted a gateway to EKU that equaled the beauty of the existing buildings. Their vision has become a focal point for photographs, hangout spots, meeting points, and a welcoming entrance for the campus.
During the hardest years of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled a large and ambitious program called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal - a set of programs and policies meant to provide relief during the economic downturn. For nearly 8.5 million Americans, the WPA provided work, and some of that work happened right here on Eastern’s campus. From the Ravine amphitheatre, to the Keen Johnson Building, to these three 1938 buildings - Miller, Beckham, and McCreary - which together formed a U-shaped residence hall complex, the WPA projects on Eastern’s campus are a big part of how the campus is seen today.
After Kentucky legislators passed the normal school law in 1906, creating both Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and the Board of Regents, Ruric N. Roark was elected as the first president of Eastern. A nationally renowned expert on public school management, Roark was no stranger to the controversy of normal schools. The initial bill had faced critics since its inception, largely State College and President James Patterson, and the private colleges of the state. However, the law was upheld, and Roark continued his advocacy for the normal school and secured funding for Sullivan Hall, the Roark Building, and the Ramsey power plant. However, the turmoil took its toll and Roark passed away in 1909, leading to the appointment of his wife, Mary Creegan Roark, as the interim president. Discover more about Mary’s leadership by visiting the display cases in the John Grant Crabbe Main Library.
If you happen to glance across Lancaster Avenue, you might not see it at first. Your eye catches a glimpse of a front door, a window, perhaps. Spires rise above the treetops. The longer you stare, the more you realize there is a house, grand in scale, beauty, and history sitting in EKU’s lap. Elmwood was built in 1887. Its last owner and resident, Emma Watts, was born and died there. She kept a tight hold on Elmwood, and was determined to keep it standing after her death in 1970. EKU did not purchase Elmwood; it was donated to the University in 2011. Lewis Cope, Watts’ cousin and trustee, felt the only way to preserve Elmwood was for EKU to have it. A long process of cataloging and preserving the items in the house followed. Watts’ books were cleaned of soot and mold, and now reside in John Grant Crabbe Main Library while the family papers can be viewed in EKU Special Collections and Archives. The house itself is periodically open to campus events.
*The Robert R. Martin Room is located upstairs in the Coates Building.* “A Vision of Greatness” were the words on Robert R. Martin’s lips when he became EKU’s president in 1960. During his tenure, which ran until 1976, the campus grew exponentially. President Martin saw to the development of 12 dormitories, class facilities, Meadowbrook Farm, and other buildings. When Martin came to Eastern, the school was teetering on being run-down, with a student population of 3,000. By the end of his presidential tenure, Eastern’s enrollment increased to 13,400. Martin’s era was not as harmonious as the numbers would tell us. He served during the Vietnam War era, a turbulent time for any American college campus, but Martin held tight to his convictions. Independent student publications condemned some of Martin's methods and policies. The Eastern Progress stressed that Martin would never censor them. Despite the controversy, Martin’s impact was undeniable and his legacy continues on. His name is all around campus, including the Martin Room, which is located above Brock Auditorium in the Coates Building. This room holds artifacts from his era, and is a reminder of his vision for Eastern.
EKU is home to many theatres and auditoriums, but none quite as distinctive as Hiram Brock Auditorium. Added to the Coates Building in 1929, it has room for 18,000 people and houses a pipe organ. The Coates Building resembles others on campus, but Brock makes it a stand-out. The auditorium is a breathtaking piece of EKU’s history. Grecian-style statuettes grace alcoves in the walls. Trims on the ceiling, pastel colors, and marble flooring make one feel elegant walking through. It is a charming, old-fashioned experience that differs from the modernity of the newer EKU Center for the Arts across campus.
If the maroon sign on the front lawn didn’t exist, you might not think the Adams House was part of EKU. Before it was converted to the Environmental Health and Safety Office, it used to be the Mary Frances Richards Alumni Center, named for the Alumni Association's longtime director. EKU Alumni would come to the Adams House to rub elbows with old classmates during Alumni Weekend. The Adams House doesn’t cater only to the living. Rumor has it ghosts haunt the halls. Drapes have opened by themselves after the building is locked up for the night. The motion sensor detects movement late into the midnight hour, when the house is empty. No one has reported paranormal activity recently, but the rumors add to the collection of EKU ghost stories.
When you leave EKU, will you ever come back? Each year, alumni return to their alma mater to reminisce and meet with old colleagues. For years, they met in the Adams House, the old Alumni Center. Now they meet in what used to be the home of Eastern’s presidents, Blanton House. EKU has a dazzling array of alumni, from teachers and actors to FBI agents and pilots. Not only do alumni get to celebrate their time at EKU, but the University celebrates alumni, as well. EKU is always looking for graduates to induct into the EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
Blanton House was built in 1886 and was named after its first owner and the last chancellor of Central University, Lindsey Hughes Blanton. In 1912, Eastern Kentucky State Normal School paid Thompson S. Burnam $12,500 for the house, which became the home of Eastern President John G. Crabbe. In following years, the Blanton House was home to community, faculty, and student events (including a wedding in 1963). Students could even rent rooms alongside the President’s quarters until the mid 1960s. Upon the installation of Eastern’s thirteenth president, Dr. Michael Benson, the Blanton House became the alumni center. The house has three floors, a brick patio with a large garden, and is roughly 8,000 square feet.
The Campbell Building, dedicated in 1974 to former music professor Jane Campbell, is home to all things art and theater, making it a hub for student creativity and expression. The C.H. Gifford Theatre is inside Campbell, and the Department of Art and EKU Theatre also call the building home. Also located in the building is the Fred P. Giles Art Gallery. This gallery offers exhibits throughout the year. It showcases EKU students and faculty, high school students, and other artists from around the world.
The history of the Turley House is the history of the campus - and the various institutions that have operated here - in one structure. The Queen Anne style structure was built in 1893 for Anne Wallace Walters, the widow of Singleton Walters, a principal benefactor of Central University. Central operated on the land that would become Eastern from 1872-1901. The house was eventually purchased by R.E. Turley, Sr. who served on the Board of Trustees for Walters Collegiate Institute (the school on Eastern’s campus from 1901-1906) and was later the first treasurer of Eastern. The building has served many purposes in Eastern’s history after it was purchased during the President Robert R. Martin years. Notably, it was home to the Home Economics Department, and female students lived in the structure to learn about home management.
Named for Jere A. Sullivan (a graduate of Central University who supported the creation of normal schools in Kentucky), Sullivan Hall's history stretches back to the early days of Eastern. Dedicated in 1909, the building has served Eastern's campus in many ways. At one point, the campus infirmary was located in the basement of this dorm. It has served as the dormitory for Honors Program students for many years and still serves as a home base for Upward Bound students in the summer. Is Sullivan Hall another haunted spot on campus? Some former Sullivan residents claim that the spirit of a nursing student walks the halls.
The University’s campus is home to many looming, unique structures. Right behind the most infamous, Keen Johnson’s tower, is the Memorial Bell Tower, named in memory of those who gave their lives in service of the country during World War II. Students scurrying to class hear its chimes all throughout the day. Kentucky’s state song, My Old Kentucky Home, plays at noon. The 37 bells in the tower made up the only cast-bell carillon located on a college campus when it was dedicated in 1971. Carillon, by the way, is the fancy term for a set of bells in a tower, which are played by keyboard. EKU’s bell tower has served since the 1970s, and its chimes are still going strong.
Most universities have ghost stories, and EKU definitely has its share of hauntings and mysteries. The most famous of these spirits is that of the Blue Lady. The Blue Lady, first spotted in the 1950s, supposedly haunts the Pearl Buchanan Theatre of the Keen Johnson Building. People have spotted a blue mist, heard singing, seen elevators moving on their own, and heard pianos playing when no one else was around. The origins of this particular spirit are debated. Some claim the Blue Lady is an actress who committed suicide and now haunts the theatre. A 1973 story in the Eastern Progress also describes the ghost as an actress, but adds more to the story. An Eastern actress, they claim, performed in a Greek tragedy where her character committed suicide. The actress poured her heart into the performance and was emotionally drained afterwards. Once she walked off stage, she was never seen again but her spirit lingered. Interestingly, the Blue Lady is not a vengeful ghost, even with her tragic stories. Some stories of her describe a kind and benevolent presence. One story even suggests she helped clean the theatre’s green room after a flood!
*The Pearl Buchanan Theatre entrance is on the right side of the Keen Johnson Building.* The Keen Johnson Building is well-known for its “Blue Lady,” but there’s another lady of Keen Johnson. Pearl Buchanan, whom the theater is named after, was a professor at Eastern from 1923 to 1964. She’s listed as a professor of “reading and expression” in the 1925 Milestone yearbook. During this time, she was head of the Little Theatre Club on campus. This club not only performed plays for Eastern, but also hosted dances for students. Buchanan had a passion for life, especially for theater. She traveled extensively, letting her “insatiable curiosity” guide her. Her collection of autographed photographs, theater programs, and news clippings are evidence of her love for the arts and can be viewed in EKU Special Collections and Archives.
*These portraits are hanging just inside the Keen Johnson Building.* How did EKU get to where it is today? EKU didn’t magically appear, equipped with university status and facilities. Through the steadfast leadership of thirteen presidents, EKU has become the university we know and love. While each president has left his or her own legacy on campus, several are highlighted below. Ruric Roark got the ball rolling as the University’s first president. His wife, Mary Roark, became the first female president in EKU history after her husband’s death. President Herman Lee Donovan’s era built Eastern's most notable landmark, the Keen Johnson Building. President William F. O’Donnell helped integrate the campus in the 1950s with the enrollment of EKU’s first African American student, Andrew Miller. J.C. Powell, who took leadership after Robert R. Martin, polished the growing campus footprint that Martin is so well-known for creating. Currently, President Michael Benson is leading Eastern through a new phase of transformation. During his tenure, the University has opened the doors to three new residence halls, the Scholar House for single parents pursuing higher education, a new stand-alone dining hall, the University’s first parking garage, and more.
In the small plaza at the front of the Keen Johnson building on Eastern Kentucky University's campus in Richmond, Kentucky stands a large statue of famed folklore hero, Daniel Boone - now green with age. However, one spot on Boone's statue reminds a bright bronze gold, the "toe" of his left shoe. Since the statue's debut in front of the Keen Johnson building in 1967, faculty, current students, and alumni alike have rubbed Boone's toe as a means to obtain good luck - some even making wishes when rubbing the statue.
The Ravine has been a part of campus, well, since the beginning. Part of the original landscaping projects by the famous Olmstead Brothers, the Ravine has become a central point on campus. In 1935, the stage and terraced seating was added. Concerts, plays, study groups, proposals, meetings, and more were held in the Ravine. Mozart is also buried here (not the composer, but the beloved mascot of EKU). Search for this dog's gravestone behind the stage. So whether you’re looking for a fun activity, a quiet place to study, or just somewhere to relax and enjoy the “Campus Beautiful,” the Ravine is an EKU favorite.
Eastern’s campus has been home to higher education since the founding of Central University in 1874. This tiny university consisted of the University Building, Memorial Hall, the Miller Gymnasium and the Chancellor’s House. Memorial Hall and the Miller Gymnasium are gone, but the Chancellor’s House still stands, now known as the Blanton House. A historical plaque is located near the University Building, a special destination in and of itself as the oldest building on campus. It is a steady reminder of EKU’s own humble beginnings.
In 1990, Eastern decided to expand the library after complaints of the building being too small. After several years, the school managed to raise $1.7 million for the addition. It was dedicated in 1996 and was named after Thomas and Hazel Little, who were alumni of Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College (classes of 1937 and 1929, respectively). The pair spent their entire careers committed to education. Thomas C. Little retired as superintendent of Richmond (VA) Public Schools in 1976 after four decades as an educator. One of his career highlights was spearheading the desegregation of the school system. Hazel Calico Little taught in various Kentucky school systems from 1929-46 and later taught at Peabody State Teachers College. In 1989, she established the Thomas C. and Hazel C. Little Institute for School Administrators at EKU to assist teachers who wish to further their education.
*To view the plaque dedicated to Foundation Professors, enter the Crabbe Library through the Little Addition and the plaque will be on the left side next to the Main Desk.* What makes a truly great professor? We’ve all had classes with instructors who inspire us to do better and who go above and beyond our expectations. In 1987, the University Foundation sought to reward those truly remarkable professors and created Foundation Professorships. Professors awarded this two-year special professorship are given a stipend and are honored with their name on this plaque. These professors are "creative, self-motivated exemplars of the ideal college professor."
*Enter the Noel Studio from the Grand Reading Room.* The Noel Studio is an integrated support service for writing, communication and research. In other words, it's there to help develop and improve student projects during consultations. Students can make appointments free of charge or come as a walk-in. All consultants are students at EKU so the students coming in have a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with a peer who is trained and skilled in assisting with writing and communications-based projects in a supportive and comfortable environment. Consultants are trained to ask questions, engage the student’s ideas, offer new perspectives, and offer friendly, objective feedback. The creation of the Noel Studio was possible because of the generous support of two EKU alumni, Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel. The unique design of the Studio includes a spiral staircase, practice rooms, breakout spaces, a media wall, invention space, and so much more.
The library is unique because it combines the old and the new; the 1874 University Building is tied to the Crabbe Library via the Thomas and Hazel Little Building addition. Built in 1924, the library has undergone four major additions or renovations: the Grand Reading Room addition in 1936; the major 1967 renovation, adding an entire floor; the Little Building addition in 1996; and the Noel Studio in 2010. While the library’s namesake, John Grant Crabbe, assumed presidency of Colorado State Teachers College in 1916, his foresight during his six years as Eastern’s third president made the library possible. President Thomas Jackson Coates converted the plans to reality in 1924 (the same year that Crabbe died) and the building was dedicated as John G. Crabbe Library in 1929 as “..a living testament to the light of a great man’s vision, and to that of his successors.”
*To visit Special Collections & Archives, come to Library 126 during office hours.* A cold blast of air hits you when you open the door. Walls of materials—books, boxes, files, films, audio cassettes—stand before you like monoliths. In these moving shelves are the histories of families, Eastern Kentucky University, and Kentucky, alongside the words of Kentucky’s best writers. Oral histories capture the voices of ordinary people, politicians and more. They’re all here and more, in the storage room of Special Collections and Archives. Since the purchase of the John Wilson Townsend book collection in 1931, the Kentucky Room evolved into the Townsend Room which merged with the University Archives and Special Collections in 1991 to create the current Special Collections and Archives. Over the years all these units have gathered an invaluable amount of materials, which are stored in a humidity and temperature controlled environment to ensure long-term preservation. Some student archivists lovingly call this back room “the tundra.” These materials help students and community researchers in personal or local history inquiries, and all can be used in the Townsend Reading Room, which is open to the public.