Friday, May 25, 2018


"Coeds Speak Out On Law Students' Capers" announced the headline across the front page of the May 24, 1962 Kentucky Kernel.

University of Kentucky law students had, over the years since moving into Lafferty Hall in 1936, become well-known for their sexist behavior towards women students.  Located on a busy walkway in central campus, it was nearly impossible for women students to avoid Lafferty Hall and the future lawyers.  One UK student told reporters Bob Baugh and Kyra Hackley that she would "feel safer if they were in a cage."

Law students outside Lafferty Hall, 1957
The reporters noted that, "Regardless of the pleasure the parade of coeds gives the law students, the females have other ideas.  Many freshmen coeds admit they are flustered by the thought of passing in review."  Women students had become tired of what the Kernel labeled as "Law Students' Capers," with capers generally defined as a frivolous, carefree episode or activity.  To many women students the behavior of the law students was far from frivolous or carefree.  "I feel like a factory part rolling past the assembly line inspector," said student Lynda Hanson.  

Women students reported going "out of their way to avoid the jeers," with one student admitting that she "always cut through the Botanical Gardens to avoid the whistles of the law students."   Another student proposed "an overpass be built over the law school to prevent embarrassment."  

In one of the harshest critiques, a woman student remarked that, "They look like a bunch of lounge lizards and lolligaggers [and] you would think they would have better things to do than squawk and gawk."   I suppose anticipating that many of the young legal minds would one day be in the Kentucky General Assembly it was suggested that "If they have so many pennies to pitch, why don't 'they go to Frankfort and pitch them into...the floral clock."

Some of the women students apparently appreciated the attention they received and noted that "not all of the comments are derogatory."  Nancy Clay McClure added that, "Yelling at coeds is here to stay," while Joy Mason simply noted, "I love it."  Betty Groger concluded that, "I think it just shows those boys are really normal after all.  I'll start worrying when they're not perched like a flock of chattering birds on the steps."

Fortunately, today's women students at the University of Kentucky do not have to endure such blatant sexism on campus.  But that progress should not distract from the necessity of assuring that UK is a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone where discrimination in any form is unacceptable.

Monday, May 14, 2018


In the late 1940s the University of Kentucky Student Government Association passed a rule forbidding student smoking in restricted buildings that were "non-fire-resistant" or temporary frame units. The student rule did not apply to faculty or staff. 

In February, 1948 Dr. Thomas D. Clark brought charges against James Clarkson for smoking in Frazee Hall.  The student had been reported by history professor James Hopkins.  At his hearing, Clarkson pleaded ignorance of the policy since he was a "first-quarter" student and he had not seen any no smoking signs in the building.  Nevertheless, Mr. Clarkson was found guilty and fined $5.

Eight years later on the evening of January 24, 1956 a fire destroyed 75% of Frazee Hall including the offices, books, and papers of most of the university's history faculty.  Theories about the cause of the fire did not include careless cigarette smoking but did point to the possibility that students may have "bombed" the building using some type of incendiary device.

Frazee Hall Fire
Later that year on May 14, 1948, a Kentucky Kernel headline asked, "Faculty Exempt Under Smoking Law or Not?" Six students had recently been fined $5 each for violating the no smoking policy.  The article  noted that other student smokers had not been fined because of a lack of cooperation from the faculty in reporting offenders.

Two students, Rusty Russell and Jack Sorrelle, introduced a bill before the Student Government Association to make the non-smoking policy also apply to faculty and staff  including in private offices.  SGA leadership reminded everyone that faculty would have to accept the policy before it could apply to them.  While there is no readily available record of how the issue was resolved, it is safe to assume that few, if any, faculty or staff accepted the ban on smoking.

During the following fall semester Norwood Hall, built in 1910 and home to the Botany Department, was destroyed by fire.

Norwood Hall

Fortunately, today's UK tobacco policy makes everyone healthier and safer.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


In 1888 Belle Clement Gunn became the first woman student at UK to earn a baccalaureate degree.

Gunn, a Lexington native, spent her childhood on a farm near Shelbyville, Kentucky, where she attended the highly regarded Science Hill Academy for girls.  Her family moved to Lexington in the early 1880s where Gunn attended public schools and the Sayre Institute.  Classmates remembered Gunn as "well above average in scholarship, but not so brilliant as to inspire envy and jealousy."  She participated fully in the social life available, including the literary societies.

Prior to the 1888 commencement, President Patterson called Belle Gunn to his office.  He asked the only woman graduate, "I suppose you will not want to sit up on the platform with the young men on Commencement Day, will you Miss Gunn?"  Gunn replied, "I've been through four years in classes with them and I don't see why I shouldn't sit on the platform with them now."  

At commencement President Patterson was reportedly "most gracious" to the first woman graduate whom he referred to as the "Eldest Daughter of the Institution."

Congratulations 2018 graduates!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Each spring rain reminds me of what might have been in the area of campus where the new student center is nearly complete.  The University of Kentucky almost had an attractive body of water and green space that would have become an iconic feature of the campus.

At the June 4, 1890 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Major P. P. Johnston offered the following resolution regarding a low area on the north side of the campus extending from the corner of Winslow (Euclid) and Limestone east to Rose Street that filled with water after heavy rains:

 "Resolved that it is the sense of this Board that the depression in our ground next [to] the city be converted into a lake suitable for boating, bating, and fishing and that the chair appoint a committee with full authority to execute the work, said committee to confer with and secure the cooperation of the authorities of the city [to] promote persons interested in the improvement and if possible induce them to bear a portion of the expense.  The Committee is authorized to expend on behalf of the College in this work such sums as the Executive Committee may prudently allow."

Major Johnston, a Virginia native and confederate veteran, practiced law, farmed and bred horses, and was active in Democratic state and local politics.

Apparently no real improvements were made to the body of water following Major Johnston's resolution.  By 1927, Alfred P. Robertson writing in the March 25, 1927 Kentucky Kernel, called once again for improvements to the "lakelet."  Citing the annual spring flooding of the area of campus he suggested facetiously that UK form a rowing team adding that, "Kentucky might not care for rowing.  Probably not.  It is a great deal of work."  Moreover, he envisioned a body of water that could provide a romantic setting for evening gondola rides.

Eventually, the university drained the water after encouragement from the city due to it being a health hazard.  A new gymnasium rose on the location in 1924.  Apparently all of the water issues had not been resolved as the gym flooded in 1928 and again in 1936.  By the time a new student center opened next to the gym in 1938, an improved storm sewer seemed to alleviate any further major flooding.

Alumni Gym Flood 1928

Alumni Gym Flood 1936

Today's UK students have witnessed the construction of a new student center that incorporates Alumni Gymnasium and the original 1938 student union building.  Even though the lake is gone, the new student center promises to provide many amenities wanted and needed by today college students and will prove to be a wonderful addition to the UK campus.

Congratulations to everyone involved in making the new student center a reality.  Now, if we could only have a lake beside it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Dean Josephine Price Simrall

As a former dean I understand that some deans are forgettable.  But others deserve remembering.

Josephine Price Simrall was born the oldest of six daughters to Charles Barrington and Isabella Downing Price Simrall July 19, 1869 in Covington, Kentucky.  Simrall's mother attended Daughters College in Harrodsburg, Kentucky prior to the Civil War and her father became a highly regarded attorney for the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railway Company.

Josephine Simrall earned a B.S. degree from Wellesley College in 1893.  She later earned a certificate from the Cincinnati Kindergarten Training School before doing graduate work at the University of Cincinnati, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia.  From 1916 to 1919 Simrall served as Head of Psychology and Instructor in English at Sweet Briar College.

President Frank McVey hired Simrall as Dean of Women and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Kentucky beginning in the fall of 1919.  Writing on her behalf Emilie W. McVea, president of Sweet Briar College, described Simrall as "an excellent teacher" with "unusual executive and administrative ability, and much social accustomness (sic)."

Chancellor Frank W. Chandler of the University of Cincinnati noted that "Miss Simrall is possessed of marked literary talent and was active in this community in the work of women's organizations."  He added that, "She is sympathetic and gentle in manner, but by no means lacking in force."

In addition to her administrative and teaching duties, Dean Simrall was active in campus events and even wrote and performed in campus plays.  But she resigned in the spring of 1921 to become Dean of Women at the University of Cincinnati where she served until 1933.

A Kentucky Kernel editorial noted that Dean Simrall would be returning "home" and stressed that she had been "notably successful in the supervising of the education of women."  Moreover, "Her sympathetic attitude toward women students and her perception of their needs as well as her ability to understand the student point of view are a few of the characteristics that contributed to her success."

Simrall's successor?  Another Seven Sisters graduate (Vassar) and English instructor at UK, Frances Jewell.   The newspaper described Jewell as "one of the outstanding figures in the university faculty."  She "brings to her new position rare knowledge of student life and problems and a personality that begets confidence and elicits admiration and respect.

Two year later Frances Jewell married President Frank McVey and gave up her positions as dean and instructor.  Nevertheless, she would become arguably the best known and most highly regarded woman in UK's long history.  But Frances Jewell McVey would want us to remember and acknowledge her successful and all but forgotten predecessor, Josephine Price Simrall.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Today, March 19, 2018, WUKY marks a new era of broadcasting in its new off-campus facility.

University of Kentucky radio broadcasting began in April, 1929 when Dr. Frank L. McVey announced into a radio microphone in Lexington: "The University is on the air...."  For the broadcast of educational programs from studios on the Lexington campus, WHAS Radio in Louisville (Kentucky's first radio station) agreed to install all necessary equipment and direct telephone lines; the university and the station would share equally the transmission charges.

This agreement began a partnership which attracted national attention.  President McVey's, somewhat apprehensive about the whole idea but willing to take a change with it, expressed his hopes for the medium during the maiden broadcast:

"Life is faster with greater possibilities and subject to disasters as always.  This is the sort of universe we live in.  Now comes the radio, bringing to every part of the world the sound of the human voice from every country of the globe.  No such possibilities of good and no such opportunity for mere bunk, have been offered to the public as through this amazing invention.  The University of Kentucky is not interested in adding to the trivial, so two important forces for constructive effort in our state have agreed to cooperate in giving to the radio audience, what is hoped will be interesting, stimulating and helpful."

From the WHAS studio in Louisville, owner Robert Worth Bingham, who also owned the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Times, reiterated WHAS's noble intentions of reaching the isolated and uneducated -- "it is for those whose need is greatest who fill my mind as I think of what this work of our may mean to them."

The University of Kentucky programs were aired Monday through Friday at noon, initially for fifteen minutes and expanded by 1931 to forty-five.  While primarily offering agricultural information, lectures on a variety of topics, as well as musical presentations, were also offered.  From the beginning, the university appreciated its responsibility, and under the guidance of Elmer G. "Bromo" Sulzer, who began his work at UK in public relations, energetically and successfully lobbied for the expansion of its radio commitment.

For additional information see "WHAS Radio and the Development of Broadcasting in Kentucky, 1922-1942"