Friday, May 31, 2013

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #93

The University of Kentucky Centennial Celebration 1965

"To all of us, I issue this challenge:  that we make the Centennial Year the period to wage a major battle against anti-intellectualism in American Life."  John W. Oswald, President,
University of Kentucky

For the University of Kentucky, Centennial meant more than a nostalgic look at its past.  Of course, Kentucky looked back with pride at the energy and endurance which had carried the university from its unprepossessing origins through its early rough-and-tumble struggle for existence, in a state that was never rich, among people who were never devoted to learning.  Kentuckians had the right to be proud of a university that had overcome obstacles which might have caused a less stubborn people to settle for much less.

The real focus of Centennial was on the future.  It was a time for a realistic look at the University, its weaknesses and limitations as well as its new strengths and rapid growth.  It was a time for appraisal as well as for celebration.

 Both purposes were served.  Years of planning brought leading figures from the worlds of intellect, of politics, and of the arts to exchange ideas with Kentucky students and faculty.  Graduates who had achieved distinction were honored.  Books, music, art, drama, scholarly accomplishments were produced.  And for students, alumni, and citizens of the state, there were times for pure entertainment. 

Centennial plans, years in the making, were announced formally February 5, 1965, at a Centennial Preview Press Dinner.  William B. Arthur, managing editor of Look magazine and a U.K. alumnus, was a principal speaker.  At this dinner, President Oswald revealed that President Lyndon B. Johnson would address the Founders Day convocation.  Dr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Clark who headed the Centennial Committee were also present at the Centennial Preview Press Dinner.

Governor Edward T. Breathitt, John W. Oswald, and President Lyndon B. Johnson welcomed in the Day of Centennial.  It was a big moment for the Oswald children, to have the opportunity to meet the President of the United States.  National Media were in force to cover President Johnson’s speech.

 To stimulate the intellectual life of students, faculty, and the public, the University brought to its campus distinguished persons from the worlds of politics, religion, the humanities and sciences.  Some taught for a semester and some took part in the shorter conferences.  Some lectured at the University’s community as well.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1955, Dr. Hugo Thorell, the director of the biochemistry department of the Nobel Medical Institute in Stockholm.  He held a one semester professorship during the Centennial.

The fine arts at the University produced a number of special events.  In most of these, students took part, starting with pre-centennial Shakespeare productions, and the Centennial Theater produced plays during the summer.  The Art Department had special exhibits in addition to student shows.  A contest was held for original music written by students.  Verdi’s Manzoni Requiem was performed by the U.K. Choristers, the Lexington Singers, and the Cincinnati Symphony, and the performance was to be repeated in Carnegie Hall.

Norman Thomas attracted an enthusiastic crowd for his lectures and discussions.  His visit was sponsored by the Student Centennial Committee.  Sponsored jointly by the University and the College of the Bible, “Science and Religion” was the first major conference of the year, by Dr. Julian Hartt, the Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School.

Chief Justice Earl Warren took part in the dedication of the new College Law building and received an honorary degree.  Senator Everett Dirksen, a lively figure from the political world, came to the campus to address a convocation honoring the late Vice President Alben W. Barkley.  The occasion was the unveiling of a replica of a statue of Barkley that was placed among Barkley memorabilia at the University library.   The original will stand in Frankfort.  Members of the Barkley family attended the ceremony.

One of the most popular of the many conferences and symposia held during the Centennial was “Women:  Equal But Different.”  At the two –day session, attended by 500 women, twelve Kentucky women were honored for various activities and contributions to their community.

Part of the entertainment for the AAUP was a horse show staged at Keeneland and a concert by Kentucky musician John Jacob Niles.

The Centennial year was also the year of the graduation of the first class from Kentucky’s new College of Dentistry.

The high point of the Centennial was Founders Week, 1965.  The principal speaker at the concluding Centennial convocation of Founders Day 1966, was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Arthur Goldberg.

"We believe that the hundredth birthday of a University does not mean a task completed, but that it must be the dawn of its mission.  Consequently, it is important that major emphasis in this celebration be not primarily on the past of even on the present but rather on the vital role of scholarship in the years ahead.  Essentially today we must rededicate the University to meeting the problems engendered by our complex, changing society.John  W. Oswald, President, University of Kentucky

From Centennial The University of Kentucky Centennial Observance

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