Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #149

The University of Kentucky did not fully integrate until 1954 when African-American undergraduates were finally able to register for classes. Countless stories remain unknown of the work and support provided by African Americans to the University.  One such story is that of Pierre Whiting who worked at the University for 57 years. His own memory of the area dated back to Civil War troops that bivouacked on what is now UK’s campus. As a young man, he carried water and mortar to men who were working on the first campus building, the Main Building. He served first as a janitor at White Hall, which was then a men’s dormitory but he went on to become the janitor at the Main Building for the remainder of his service. African-American men and women contributed to the success of this University long before they were allowed to take classes. Pierre Whiting was with this University since its very beginning and yet little is known about his life or history.  Do any of you know more about Mr. Whiting?  If so, please email

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #150

Women students reached a milestone on June 4, 1888 as the college faculty reviewed the candidates for degrees. They concluded that "Cadets G. G. Bryan, E. E. Curtis, R. Payne and F. V. Bartlett and Miss Belle C. Gunn" had "creditably finished the course prescribed for the degree of Bachelor of Science, it was unanimously resolved to recommend them to the Board of Directors for that degree." Even though women received certificates from the Normal Department as early as 1884, Gunn became the first woman student at State College eligible for a baccalaureate degree.

Arabella Clement Gunn, a Lexington native, spent her childhood on a farm near Shelbyville, Kentucky. While living in Shelby County she attended the well-respected Science Hill Academy for girls. Her family returned to Lexington in the early 1880s and Gunn attended the public schools of Lexington and Sayre Institute. At State College classmates remembered Gunn as "well above average in scholarship, but not so brilliant as to inspire envy and jealously." She participated fully in the limited social life available, including the literary societies.

Before the commencement exercises that year President Patterson summoned 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's reply was brief and pointed: "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 the president was reportedly "most gracious" to the first woman graduate who he referred to as the "Eldest Daughter of the Institution."

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK

On February 22, 2015 the University of Kentucky will celebrate its 150th birthday. We will be sharing memories and stories in the 150 weeks leading up to that moment. If you would like to contribute or submit an idea please contact:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Special Collections as Learning Lab

The exhibit, "Special Collections as Learning Lab," will feature Special Collections projects completed by graduate students. The exhibit will showcase conservation methods, outreach and instruction, as well as archival arrangement and description projects. Please join us in celebrating the work of our outstanding graduate students during the 2011-2012 academic year.