Friday, July 27, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #135

Henry Stites Barker, "Old Magnanimous", served from 1911 to 1917 as President of the University of Kentucky, succeeding James K. Patterson as chief executive of the institution his predecessor had fathered. The Barker administration ushered in a period of steady and substantial growth for the University, which witnessed the genesis of new campus departments and programs. Barker's friendly and informal accessibility and democratic style of governance were viewed by many as a welcome departure from the stern and strict authoritarianism of the Patterson regime.

Born in 1850 at Newstead in Christian County, Kentucky, his family moved to Louisville in 1856, and young Barker received his primary education in the public schools of that city. From 1869 until 1872 he attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky, but withdrew from school in order to pursue a career in the legal profession. Admitted to the bar in 1873, he began the private practice of law. Barker was married on May 22, 1886 to Kate Sharp Meriwether, of Clarksville, Tennessee; they had no children. In 1887 he was elected Louisville City Attorney, a post in which he served until 1896. Associated for a time with his brother, Maxwell S. Barker and later affiliated with the law firm of Kohn and Barker, he was elected Judge of the Jefferson Circuit Court (Criminal Division) in 1897 and in 1902, Judge of the State Court of Appeals. He served the last year of his term as Chief Justice of the Court. In 1910 he was elected President of State University by the trustees of the school; his term of office began on January 1 of the following year.

The Barker administration was plagued with troubles from the start, as Patterson did not willingly relinquish the powers of the position he had held for forty years. Openly and actively opposing the selection of Barker as his successor, ostensibly on grounds of lack of education and experience, the aging former president and his allies hounded him continually and relentlessly throughout his brief term of office.
Henry Stites Barker, Founder's Day, Stoll Field 1917

The Barker administration, despite organized opposition, could nevertheless point to significant accomplishments. The Graduate School, Department of Journalism and Y.M.C.A. were established on campus during his administration, and the Reserve Officers Training Corps was set up in 1917 to provide instruction for military personnel participating in the World War the United States had recently entered. The College of Law, founded in the last years of the previous administration, grew appreciably. The University's newly established library increased significantly in size and stature, and the first printing press on campus was procured at Barker's own expense. Agriculture and the University's role in its promotion and nurture throughout the state were emphasized by the Barker administration.

The College of Agriculture, long neglected by Patterson, increased in size and significance, a development marked by the enlargement and expansion of the Agricultural Experiment Station. The College's constituent School of Home Economics experienced substantial growth, assuming a place of regional leadership in its field. This enhancement of some of the University's major programs, coupled with the good will engendered largely as a result of the extension of its activities in the field of Agriculture among its statewide public constituency, resulted in a dramatic, nearly twofold increase in University enrollment during Barker's term. In March, 1916, the State Legislature statutorily changed the name of the growing institution from "State University, Lexington, Kentucky" to "University of Kentucky".

Idea staff, 1911
 Student activities likewise thrived and increased in the relatively democratic campus atmosphere Barker created. In enforced residence on the campus in Patterson Hall Dormitory, away from the "President's House" (which Patterson intransigently occupied until his death in 1922), Barker appeared especially attentive to the interests and concerns of his students. The student newspaper of the time -The Idea and its successor, the Kentucky Kernel (introduced in the fall of 1915) were published weekly and attracted a broad and active readership. Student government had its origins in the Student Self-Government Organization founded in 1912. Moreover, Barker, a proponent of physical training, encouraged student participation in athletics, and basketball and football in particular flourished during his tenure.

The Patterson faction's opposition to Barker's presidency came to a head in 1917 with opposition by the Board of Trustees and interested academic leaders to his attempt to merge three of the University's Engineering programs. An investigation of the President was conducted, which led to his resignation. Barker returned to Louisville and established a successful law practice. Reentering politics, he ran for and was elected Circuit Judge. He died suddenly on April 23, 1928, while visiting a cousin in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #136

War has always had a great impact on campus culture and the day to day lives of students.  World War I was no different.  The university quickly responded to the demands of war by offering more convenient terms for academic credits for those students whose education was interrupted by military service. In 1918, the university contracted with the government for the training of military personnel in technical skills.  Between May and November of 1918, three detachments went through the training courses.  Barker Hall’s Buell Armory became a workshop for truck maintenance and repair.  The regular soldiers lived at the trotting track on South Broadway until barracks were built at the east end of Stoll Field. Male students entered the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC). At this time, the university campus became a combined military post and academic institution.

The training of soldiers was organized by UK President Frank L. McVey as executive head of the operation; Major Justin W. Harding (US Army) commanded the troops and UK Dean F. Paul Anderson (Engineering) was appointed head of technical training. Anderson began on the first contingents' arrival, May 7, 1918. Barracks were constructed on land owned by the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders' Association. Soldiers received eight weeks of general training before training for specific assignments. UK professor L. E. Nollau was designated photographer for the training sessions.

At the very beginning of the soldier’s training in technical subjects there was a well-defined organization effected. There was no encroachment on the time allotted to technical training and to military training. Every man was accounted for every day, and the individual record of each man showed how his time was occupied from the hour he reported to the military technical training course until he was sent away. In all branches of the work, the men were put under the instruction of the most skilled artisans in their lines.

The blacksmiths were under the supervision of the most expert men in this community. The carpenters were trained by men taken out of recognized contracting organizations in Lexington. The auto mechanics received their instruction in twenty independent shops organized on the campus of the University of Kentucky, under the tutelage of the best garage foremen that could be secured. The demonstration material in the automobile shops consisted of private cars sent for repair. The contingent of auto mechanics shown in the records reconstructed and repaired over one hundred automobiles during the eight weeks they were under instruction. The electricians were placed in charge of electrical contractors who were men of wide experience in house wiring. The telegraphers and wireless operators were taught by experienced telegraph operators taken right out of the active service of railroads and wireless stations.

Lectures were given to various classes every day and great stress was laid upon the theoretical side as well as the practical. These soldiers were well trained and well fed, and when they left the University of Kentucky they were fit for the fighting game.

By December of 1918, the university was once again a civilian institution but as a land grant institution, military training was still mandatory.  Thus, the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) became a requirement for all male students until 1963.  Women were allowed to enroll in 1966.

The photographs in University of Kentucky Training of the Fighting Mechanic records can be viewed online at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #137

This photograph shows the Main Building during its days as State University (1908-1916). The ivy creeping up the side gives it a different character than its look today. Looking to the extreme right in the center, one can see the cannon on its cement block. Just above the cannon, to the direct right of the tree, one can see the dome of the Old Chemistry Building (Gillis Building). The first floor windows to the right have striped canopies to block the light of the setting sun.

 The Main Building was the first building on campus. Designed by Architect H.P. McDonald, the building was built of brick fashioned from campus clays and stone, at a cost of $81,000. It opened in 1882.  It was built in the same year as the Old Dormitory (White Hall) and the Residence where President James K. Patterson lived. It is also the only building of those three that still stands.  In 1882, "all academic functions took place there, and professors' classrooms doubled as their offices" (Cone, 1989). Originally housed in the building were all campus offices, classrooms, and related facilities including: the College armory and the classrooms used by the Commandant of Cadets; a shop; the President's Office (equipped with fireplaces and a classroom); a natural history museum; two laboratories; the Normal, French, German, English, Mathematics, Classical, and Preparatory departments; an assembly room containing an organ; a smaller chapel (which was able to seat the entire student body, faculty, and staff); the headquarters of the Union Literary and Philosophian societies; and the Kentucky Geological Survey.  

The three buildings were funded by bonds issued to fulfill the pledges of the Lexington City Council and the Fayette County Court that totaled $50,000. The pledges competed against ones made by Bowling Green. If Bowling Green had pledged higher, it is possible the University could have been located there. The city and county met their pledge and more, offering funds of $86,000. More funds came from a property tax levied by the state legislature which produced about $20,000 in funds. As opposed to the one time offer of the city and county, the property tax would offer funds year after year. Finally, the University also had a land grant endowment fund set up when it was called A&M College and was part of the sectarian Kentucky University. Still, building funds were gone by mid-1881. Fear of a repeal of the property tax caused banks to refuse the University loans. President Patterson had to offer his own monies to get a loan that would complete construction of the building (Cone, 1989).

1890 with rounded cupola

Gracing the roof of the building was a tower crowned by a cupola, 157 feet in height. The cupola featured a clock (supposedly built by a professor) and a "captain's walk", and housed the local Weather Observatory. This structure was progressively dismantled and shortened or altered and after 1919 the roof of the edifice manifested the "flattened", gabled appearance which characterized it until recent fire.

The Main Building was severely damaged by fire on May 15, 2001 and all offices were relocated during the extensive reconstruction; it was officially reopened October 25, 2004. Currently, it houses administrative offices, including the President's office, conference rooms, classrooms, and the Visitor Center. The interior of the building has undergone many rearrangements since its construction; only the stairways and two hallways remain.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #138

Reprinted from the July 4, 1930 Kentucky Kernel, "Students Desert Campus on Day of July Fourth"

Utterly forsaken and deathly silent is the campus during the summer school.  All the students have scattered except a few who are especially ambitious and thirsty for knowledge, and who are spending their time in the library.

Even the professors leave.  It is possible and most probable that the janitor, who is always around, may have deserted his post.  Books are left untouched and lessons are forgotten.  In short, there is nothing doing.
But don’t misunderstand! This is the description of the campus on the Fourth of July, on which day the entire constituency of the University summer school is released to add their bit of celebration to the national holiday.

It should be needless to remind anyone that Friday, July Fourth 1930, marks the passing of 154 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Methods of living are considered to have greatly improved since that day.   Science is supplanting the work of a few great brains for a multitude of smaller ones.
Our nation occupies a position of prominence and is respected by all others.  Expansion and organization has been the business of the United States since that day when the Declaration was signed by a few farseeing statesmen.

However, as much as Americans have endeavored to be original and individual, at least a few of the old world characteristics have not been eradicated.  The note of restriction and restraint which our ancestors fought creeps in the following notice:

“One-tenth will be deducted from the final standing of any student who is absent from his last class before the holiday or the first class following it.”