By William E. Ellis
My love of Eastern Kentucky University runs long and deep.
In 1967, I graduated with an M.A. in History in the first class after the school was granted university status the previous year. Eastern redirected my life and the faculty encouraged me to continue my graduate studies. I was granted a Ph.D. in history from the University of Kentucky in 1974.
After three years of teaching at Lees Junior College I came back to teach at EKU in 1970, eventually retiring after 29 years in 1999.
The University Press of Kentucky published my history of EKU in 2005 and “A History of Education in Kentucky” in 2011.
I have developed rather strong, and I think well-grounded thoughts, about what faces Kentucky higher education in the future.
The days of boundless growth, such as in the post World War II years through the early 1970s are gone.
Eastern has settled into a 16,000 or so enrollment. Unless, the General Assembly develops the backbone to push higher education to new levels in Kentucky, there will not be much growth if any in the coming years.
Perhaps improved educational standards will help by preparing more Kentucky high school graduates for college. However, even that is problematical.
If Eastern wants to keep its high standards, maintain a fine faculty and appeal to not only Kentucky students but to those in other states and abroad, I agree with the current administration that “branding” is of utmost importance.
With all my years of experience as a teacher, historian, and participant in the Eastern community, I offer this suggestion. The time has come to drop the “Colonel” as Eastern’s mascot/logo.
Eastern’s original nickname was “the Maroons,” which was changed in the 1960s at the insistence of President Robert R. Martin. Centre College had had that same designation since the early 20th century.
The Colonel mascot was anachronistic even when it was chosen and is even more out-dated in the early 21st century. Even the modern redesign of the Colonel logo a few years ago is of no help in separating Eastern Kentucky University from a bygone era.
Is EKU now going to join the 21st century as a modern, forward-looking university? It has already in so many ways. It’s undergraduate and graduate programs are nationally ranked. Why don’t we say goodbye to the old Colonel and get a new branding what will have a wider appeal?