Eastern’s fourth president, and the first with an earned doctorate, was Herman Lee Donovan of Mason County. He came to Eastern from George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville where he was a professor of education.
Dr. Donovon held degrees from the University of Kentucky (B.A.), Columbia (M.A.) and the George Peabody College for Teachers (Ph.D.). He also held the honorary L.L.D. degree fromUK. Some of the positions he held before being selected as president of Eastern in 1928 were superintendent of schools at Paducah and Wickliffe, assistant superintendent of schools at Louisville, dean of the faculty at Eastern and professor of education at Peabody.
Donovan was widely known as an author and lecturer. He was a member of Phi Delta Pi. One reason for his selection as Eastern’s president was his previous experience as dean of faculty there. His emphasis in education was the improvement of instruction. As president, he guided Eastern through the very difficult depression years and assured that Eastern lived within its income. There were salary cutbacks and hard decisions made, but Eastern survived.
In 1941, Donovan left to become president of the University of Kentucky.
When Donovan came to Eastern in 1928, my father joined the Eastern faculty the same year. My father retired in 1963.
Fast forward from 1928 to 1953. My new bride and I had just returned from Germany where I had served 17 months in the occupation forces. I wanted to pursue an M.B.A. degree at UK. University housing said, “No luck; all full.” My father took us to the UK president’s office and explained the situation to Dr. Donovan. He picked up the phone, spoke a few words into it, listened and told us the number of our apartment in the Shawneetown married-student housing complex.
That is friendship. It had been over 12 years since Donovan had left Eastern.
Eastern’s fourth president is a part of Madison’s heritage and that story also is a treasured part of my family’s heritage.