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Frank L. McVey and the University of Kentucky: A Progressive President and the Modernization of a Southern University

by Eric A. Moyen

Availablecloth$60.00x 978-0-8131-2983-9
Thomas D. Clark Studies in Education, Public Policy, and Social Change
416 pages  Pubdate: 02/25/2011  6 x 9  24 b&w photos

In 1917, fifty-two years after its founding, the University of Kentucky faced stagnation, financial troubles, and disturbing reports of nepotism, resulting in a leadership crisis. A special committee investigated the institution and issued a report calling for a massive transformation of the university, including the hiring of a new president who could execute the report’s suggested initiatives. The Board of Trustees hired Frank L. McVey.

McVey labored tirelessly for more than two decades to establish Kentucky as one of the nation’s most respected institutions of higher learning, which brought him recognition as one of the leading progressive educators in the South. In Frank L. McVey and the University of Kentucky, Eric A. Moyen chronicles McVey’s triumphs and challenges as the president sought to transform the university from a small state college into the state’s flagship institution. McVey recruited an exceptional faculty, expanded graduate programs, promoted research, oversaw booming enrollments and campus construction, and defended academic freedom during the nation’s first major antievolution controversy. Yet he faced challenges related to the development of modern collegiate athletics, a populace suspicious of his remarkable new conception of a state university, and the Great Depression. This authoritative biography not only details an important period in the history of the university and the commonwealth, but also tells the story of the advancement of education reform in early-twentieth-century America.

Eric A. Moyen serves as an associate professor of education and director of first-year programs at Lee University. He lives in Cleveland, Tennessee.

"Moyen succeeds well, positioning McVey as a significant historical figure not only within the University of Kentucky but also beyond his immediate institution and state as a leader among Southern university presidents who was highly regarded among academic leaders nationwide."—John Thelin, author of A History of American Higher Education

"In a judicious assessment of Frank L. McVey, a major figure in the higher education of the U.S. South, Eric A. Moyen has produced one of the best biographies of a modern American university president. Through lucid, accessible prose combined with meticulous research, Moyen succeeds in showing how McVey constructed the modern University of Kentucky."—William Link, author of William Friday: Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education

"An inspiring and informing work, meticulously crafted to reveal persistent and 'stand to duty' presidential leadership in the face of complex political, financial, governance, ethical and personal adversity. Woven in rich detail, candid in assessment, and inviting in style and flow, this is the story of an individual and an institution that will encourage contemporary civic leaders, college presidents, faculty and staff--who will find here sobering historic perspective on today's issues and a reminder that those building for tomorrow stand on the shoulders of those who navigated turbulent waters in the past in framing the heritage of the American university."—Grady Bogue, Professor, University of Tennessee and Chancellor Emeritus, Louisiana State University in Shreveport

"This is a story of an off and on love affair between a president and the university he was called on to lead. While state politics and institutional jealousies got in the way of a successful result too often, Frank McVey did more than enough for his accomplishments to be recognized and appreciated by UK faculty, students, and other supporters. Additionally, all who care about public higher education should understand, appreciate, and learn from McVey and his work, his defeats and his victories."—Wayne Urban, author of American Education: A History

"Explores the presidency of Mr. McVey from 1917 to 1940, and chonicles some of the most dynamic times in the university's history."--Chattanoogan

"Explores not only McVey's UK presidency from 1909 to 1940, but also the challenges that faced a state institution during an era of dramatic social change."--Kentucky Alumni

"Through careful mining of oral-history interviews and other documents relevant to McVey's term at UK, Moyen convincingly argues that McVey's similar and very dramatic achievements at UK brought about the expansion of the campus, colleges and academic programs, the construction of new facilities . . . and he also redefined faculty work to support the research function and service to the commonwealth."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Moyen's biography . . . humanizes and contextualizes the subject in ways no single institutional history could. . . . Moyen's lucid account of these years touches on scores of topics unique to Kentucky, from the rising preeminence of Adolph Rupp to the hard fought battles over the teaching of evolution."--Ohio Valley History

"A major contribution to the history of the higher educational experience in Kentucky during the early 1900s."--Kentucky Ancestors

“Moyen depicts McVey as a micromanager, a gradualist in terms of providing education for African Americans, and the driving force in establishing the University of Kentucky as a modern institution.” --Journal of Southern History