By Ethan Sirles
Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) has gone through many changes since the 1930s, including a few name changes, the addition of sports programs, rapid student enrollment growth, construction of several campus buildings and so much more. However, in that same amount of time, one thing that has stayed consistent is a family’s nearly 90-year history of studying at EKU.
In 1930, EKU—called Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and Teachers College at the time—was renamed Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College. That same decade, a man named Squire Baker enrolled as a student.
Though the school was a four-year institution, Baker took an alternative route to getting his education.
“He would go to school for a semester and work a semester because he couldn't afford to go year round,” said Baker’s daughter, Margaret Day.
After finishing his time at EKU, Baker enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War II.
“He was too old to be drafted, but he just believed in the cause so much that he volunteered,” said Day.
Several years after Baker’s time at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College, the school’s name was changed again, removing “Teachers” from the title in 1948. Eventually, in 1966, Governor Edward T. Breathitt signed a bill into law renaming the school Eastern Kentucky University, allowing the school to offer graduate degrees in academic fields other than education.
The same year the university was renamed, the first of Baker’s children, his daughter Margaret Day, started her time at EKU. Eventually, all six of Baker’s children would attend the university.
Day studied Library Science at EKU, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and a master’s degree in 1973.
In 1997, Day’s daughter, Lisa Day Byrley, became the first, third-generation EKU graduate from Baker’s family.
As of 2023, five of Baker’s great-grandchildren are enrolled in classes at EKU, continuing the family’s nearly 90-year history with the university. In December, Byrley’s son Alexander will become the family’s first, fourth-generation EKU graduate.
“We are proud to have many legacy families as part of EKU’s rich history,” said EKU President David T. McFaddin. “Multiple generations of family members choosing EKU speaks volumes to the transformative power of the Eastern Experience. As students enjoy time with their loved ones for Family Weekend, we celebrate our big Colonel family and all the families who support and encourage their students.”
Over the years, Day said many of her family members have considered other schools but have stuck with EKU for several reasons.
“It’s close to home from where our family lives in Manchester,” said Day. “There are now EKU regional campuses in Manchester and Corbin. Those came after I graduated, but several family members have taken advantage of those and later transferred to the main campus in Richmond.”
She also said the tuition has been a deciding factor for many of her family members, adding the in-state rates have been hard to beat when considering other options.
Though EKU has gone through a lot of changes over the years, Day said campus has always been a great place for students.
“Two of my great nieces are in a sorority, which they have enjoyed tremendously, and participated in.” she said. “Then my grandchildren—one of them is very active in the Baptist Campus Ministries and has gone on mission trips with them. My other grandson is a sophomore, but this is his first year at EKU because he went to the Corbin Campus last year. He's already loving the campus life.”
Day’s Colonel family, along with the rest of EKU’s students, will have a chance to spend time together on campus this coming weekend as Family Weekend kicks off. The weekend will have several events planned for the whole family like the Chi Omega County Fair, family meals at Case Kitchen and Colonel-Val, a carnival experience of fun and festivities for students and their families. The events lead up to Saturday’s EKU Football game against Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) and fireworks show. See the full schedule of Family Weekend events.