Passing motorists near the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road may note the enhanced curb appeal along the western periphery of campus.
But, for future generations of Eastern Kentucky University students, beginning with this fall’s freshman class, The Turner Gate will come to symbolize the life-changing significance of their Eastern Experience.
The University’s newest landmark, formally dedicated in ceremonies on Wednesday, Aug. 17, is distinguished by four simple but profound words – Wisdom and Knowledge on one side facing the street, Purpose and Passion on the other – that describe what students come seeking and what they acquire during their studies to use for the betterment of society.
“These four words epitomize how Eastern can properly prepare our students and also instill in each of them the desire to attain greatness in their life endeavors,” said Craig Turner, chair of EKU Board of Regents, who with wife Madonna donated the funds for the manufacturing and installation of the gateway. “Our goal is to continue to raise the bar for our students to excel here like no other place. These gates symbolize a new beginning as you enter, and a bright future as you exit.”
Both Turners graduated from EKU in 1975 and have long thought that new students, parents and visitors had trouble finding an “entrance” to the Richmond campus. “There was no defining feature other than a small Eastern Kentucky University sign,” Mr. Turner said. “As we returned to campus over the years, we often talked about the need for an entrance to campus that could also be a gathering place for students to celebrate special occasions or events.”
That is already happening. It’s not uncommon even now to see gatherings at the location, a sight that delights EKU President Benson.
“Turner Gate has become a focal point for photographs, a hangout for students, and a handsome entrance into our campus,” Benson said. “I pass the Gate every single day on my way to EKU, and I take enormous satisfaction that the extended Turner family name is inextricably linked to Eastern for generations to come.”
Benson, beginning his fourth year at EKU, said he hopes the Welcome Walk, when each year’s freshman class passes through Turner Gate to the cheers of onlooking faculty and staff, becomes a campus tradition, much like rubbing Daniel Boone’s toe on another campus landmark for good luck. The first such walk, shortly after the dedication ceremonies, featured faculty and staff lining the route offering their support and encouragement to more than 2,000 freshmen who moved into their new campus home earlier in the day.
The taller columns stand 16 feet tall, the shorter columns just under 14 feet. They are made of Indiana limestone and erected by Mason Structure of Lexington. The property is also graced by shumard oaks, a hearty native species that turns a vivid maroon – naturally – each autumn; tulip poplars, the state tree; and dwarf oak hydrangeas.
“When our daughters were looking at colleges, we realized that nearly every campus had a lovely and welcoming entrance,” Mrs. Turner said. “In addition, many had a sculpture, gate or other defining feature that was popular with students. This entrance gave an opportunity to put ‘Eastern Kentucky University’ literally on the campus map. Having the (soon-to-come) Carloftis Gardens just inside the entrance was icing on the cake.”
The Turners wanted a gateway into the campus “that equaled the beauty of the existing buildings. We envisioned it an area where students could take their special occasion photos for events like graduation or Homecoming, as well as candid photos of teams, clubs, friends and family,” Mrs. Turner said. “Perhaps we will see a few marriage proposals and wedding photos in the future. We’ve been delighted with the number of social media photos that have already been posted.”
Craig and Madonna Turner were joined at the dedication ceremony by family members, including many who also earned degrees from Eastern. Their names are inscribed on a plaque that will be placed at the Gate. A second plaque reads:
“Enter these gates with humility.
Acquire knowledge to gain wisdom.
Depart these gates with confidence.
Live life with passion and purpose.”
Dedicated to the students of Eastern Kentucky University
Craig and Madonna Turner Charitable Fund