Eastern Kentucky University, said President Michael Benson, stands perched at “a really unique moment in history.”
As it embarks on an ambitious campus revitalization plan the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Robert R. Martin era (1960-76), the course the University chooses in coming months will determine its destiny for generations to come, he added.
“To every man comes that special moment,” said Benson, quoting Winston Churchill. “It falls to us to take advantage of this moment.”
The Commonwealth of Kentucky had such a moment during the administration of Gov. William J. Fields in the 1920s, Benson noted, but squandered the chance to make critical investments in education and infrastructure when it rejected a bond issue sought by the governor, resulting in decades of stagnation.
Bonds will play an important role in financing many of the EKU revitalization projects, too, as will public-private partnerships, private support and University funds. Also, the University’s Student Government Association stepped forward to approve a fee to support two student-centric facilities: a new recreation center and a renovated student union. Students will have input into the design of those two facilities, both cornerstones of a new Center for Student Life.
Those projects and others, whether involving new or improved facilities or curb appeal enhancements, are all aimed squarely at helping the University recruit, retain and graduate students.
At a recent public forum, Benson discussed numerous other projects, both ongoing and planned, showing the audience photos and renderings of many. They include:
- phase 2 of the New Science Building, under construction and expected to open by late 2017. When merged with Phase 1, the 340,000-square-foot facility will be the largest of its type in the Commonwealth.
- the planned new Model Laboratory School/College of Education complex, to be constructed at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and the Eastern By-Pass. The complex remains the University’s top capital construction priority.
- three new, suite-style residence halls to replace three halls dating to the 1960s: Martin, Dupree and Todd. Martin may be razed as soon as Spring 2016, with the replacement of Dupree and Todd coming at a later time to be determined and with input from the Greek community that now occupies those two halls. University officials have said that, during the replacement process, every effort will be made to minimize the impact on all affected students.
- a wellness center/indoor practice facility.
- a new, multi-purpose facility to replace the east side grandstands at Roy Kidd Stadium, to be completed by Fall 2016. The stands have already been dismantled and removed.
- a new alumni and welcome center.
- a reading porch on the south side of John Grant Crabbe Main Library, overlooking a new pedestrian mall in a formerly lackluster industrial space.
- new playing facilities for the baseball and softball teams.
- a new pedestrian gateway and the Carloftis Gardens, both near the intersection of Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road.
- improvements to the newly revamped University Club at Arlington.
- new signage throughout campus.
Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Company, an architecture and planning firm that has worked with more than 145 colleges and universities nationwide, is assisting EKU with its master plan. Open forums will be scheduled this fall to solicit campus input. “This is all very fluid,” Benson said.
Benson noted that in dedicating his memoir to Harry Truman, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson cited what he considered the greatest attribute of America’s 33rd president when he declared Truman “was completely devoid of the most enfeebling of human emotion: regret.”
Added Benson: “I don’t want us to look back here at Eastern at what might have been.”
To view the entire public forum, visit ow.ly/P3rbG.
To follow the progress on all the campus revitalization projects, visit ekubuilds.eku.edu.