KSU remembers its past, looks to future during 135th celebration

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky State University celebrated its history in a big way recently, befitting its 135 years of existence.

The pinnacle of the celebration was a panel of some of Kentucky State University’s living past presidents, moderated by KET’s Renee Shaw. Past interim president Dr. Aaron Thompson provided introductions for current president, Dr. M. Christopher Brown II; past president Dr. Mary Evans Sias and past president Raymond M. Burse. Dr. William H. Turner provided words for the occasion.

Author Dr. John A. Hardin spoke about his recently released book, “The Pursuit of Excellence: Kentucky State University, 1886-2020.”

The panel discussion covered a broad range of topics including what each president considers his or her greatest accomplishment at Kentucky State; the challenges of being a president in higher education; the importance of working with political leaders; fundraising; the legacy of Rufus Ballard Atwood; and the future of Kentucky State.

“Our size and scope are unique,” President Brown said. “We are the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college. Kentucky State is a high quality institution with high quality students. They are competing with and besting students at other institutions in each and every category.”

Burse said when he arrived in 1982, Kentucky State was commonly called Black by day and white by night.

“To hear the mayor call us Frankfort’s university, that is a major shift in how the University is perceived,” Burse said. “The academic quality is no different here than many other institutions and superior to a lot.”

Sias recalled the challenges of leading Kentucky State, working long hours and making difficult decisions.

“This was probably the best job I ever had,” Sias said. “When you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, you don’t always think that. Anything I could imagine, it was possible to do here.”

Hardin said the next history book about Kentucky State should focus on the words of the presidents that were on the stage, including Burse’s writings and Sias’s trials and accomplishments.

“If you want your University to remain strong, listen to the wisdom of the elders,” Hardin said. This (current) book will help the next generation know where we’ve been, where we are and where we need to go.”

State Rep. Derrick W. Graham, a Kentucky State alumnus, provided a citation of achievement from the Kentucky House of Representatives. Frankfort Mayor Layne Wilkerson presented a resolution on behalf of the city and proclaimed May 18, 2021 as Kentucky State University Day. Kentucky State University National Alumni Association (KSUNAA) President Richard H. Graves provided a resolution on behalf of KSUNAA.

Kentucky State University alumna Angela Birchett, who most recently played Jacky Cullen Chisholm in the Lifetime production of The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, regaled the audience with musical selections and the singing of the Alma Mater.

Students Dezryee Fields, Dominique Simmons, Carley Mitchell, K’Ori Terry and Christian White provided reflections of their time on the hill.

Sias and Park Community Credit Union were commended for committing gifts of $18,860 for student scholarships.

Donald W. Lyons, executive secretary of the Kentucky State University Foundation, provided closing remarks.

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