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O'HARA: This is an unrehearsed interview conducted by Adina O'Hara with Robert Cornett at his home in Georgetown, Kentucky, on July 6, 2004.

[Pause in recording.]

O'HARA: Mr. Cornett, I appreciate you having me today, and, um, I just want you to, um, answer these questions as, uh, as much as they relate to you and just let me know if any of them, um, do not directly relate 1:00and we'll just skip on to the next one. Mr. Cornett, in the 1962 legislative session, a community college bill was passed, authorizing the University of Kentucky to govern, to establish a system of public community colleges across the Commonwealth. What was your role in the creation of the system of public community colleges?

CORNETT: Well, I'd say very little. (laughs) Uh, the, uh, I was at that time State Budget Director, and, uh, this was really not a major budget decision. From a, from a budget point of view, it was not, uh, it was not a big decision because it got in it incrementally. Furthermore, the, uh, the, the governor had already made the policy decisions on, on 2:00the community college, the basic decision. I'm pretty sure he had made them before he took office, the basic key decisions, and that would have included, uh, where to locate it and what administrative agency to put them in at the University of Kentucky rather than somewhere else, where to locate the colleges. Where to locate the individual schools would have been a major decision. He had already made those decisions, so those weren't, those weren't part of what we did or had any hand in. They weren't part of what the Legislature had a hand in. Those were Bert Combs' decisions, as nearly as I can tell, so, so on some of it, we're talking about defining his mind and, uh, and that's probably about all I can help you with is, uh, defining -- helping define, divine what he might have been, been thinking. The, uh, uh, they, uh 3:00-- you know, you've done more reading than I have about the general context of community colleges at that time. That was a movement that was started. It was in other states already, but it hadn't been fleshed out. It, it was just starting. It wasn't firm. It wasn't, there wasn't a clear pattern nationally, I don't think. Uh, here in Kentucky, we had the sales tax, that little extra money, because Combs had pushed that through. You know that? Uh, it gave some flexibility. Combs was a -- he, uh, he was a believer in education. He was a progressive in the, in the classic sense of the, of the term. He, he wanted government to make things happen, and education was clearly 4:00one of the things he wanted to push. And, uh, it was, would have been quite natural that when the question of community colleges came up, he would have welcomed, very much welcomed it. He would have reached for it. He would have wanted school. He would have wanted access. I know he did. I say would, he would have. I know he did want all the kids in Kentucky to have access to college. Uh, he had access himself through, through the little Cumberland Community College in, uh, in Williamsburg, so he, you know, he, he had personal experience with this; with the junior college anyway. Uh, the decision on locating it at the University of Kentucky rather than somewhere else, I think, would have been just an absolute automatic decision here. I don't believe there would have been any alternative to it. I can't imagine, 5:00uh, where it would have come from. We wouldn't have had, we wouldn't have had any structure at all to build a, uh, to nurture the colleges. Uh, that is there was no community college network. There was nothing to build a network around, not like we have today; not with a separate system. There wouldn't have been anybody there to give it to, and the, the regional colleges would have been the only alternative and that would have meant dividing them up among Eastern, Western, Morehead and so on. And that would not have been an option. That would not have been considered an option at all. Those schools were growing rapidly themselves. They had their hands full just with their own work on campus, and, uh, and besides that you, uh -- the politics wouldn't have worked. They couldn't, you just couldn't have assigned some of them, 6:00one or two of them to Eastern and one or two of them to Western. They --(laughs)-- they would have gotten to fighting --(O'Hara laughs)-- like alley cats. Uh, it just would have been inconceivable, I think, to even consider that, so there just wasn't any alternative, except to go to the University of Kentucky, uh, and at the university, A.D. Albright is going to be your best source probably on what was going on within the university at the time; the thinking that was going on there. Now the president of the university at the time is still, still living and, and in Lexington. He may have some recollections; uh, Frank Dickey. Dr. Frank Dickey. You may -- have you talked with him or know about him?

O'HARA: Yes. I have talked briefly, and we have an interview --

CORNETT: Okay.

O'HARA: -- scheduled.

CORNETT: Well, tell him -- give him my regards if you --

O'HARA: I sure will.

CORNETT: -- please. But he will have -- he was dean, had been dean 7:00of the College of Education before he became president, so he'll have some in-- insights into what they were thinking at the university at that time. But I'm satisfied that the impetus did not come from the university. It came from Bert Combs. He wanted it done, and, uh, you just really don't argue with the governor in that kind of situ-- uh, you didn't then. Uh, the, uh, the governor's, uh -- well, they -- from a political point of view they, they dominated the legislature. We practically -- we just almost had no Legislature at that time, and the governor at that time was, uh -- you probably know -- was chairman of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees anyway. So I can't conceive of anybody at the University of Kentucky trying to 8:00put up any roadblocks, and I have not heard of anybody pushing for the community colleges either. Uh, A.D. will know a little more about that --(laughs)-- well, he'll know a good bit more about that than I do. He was over there, inside the university, but, uh, from where we sat in Frankfort, this was Bert Combs' thing. It came out of his soul, out of his heart. He made the decision to do it, and everything else happened. Uh, now I don't, uh -- let's see. There's another man that somebody may have told you about, also a Berea grad: uh, Stanley Wall. Did they mention him to you?

O'HARA: Yes.

CORNETT: He was the first director of the system and lives in Lexington still. I, uh, I haven't talked with him for years, but as far as I know from what people tell me, he's still, still capable of remembering 9:00things. You might want to -- it's W-a-l-l. You might want to try and look him up, and I say -- I didn't try to call him but, uh --

O'HARA: I will. I will.

CORNETT: He -- the location of those initial schools would have been, um -- well, there would have been some potential for controversy and, and was, I'm sure, but Combs just quietly -- as nearly as I can tell -- just quietly went ahead and made those decisions, didn't open it up to a lot of debate. Uh, they had, A.D. tells me that they had a considerable fuss over, over the one in Cumberland in Harlan County. Uh, Combs himself actually was pushing for Whitesburg for some reason, 10:00and, uh, but there just, it just was so illogical. I mean, they were going to have one in Hazard. They had to. That road close -- road crossing there would have -- that was so obvious, and Whitesburg's not far away from Hazard. So then they -- if it had gone to Whitesburg, we wouldn't have had a school on the, the other side of the mountain, the other side of Pine Mountain and, uh, on the Cumberland River -- so they had to have something on that Cumberland River ---------(??). So, uh, Combs, I think, just pure logic beat him down on that.

O'HARA: Um-hm. (laughs)

CORNETT: It was fairly obvious to -- from his point of view -- where they needed to be, and there needed to be one in Ashland.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: Uh, there needed to be one somewhere around Hazard. Well, that one just -- that's the road crossing. There pretty well had to be one there. Now you could have argued about Prestonsburg or 11:00Paintsville and I'm sure they did, but, uh, that would have been Combs, I suspect, just saying, "Hey, Prestonsburg." For one thing, that's where he used to live --(laughs)-- uh, and it's probably a little more centrally located in the Big Sandy Valley anyhow. Uh, there would have been, there would have been a fairly, fairly close question like Prestonsburg/Paintsville, but I suspect basically those decisions were fairly easy, those location decisions for them. He wanted to, he wanted -- you needed them within driving range.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: That's the idea to have them within driving range of everybody.

O'HARA: So he had some criteria that --

CORNETT: Um-hm.

O'HARA: -- was established?

CORNETT: Um-hm. I don't know that he would have called it that. I don't that -- if, if there was any systematic research done on that, 12:00I don't know anything about it and A.D. doesn't either. Uh, nobody really sat down and studied it from that point of view that, that we know anything about. We think Combs just got him a map --(both laugh)- - looked out there and said, "Here, here, here and here." (laughs) We think, and we don't -- uh, the, the people that were working with Combs in the campaign, the political people, we thought, tried to think through whether any of them would have been discussing this with him.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: And we don't think they would have. We, we, we don't -- couldn't think of anybody who would have been. We think this was just him, and that's the significant point, I think.

O'HARA: Yes, yes. That, that's very important. There was one -- speaking of, uh, research studies done on this issue -- I've come across one, um, committee or commission. In, uh, 1960, Combs himself 13:00put together a governor's commission on the study of public higher education, and it didn't look at just community colleges. It looked at all of public higher education, and its two main recommendations, um -- now given, he brought in several out-of-state consultants, primarily from the South. In fact, I think all of them were for southern states; Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee -- and their initial recommendation was for an independent board for the community colleges. Um, and I got the impression they were, they were looking at what was going on in their own states or in, you know, some national trends and such, and, um, but they did bring that recommendation to Combs in a 14:00-- in their final, their final paper. And, uh, that was in November of '61, but, um, he obviously decided to go with the University of Kentucky --

CORNETT: Yeah. I don't --

O'HARA: -- by the '62 legislation.

CORNETT: I didn't remember that study, but I would suspect that, that would have been, uh, that would have been, uh, established probably by the Council on Public Higher Education. Do you know who, who sponsored the study and paid for it and -- ?

O'HARA: I think Governor Combs actually -- if I recollect correctly -- I think he actually, um, used some monies out of his emergency fund --

CORNETT: Really?

O'HARA: -- to do -- to sponsor part of it. Then that was the governor's commission on public higher education, which was made up of these out-of-state consultants and some laypersons from across Kentucky, uh, 15:00but they also brought in the Council on Public Higher Education to give their opinions and they brought in, um, um, also all the university presidents. But the, the main portion of the research, the statistical research and the, you know, pulling enrollment numbers and, um, that came from the Legislative Research Commission, and, and so they also published a report alongside.

CORNETT: Well, there was some, there was some stuff going on, obviously, that I was over there, but not remembering. Uh, the, uh, looking at, again, at the context there, uh, that they were all operating in, this would have, uh, almost certainly have all been orchestrated by -- to 16:00the extent that Combs was involved in it at all -- it would have been orchestrated by him for purposes of providing that decision that, that he made independent of them. He wasn't looking for real advice. He wasn't looking for a decision on whether to do it or not.

O'HARA: He had in mind, um, basically what he already wanted, and --

CORNETT: I think he did. I think he did, and, and these things were, were kind of on the plate, I suspect. And I -- the Council on Higher Education, I worked closely with them then, the Council on Public Higher Education, and, uh, they would have been simply incapable, from the point of view of the politics of it, of giving or coming up with 17:00something really coherent. There was a fierce battle going on between the University of Kentucky and the regional colleges over money, and, uh, they -- uh, that would have, uh -- they weren't going to be pushing for the community college and Combs would have known that. He wouldn't have put himself in a position of, of letting them say nay. Or he did know. In fact, I, I still vividly remember one time we had a, a budget meeting, and, well, this would have been when they were getting ready to put a little money into the community colleges the first time. Uh, those, uh -- I was in the meeting with the college presidents, all of them, and they were, they were getting ready to finalize the budget. 18:00And, uh, the way things were done in those days, you worked out the agreements in advance of going to the legislature. Uh, the -- well, the governor made the decisions really, and you just knew that whatever was decided when you printed that budget was the budget. So you had a lot of discussions going on that would otherwise now be, be going on publicly and, and before a legislative forum that they were going on. We just worked it out in those days, and that was what that process was about; pretty much finalizing. And then those -- there was just real bitterness. They were just really at each other.

O'HARA: Do you know what year that was approximately?

CORNETT: When that would have been? It would have been, uh, it would have been about the first of December in 1961.

19:00

O'HARA: So about the same time that this whole issue of community colleges, very much the same time?

CORNETT: Yeah. The, uh -- and I can recall in the spirit of some, uh, frustration saying to them that it looks like we're at an impasse. Do you all want the governor, or are you're going to have to have the governor referee this for you? (O'Hara laughs) And just about that time Combs walked in the room behind me and I didn't see him, hadn't seen him. He said, "Well, I'm not going to referee." (both laugh)

O'HARA: That's great.

CORNETT: And, uh, you know, he was saying, "You all -- you're -- work out the dividing up of the money." But the community college piece would not have been in that, you see. That, uh -- he wouldn't have let it get in that. It just wouldn't have been able to handle it. 20:00And that was, incidentally, the Council on Public Higher Education, too, even though that is, the university presidents were the Council on Higher Education for practical purposes.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: They had a small staff then, but it, they just -- he, he had no authority beyond the presidents, so it was, it was a bunch of guys fighting over money. (laughs) And, and it was, it was ugly at times. Uh, that wouldn't have -- we wouldn't have had the community college system, uh, I don't think or at least not at that time. I mean, obviously it would have come eventually, uh, if it had been left up to the Council on Public Higher Education or any other institution.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: I, I don't think there's much question on this one that this 21:00was Combs', Combs' baby. He wanted it done and then he, he did the politicking necessary to get it done. He wasn't asking them really; he was telling them.

O'HARA: From an economic standpoint, do you see -- do you think that Combs found a way to get the community college legislation through without having to set aside monies specifically for it by putting it under UK? It was a way to say UK's going to establish the community college system, and that way we don't have to wait for more appropriations, we don't have to wait for another legislative session. They can convert their extension campuses and start building, um, with money that, monies that -- bond that they already have. Do you think that's a --

CORNETT: Well --

O'HARA: -- practical --

CORNETT: Yeah. I think, uh, I think that kind of thought process would 22:00have gone on. Again, I don't think it would have been, uh, I don't think it would have really influenced the decision. I think he'd made up his mind, but he, he would well have used that for, for, uh, rationale. And, uh, and it's true that, uh, by putting it in -- the way the budgeting was done those days, a unit like that, a small, uh -- and the money initially was very small, and I don't remember how small, but it was small enough that it wasn't any, it wasn't anything that, that required any real attention --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: -- from the budget side's point of view -- uh, the, uh, university was big enough, had enough flexibility to, to have absorbed, um, relatively small increases like that. In fact, the university was 23:00left alone; still are by and large. It's, uh, they -- you set their budget, give them their money and they've got lots of latitude and had been almost total latitude to allocate around. Well, from the point of view of Frankfort, they had a lot of latitude.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: Now, they had some internal issues. As a fact of the matter, they weren't going to take the agriculture extensions services money and give it to somebody else, you know. They'd have fights on their hand internally --

O'HARA: Right.

CORNETT: ----------(??) kind of thing. They had the medical school, too, that they gave them -- and that was growing and that was, uh, another source of, uh, flexibility within the university. The medical center would have been a much bigger issue financially, policy issue at that time, than the community colleges. That was a new, new school, 24:00medical school that had started under Chandler, but it was still just still growing.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: Uh, the, uh -- now the university did have some extensions, and, uh, and I think one of them A.D. reminded me was at Madisonville -- was a good-sized one. From that point of view, they didn't want to -- didn't really do anything different, I don't think, at least not early on. There wouldn't, wouldn't have been any, any money needed. So they could start gradually. Combs did that also on the, uh, educational television when he set up the law and gave them a little money and then left it to the next --(laughs)-- the next guys to worry about it.

O'HARA: He left it to Breathitt to, to come in and actually --

CORNETT: Yeah.

O'HARA: -- fund it and, uh --

CORNETT: Um-hm.

25:00

O'HARA: -- Oswald to build it --

CORNETT: Yeah.

O'HARA: -- in the case of the community colleges.

CORNETT: That same -- that happened with the community colleges. It was a matter of getting it started, getting a decision firm, firmly in place, and then, uh, and as I think, as you see -- seeing from what you've already done -- there really wouldn't have been any, any other way at all to go after this in Kentucky at that time except to go through the University of Kentucky. Louisville was not at issue then, wouldn't be even now for that matter, but it was, it was not part of the state system then. So there just wasn't any place at all to consider putting it except, except the university.

O'HARA: And creating an independent board, was that not an option because of economics or po-- politics?

CORNETT: Well, you would have had, uh -- no. That it wouldn't have 26:00been. Well, this was a nurturing proposition. You get it started and nurturing and a whole lot of things have to be done. You have to have a central accounting apparatus and purchasing and a whole set of management things, uh, that I bet you'd be amazed if you went over to that central management. That's whatever they call it in the community college system, the, the headquarters over there. I bet you there's more paper being shuffled over there than you can dream of. Uh, that's -- some of that's necessary, necessary just to, just to help them along, just to get an organization in place, but then to nurture it in a, in an undefined situation -- and it had to be somewhat undefined. It had to grow. It had to evolve. You were putting the, putting the pieces in place so they would evolve rather than sit here. 27:00Uh, and given that situation there was just nobody with the nurturing capability. You couldn't have set up a simpler structure.

O'HARA: Um-hm. There was no --

CORNETT: Nobody would have wanted it, and, and it wouldn't have had any authority. If you set up a central structure to do that, then when Combs was gone there would be nobody there to support that central structure.

O'HARA: So it was very likely that if they had established it, it would have failed? It wouldn't have survived?

CORNETT: Well, I don't know that it, uh -- I mean, I guess there's enough, uh, enough, uh, wind pushing the whole concept of community colleges along that somehow or other it would have survived and gotten its, gotten its force later from, just from, from circumstances; just 28:00the demand, just the national demand, the national current. It would have happened. No doubt it has everywhere else, but that initiative, Combs' initiative wouldn't have gone very far. That's all he could have done. That's really all -- the only option he had.

O'HARA: He got the ball rolling?

CORNETT: Yeah.

O'HARA: In a big way.

CORNETT: And it just wouldn't have rolled anywhere else. Nobody else wanted it. Or nobody else would have -- and the university, even -- no matter how much -- no matter how little interest they might have had in it inside the university, and I expect they had just a good, a high degree of disinterest as an institution, but no matter -- they don't, they don't fight with the governor.

O'HARA: It wasn't like they were out seeking the community colleges and saying, "We want them for whatever reasons -- political, economics." Those types of political and economic, um, resources that they became 29:00to the university did not develop till much, much, much later, you know, till decades later. Then the university saw the benefit of having the community colleges.

CORNETT: Well, they, they might have seen, uh, the feeder -- and I guess to some extent they would have seen the community colleges as being feeders for the university -- uh, and, and I guess, there would have been some bureaucratic interest. Now A.D. can tell you a whole lot more about this than, than I can. A.D. can probably tell you more about this than anybody you're going to find, uh, but, uh, no. I don't think there was any push from inside the university. I, I think UK -- I think it was Combs wanting it done and, and the university not really 30:00objecting but, uh, they, uh, they weren't going -- they were going to take their cues from him.

O'HARA: Um-hm. And you explained --

CORNETT: The way things worked in those days they just, that's the way it worked, and it would have been informal cues. He didn't have to, you didn't have to nail it down in the legislation at the university. If you'd put it somewhere else, you would have. You would have had to have been precise about it.

O'HARA: Oh. Like you said, this gave them -- they were flexible enough to let it evolve on its own?

CORNETT: That's right. That's right. That's right. And with his guidance and just informal discussion, that's exactly, that's the situation, I think, is that, that would have been there.

O'HARA: Documentation leading up to that decision is very informative and a historian can reconstruct how the issue was emerging, but the records are blank when it comes to explaining how the issue was 31:00resolved with the regional colleges. For example, I know there was, um, some legislation proposed that Morehead create a community college in Prestonsburg, and, uh, I think there were some, some other regional institutions interested in those similar things. Was there a compromise made by Governor Combs to the regionals? Was there something that they got in exchange for the university getting the community colleges?

CORNETT: I don't think so. I don't think so. I, I don't think that, uh, that, uh, there could have been any real serious consideration given to the regionals for having community colleges at that time. Now they've, they've evolved since with their extension programs. They've got, uh, they've got extension programs all over the state, 32:00too. I don't know just where, but I suspect that Morehead probably has something in Hazard.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: Uh, probably. You can probably get a, get a course, a Morehead course right in the shadow of, uh, of the community college in Hazard, but that was not there then. They were, they were preoccupied, I think, with their on-campus construction, and they would have been, uh, they would not have welcomed the university having a community college system because of this. Uh, they didn't like the university. They would fight over money fundamentally, but I just can't imagine, um, oh, Combs or anybody else really seriously entertaining a proposal that 33:00there be a Morehead extension in Prestonsburg or, or an Eastern one in Hazard or what have you. It couldn't have, there couldn't have been any coherence at all to it. It just wouldn't have, it would have been a mess. It would have been a political mess, and it would have been so obviously a political mess that I, I just can't imagine anybody -- I don't remember that being, uh, being proposed, and I don't doubt that it was proposed but it just wasn't, wasn't anything that, that came to attention.

O'HARA: The decision to place a community college system under the state's flagship and land grant institution was considered unique across the nation. Some states developed independent governance structures such as North Carolina, um, and Florida for community college systems. In the case of North Carolina, they combined the technical schools 34:00with the community colleges eventually -- they had been separate for a while -- and then other states, such as Indiana, chose to develop four- year branch campuses of their state research or flagship institutions --

CORNETT: Um-hm.

O'HARA: -- instead of two-year. And that's where there's a difference in, in Kentucky, is -- these are sort of like branch campuses, but they're two-year.

CORNETT: Right.

O'HARA: They're community colleges.

CORNETT: Right.

O'HARA: Um, what alternative models were condit -- um, you've kind of already answered this, but are there any other alternative models that were initially considered for the governance structure at UK?

CORNETT: I don't think so. Um, in fact, I'm confident that there really wouldn't have been, and what we're -- the difference here in Kentucky and those other states would have, would have gotten to the heart of the difference in the whole political structure in Kentucky. We 35:00didn't have -- well, in Kentucky we probably, at that time, had the strongest office of governor in the country from the point of view of the governor dominating things politically. He got his way in those days. Uh, we didn't have that in, uh, didn't, we didn't have the kind of situation they had in, uh, South Carolina where you couldn't conceivably have done, you couldn't have set up a community college system without the legislature being deeply and substantively involved. A committee had to do it, which would have meant that you had to get an appropriation. You would have had to define exactly what you were doing, where you were going to put it. It would have gotten in that whole legislative process, executive process. Uh, they couldn't have 36:00done it any other way. In Kentucky, it wouldn't have made any sense at all to do it that way given, given the nature of the governor and his relationship with the universities. And, uh, I, I've noticed, noticed this not so many years after I was in Frankfort -- well, I guess, really not long after it. I was in a number of universities in the South doing a consulting project for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. They, uh, they were concerned then that some of the state governments were interfering with the prerogatives of the universities. They were using purchasing systems to make the universities do things. They were, they were impinging on academic 37:00freedom is what they were questioning. That was what the study was about. And, uh, and sure enough, you had, uh, you had, uh, state personnel departments reviewing faculty -- I guess maybe not quite literally faculty appointments, but an awful lot of the appointments, uh, in the universities. You had the pur-- central purchasing that was exercising substantive judgments over how the university spent their money. You had s-- had control from the state budget, the kind of line item controls listing all the items in the budget and controlling it from the central government. We didn't have that in Kentucky at all. You just, you had the, the control -- the relationship between Frankfort and the University of Kentucky was largely, it was not procedural. You didn't have this procedural approach. You had, you 38:00had the governor with enough power that he didn't need them and didn't want them. Uh, they, they went generally in the direction he wanted them to go in, and it was certainly with respect to the community college system, they would have. And, uh, that could have made a major difference. Uh, if the governor had had a legislative committee that he had to deal with, really deal with, it could have changed things coming in. It would be different today. If they were setting it up in Kentucky today, they would set it up as an independent entity, given the r-- nature of the legislature and the governor today probably, it would have, uh, it wouldn't have gone through the University of Kentucky in all likelihood. There would have had to be a driving force 39:00in the, in the politics to make it happen, though.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: People would have been having to be responding to something to make it happen today, but those forces would have been scattered. They would have been all over the place and you'd have had to pull them together through the regular, legislative political process. That wasn't the situation in Kentucky. You had the governor in position to do it.

O'HARA: And the, the governor's commission on the study of public higher education is not the type of committee you're talking about. You're talking about a legislative committee?

CORNETT: Where they make -- actually make the decisions. Yeah.

O'HARA: Interesting. Critics have attacked the University of Kentucky Community College System since its conception. What were the benefits and the drawbacks to having community colleges under the same governance structure as the state's research university?

40:00

CORNETT: Well, I don't, uh, I don't know. Uh, I think probably if I had to make a guess, my own guess -- well, I think if I were in charge of that operation, king. If I were king, as they say, I would want them, uh, fairly closely connected with the agricultural extension service at least conceptually. I don't mean organizationally, because the extension service is the only thing we've got in Kentucky that's really local, and these things are a whole lot more effective if they, if 41:00they're more than just where you come and take a course. They can do more than that at a community college. Uh, I saw an, an illustration of it at the Cumberland Community College not so long ago, the, uh, the state, uh, and county school board and then the -- ultimately the state school board decided to close up Cumberland High School, consolidated as part of it -- there's a lot of that going on. And the community college, some of the community college professors there joined in the fight to try to save the school, save the high school.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: They were part of the community.

O'HARA: Right.

CORNETT: The college was part of the community, and, uh, that's what, uh -- now I don't, I really don't have the impression that by and large the colleges, the community colleges are part of the community, uh, 42:00but I don't know. Uh, I don't know that that's the case. I have the impression that for the most part they're where you go to take courses and then you go, you get, you get your diploma and get your credits and go on, uh, rather than real parts of the community. Uh, but there was an exception there at Cumberland, and there's some exception in Hazard I see from time to time, too, with that, with the director they had there. He was -- he reached into the community.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: That's what I would do with them if I were worried about, particularly worried about that. I would do, I would do what I could to really make them a community's educational institution, their university, uh, and I would, I would pull them together. Of course, I, 43:00I'm saying the same things about the public schools, too.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: I'm working hard at that. Uh --

O'HARA: Many states chose to, um, well, in many states such as California -- it is a prime example that's usually noted -- the community colleges developed out of a local -- usually out of the local high schools and became more or less the thirteenth and fourteenth year in some --

CORNETT: Right.

O'HARA: -- states, and then they became their own entities, but they had a lot of local support, both, in the sense of they were nourished, but also economically, um, there was a tradition of tax revenues being set in --

CORNETT: We had, uh --

O'HARA: -- and you -- Kentucky's unique in that, because most of our community colleges, only two of them were municipally founded.

CORNETT: Paducah and, what, what, Ashland?

44:00

O'HARA: And Ashland. Um-hm.

CORNETT: Well, now you're, you're getting at a really important issue. Um, I don't think that issue of -- the question there of whether they're really a community in the full sense of the word as opposed to just a place where people go get a course and where, therefore, it doesn't make any difference what label you put on it -- uh, I don't think that ever got seriously considered for the reason you're talking about. They, we didn't need the communities when they started that. You weren't looking for community nurturing. Uh, now this has been long enough ago now that I suspect that you probably can't tell in Paducah or Ashland about the, the remnants of that community 45:00connection. You may be able to. There may still be some of it, but that would have been Ashland's college. That would have been the only nearest thing to the university they had.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: And, uh, and there are things universities can do with connecting with communities. By and large the only, the only thing I know of is systematic, regularized in Kentucky, is the, is the agricultural extension service. That's the only outreach that's really community --

O'HARA: Yeah.

CORNETT: -- that I know of in, in any of them.

O'HARA: You've brought up a key issue with these agriculture extension and also with the community colleges. What I've found in the archives, um, was a lot of talk about UK's land grant mission and their, one of their land grant responsibilities, as they saw it, was to provide 46:00services to the entire state, not just where they're physically located --

CORNETT: Um-hm.

O'HARA: -- in Lexington. And there was a paper I came across in Dr. Albright's files, in his papers, and it was written with an SR, uh, Southern Regional Education Board Grant. And it was looking at how to use community colleges, or extension branches they were referred to in 1960 -- they were just beginning to use the term community college, but I believe they used the term extension branch, um, intermittently, extension center -- but talking about them as a way of, of expanding their service mission across the state.

CORNETT: Um --

O'HARA: Are you, are you familiar with any of the philosophy?

CORNETT: Well, I've heard them talk about that off and on for years. I 47:00guess that specific one I'm not, uh --

[Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.]

CORNETT: -- but I just, uh, I've not seen any indication ever, really, that, that kind of conversation has ever been anything but conversation except with respect to the agriculture extension program. The extension has not been really connected with the community. It's not meant that. You might have used -- it would have, it would have, it would have meant using the community colleges maybe as an office for some of the university stuff, but from the point of view of really looking to the communities -- what is it we need out here in this university as your partner, your technical resource --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: -- that kind of connection has simply never been there, and 48:00that's a big loss. I don't know that it's been anywhere. I don't know that it's ever been anything but conversation at any universities, but it's, uh -- and I expect it probably has not been. I suspect that, uh, they're all -- what they do over here as nearly as I can tell, basically, is to have courses.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: You ever seen anything else out of them?

O'HARA: Generally speaking, I think there's mostly programs and courses, two-year courses. Um, I think at some of the, um, community colleges in eastern Kentucky they have some arts. I can't think of the one specifically, but I think they do more of a community arts --

CORNETT: There --

O'HARA: -- and theater and, uh, crafts --

CORNETT: They may be doing --

O'HARA: -- um, a special center.

CORNETT: That -- I -- they were doing some things at, uh, Hindman in 49:00Knott County with, as a part of that Hazard extension for Hazard. I'd be very curious to know whether that's continuing.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: Uh, they did stop construction on their building from the state money, and it, it'll be -- and the, the director of that community college who was philosophically committed to reaching out, left. It'd be real interesting to see. This gets into the nature of bureaucracy. They, they just, they have real trouble, all of them. It's the nature of the beast. They have real trouble in, in looking out there for their mission. They look to themselves for their mission.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: They're in-feeders, as somebody put it. It's just, uh, it's unfortunate, but it's the, it's the nature of the beast. And, uh, 50:00I guess -- well, when, uh, when they moved the university --the, the community colleges from UK into the, into the separate agencies back when? Five years ago or six years ago --

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: -- when they did that?

O'HARA: Ninety-seven.

CORNETT: They, um -- I remember for one thing, it just seemed to me that it didn't make a hell of a lot of difference one way or the other, but I talked with, uh, with one of the old heads over in the agricultural extension service -- uh, well, one of them that was out. He had been out actually, out in the field, and he had had the kind of working relationship with the, with the college that we're talking about, 51:00that you want -- and it was his reaction, too, even though he was a university guy, that it just didn't matter; that his relationship with those people was going to be the same because they were looking to the community for their cues anyway. The boss was the community, not the hierarchy.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: So the hierarchy one way or the other just didn't make any difference.

O'HARA: I see what you're saying.

CORNETT: So, uh, and that, that would be -- I noticed, uh, and I, I expect that's true. I expect it just doesn't matter.

O'HARA: That sort of leads into my last question.

CORNETT: Okay.

O'HARA: Pretty much. Um, both economic and political factors played a key role in, in the decision to initially grant the University of Kentucky, um, authority to establish a community college system, and my question was how did the debate over governance of Kentucky's 52:00community colleges change over time? Was there different issues in different decades that, that emerged because they, UK you said, as you said, it needed a place to nourish. The community colleges need to be nourished, and UK was there for them --

CORNETT: Right.

O'HARA: -- and had the flexibility. But as they become more stable and grew tremendously in the sixties and in the seventies, did the relationship with UK change over time?

CORNETT: And, I really can't tell you. I think A.D. can tell you a whole lot better than I can. He -- for one thing, A.D. after he left UK, was at one of the regional universities. As you probably know, he was president of Northern Kentucky and then he served for a while as, uh, executive director of the Council on Public Higher Education, the 53:00coordinator agency at the time. Uh, he can tell you a whole lot more about that than, than I can. Uh, I would strongly suspect, though, that once -- and this, just try this on A.D. and some of the others -- I would strongly suspect that not much change once they got over the initial startup period and, uh, once they -- nobody had to pay any attention to Bert Combs or Ned Breathitt anymore, you know, once it became stabilized, uh, I would strongly suspect that there wasn't anything much that changed after that. The university would have had somebody, a vice-president in charge of community colleges, and that vice-president would have, uh, would have made it as independent -- it, 54:00it would have run pretty much independent of the rest of the university. The rest of the university would have, uh, not had much interest in it one way or the other. There wouldn't have been much connection between the community colleges and the rest of the university would be my guess. Now, Stanley Wall could help you with that.

O'HARA: Right.

CORNETT: Uh, Charles Wethington could help you with that. Um, they would have -- once a year, they would have fought over money, you know. The community college people would have wanted more and, you know, the rest of the university would have said, "No, we want it."

O'HARA: Um-hm. (both laugh)

CORNETT: That, that would have gone on, but that, those kinds of facts would have largely been settled, too; that is through they'd have had 55:00a -- they'd have made their peace. They'd have, uh, uh, there, there would have been -- everybody would have known how much political base the other side had. So that'd be my guess that there's just not much difference. Now something that I'd like to be, that I'd be curious about, and, uh, one of these days would like to find out -- I don't know whether this is relevant to your work or not, but I'd like to know what Paul Patton was really thinking when he went to war with the university over, over the issue of the community college. Do you know? Have you heard any --

O'HARA: I don't know. I'm, I'm as much in the dark on that as, uh, um, as I have been with my initial study, um, of the initial creation, but, 56:00uh, I'm, I'm also curious. It's, it's very interesting to, um, to try to understand the, the motivations and, uh, behind major decisions.

CORNETT: Well, that one was a, was a battle that Patton didn't have to take on. You know, that, uh, and the university did fight him over it, uh, and I, as far as I can tell, the fighting was, well, just, you know, "Hey, this is mine. You can't have it." I, I didn't see anything deeper than that in it --(both laugh)-- to tell you the truth, but, uh, I don't know what was prompting him and it would be too soon to really ask him. He's not been out of office long enough. Uh, uh, he would, uh, he would tell you and be convinced, I'm satisfied, that, uh, that 57:00his, uh, that this all had to do with better integration of technical education, and I don't think that's happening except at the top. I don't think, I don't think there's anything happening at the level of colleges on that. If there is, I haven't heard tell of it, so I don't know.

O'HARA: Um-hm.

CORNETT: That'd be a real interesting one, and one of these days after he's been out of office a while, we -- I'll go up to Pikeville and kind of corner him and --(O'Hara laughs)-- uh, his, uh, the people around him -- he didn't have, well, he didn't have any real educators advising him on this. It -- this was political. His advisor on it was at the 58:00state's appointment, state Senator from, from, uh, Cynthiana, Senator Ed Ford, who was, uh -- that was his so-called education advisor in government; special assistant for education. And Senator Ford, uh, is a good politician but is really not an edu -- it's, it's the politics of education that he's -- was his interest, and I, I couldn't -- if, if this, if this change from the university to the separate system had any kind of real deep educational thinking behind it, uh, they've kept it a secret. So I don't know. I don't know why they did it. I don't know what was on Paul Patton's mind, but he -- of course, he would have had some buddies. He would have had the regionals who would say, "Yeah, 59:00let's bust them." (both laugh)

O'HARA: So it's been a reoccurring -- history seems to, um, repeat itself with, uh, similar themes coming back --

CORNETT: Yeah.

O'HARA: -- and with the same struggles in higher education; maybe manifest themselves differently, but they're -- you still see them.

CORNETT: They're, uh -- I guess some things don't -- human nature doesn't change, and na--

O'HARA: That's interesting.

CORNETT: -- nature of bureaucracies doesn't change too much either.

O'HARA: Um-hm. Are there any questions I have not asked that you wish I had?

CORNETT: (laughs) Well, that's a good question for an interview. Well, I guess, I guess not. Uh, I, I guess a question might be what 60:00difference has it made; that is, what difference does the presence of, does the presence of the community colleges make? Uh, the point, uh, would, would we be as well off if, uh, if we did have just a series of, uh, classes going on out there where a Morehead professor would go in on Tuesday and teach something or other?

O'HARA: More like a four-year branch model, perhaps?

CORNETT: Well, again, I -- the, uh -- I guess I can get into some of my, some of the philosophies that I hold dear on education. John Goodlad, 61:00uh, grew up in Canada out near, out in the country near Vancouver, and he wanted to be a school teacher; went to a country school, three-room school himself and then, and then when he got his teaching certificate they, uh -- the university sent a teacher to the high school and they had a year's course there at the high school. And he took the course and got his teachers' certificate, and at age nineteen then he got a job as a one-room schoolteacher there in the rural section of Canada, over there near Vancouver. Uh, they, they did that because they needed teachers. You know, they, they couldn't -- they weren't going to get enough teachers, if the teachers had to go off to a -- now I guess, 62:00uh, responding to local needs like that -- I've got an uncle who just died recently, uh, who had been a schoolteacher up in the mountains of Kentucky and died at age ninety-eight. And, uh, so he had wonderful, wonderful memories, and he was just seventeen when he got his teachers' certificate. He had gone to a, well, he'd grown up there in a one-room school in his own community, but then went off to the county seat and to high school, got his high school diploma and that summer he took a, took a course -- or, uh, took an examination, not a course -- in the courthouse that somebody administered that qualified him as a teacher. 63:00I guess it proved he could read and write and decipher a little, and then he went to his hometown, home community were all the trustees, the ones who did the hiring, were his, were his kinfolk. So they hired him at age seventeen. I guess all I really would reach for is, uh, is for, um, those communities, those -- the things, uh, that, that are out there being strengthened. I would rather see the universities and the colleges and the high schools come off their pedestals, come off their high horses and respond to what's out there, I guess.

O'HARA: The community needs?

CORNETT: And if we did that, we'd have a whole lot better system, but I -- and I don't see that having happened, uh, and I don't guess, uh, 64:00I, I don't know anything that can be done from Frankfort or to help it happen. I'll get you something, uh, up here, let's maybe print you something off that Roger and I are working on. You might just find interesting, just --

O'HARA: Great.

CORNETT: -- just as an aside. Got nothing to do with community colleges, but --

O'HARA: Okay. Well, I just want to thank you for taking the time to, uh --

CORNETT: Well, I've enjoyed it.

O'HARA: -- conduct this interview with me.

CORNETT: Let me run up here and get you --

[End of interview.]

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