0:00

O'HARA: This is an interview with Barbara Veazey in her office in Paducah, Kentucky, at West Kentucky Community and Technical College conducted by Adina O'Hara on May 22, 2007. Dr. Veazey, Paducah Junior College, a municipal two-year college, merged into the University of Kentucky Community College System in July of 1968. What was your role in the operation of Paducah Junior College in the decades that followed?

VEAZEY: By the -- when I joined the college in 1973, that was as a nursing instructor, and the college was Paducah Community College. The -- my early recollections of being a faculty member were it was a 1:00very exciting time. That was a period of growth for the college, and there were several, though, at the college who remembered very strongly Paducah Junior College and had those ties. And they were at that time making the transition to Paducah Community College under the University of Kentucky, so they would be reminiscing and talking about when it was Paducah Junior College and located in the downtown area. At the time that I joined the college, there were several faculty members who had been hired under Paducah Junior College. The former -- Dean Matheson of Paducah Junior College was on campus quite a bit during 2:00those days. I remember him coming to my office and talking about the way the college was and what was happening now. He was still very, very interested in the college, what was happening, very interested in the nursing program, because the nursing program was originally located in the Carson Hall basement. And some of the early locations changed as the college grew. When I joined the college in 1973, the Matheson Learning Resource Center had been built. My office was in that location, as well as the office of the other nursing faculty and the laboratory for nursing at that point in time. I can't remember how 3:00many students were enrolled at that time, but I would say probably in the 30s, in terms of a graduating class. It couldn't have been much more than that, if that amount. Maybe it was somewhere around 25 that we graduated a year. But what was happening in the college at that point in time, when I sit now and reflect back on that period of time, is that the -- that was the beginning of the community college movement across America. And community colleges were beginning, and all of the faculty at that point in time were in their 20s. I mean, we had some older faculty, of course, who had been with Paducah Junior College, but they were very few. And all of the faculty that were being hired 4:00were in their 20s and early 20s, and we were all energetic, excited, and just absolutely so pleased to be a part of a community college. I think we -- that was the generation coming off of the '60s, and we were committed. We were committed to a concept, committed to a philosophy. And for someone like me whose background was nursing, that was -- that fit beautifully with, you were trying to help your community, you were trying to educate your community, and you saw the community college as the door for opportunity for individuals. So the faculty who joined 5:00at that period of time, we were all closely linked with a common goal. And we grew older (laughs) with the institution, and now you're seeing all of those individuals retiring. And I think that that's been talked about for certainly a decade, that this was going to happen, and how you prepared the next generation for the roles of leadership that we all in some fashion moved into. So that's what you're seeing now. But at that point in time when we were growing, we were growing in leadership roles, either at faculty roles that became chairs of the senate or in administrative positions, chairs of departments moving on into dean positions. So it was an exciting time. I remember it as 6:00being a very exciting time, one of growth. And we didn't have a large budget, by any means. We always struggled with money, and I think that's probably a continuing struggle that community colleges have had across the country. But there was -- we were operating on little budgets but had great dreams at that point in time.

O'HARA: Paducah Junior College was the state's first municipal two-year college. How does this unique heritage of coming from a junior college -- how did it affect Paducah Community College's relationship with the city of Paducah?

VEAZEY: Well, what happened when Paducah Junior College was formed, 7:00it was formed with a municipal tax base. And the leaders of that and the founders of Paducah Junior College were certainly the leading businessmen, business leaders in the community. So when they thought -- and I've heard stories about how the college was formed, that it was a group of five or six men sitting around having coffee, talking about the need to be able to educate Paducahans or our area residents without them having to leave home, because most of them were not capable of doing that, but to be able to provide the educational resources for them at the local level, and that was how the whole idea evolved. I think the establishment of the tax base has helped -- has been what has 8:00allowed this college to stand apart in many ways from the other colleges within Kentucky, the other community colleges. Paducah Junior College had a strong base, in terms of what it could bring . . . it was an already-established college when it joined the University of Kentucky Community College System. So that was a strong base for it to be able to launch into other areas or more programming and more courses.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: The University of Kentucky allowed the college to broaden. I mean, there's no doubt about that. If you were a small independent college within a community, being a part of the University of Kentucky 9:00Community College System certainly allowed much more diversity, much more opportunities that you could do as a part of a larger system than you could ever have done as an independent college. But what happened is, that tax base continued and continues today in support of this college. Now, that's a tremendous help to allow the college to be different and to be able to do things independently that it could never do as a part of the University of Kentucky Community College System or later as a part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The tax base -- and when PJC became Paducah Community College, the tax base and the board that controlled or were the overseers or the 10:00stewards, the stewards of the taxpayers' money, it was always intended that that money be used to enhance Paducah Community College, not to support in lieu of what the state should do, but to be able to offer enhancements to allow this college to be in the forefront to do many more things for this community. So I do believe that in the early days with -- and even later as a part of the University of Kentucky, there was the feeling that you have that local tax base, so therefore you can support certain things on your own. I think that that was -- 11:00it was certainly an advantage, but at the same time I think that money many times did not come to this college because of the knowledge that the tax base was here and was available if something needed to be fixed or you had a roof repair, "Well, just do it with your tax base or tax money, that board, the PJC Foundation."

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: So I think in later years, that was recognized, and there was a huge attempt -- and it was successful -- in moving that money truly into what could be used as enhancements to this college, but not to the day-to-day operations of this college.

O'HARA: What are some examples in academic, curriculum, special programs that Paducah Community College and, well now, West Kentucky Community and Technical College can offer the community because of that 12:00additional tax revenue?

VEAZEY: Well, I think I certainly could cite things today, but I think what was critical or what I see as one of the stellar things that occurred in the early days with the use of the tax dollars was the creation of our television department, distance learning, but -- ITV, those very early -- I'll use the television department, of actually having a building, having a department that was funded through PJC at that point in time, took on operating a cable channel, a city -- a government channel. They were the ones that were instrumental in the state of Kentucky in the initial use of interactive television. That 13:00was all a result of local tax dollars going into that initiative, and that occurred in the '80s. But that was the very beginning of all of the use of ITV. I remember that; I remember the expansion of the nursing program as a result of local tax dollars. They funded nursing faculty positions that allowed us to increase our enrollment. And the community of Paducah has never suffered a nursing shortage in the history of their medical community. They may hit some bumps in the road where we have a surplus or we may, you know, have a little blip, but nothing that has occurred statewide or nationally, and I think it's the forward-thinking of the medical community in its relationship 14:00with the college, but using those PJC tax dollars in those days to fund additional faculty, to fund admitting a second class a year, things of that nature. I think some of the technical programs -- and we had very few, very few before we consolidated with the technical college, but physical therapy, the launching of new programs. The use of PJC dollars helped that then and helps it now, so it's been a huge advantage to this college.

O'HARA: And it's got a -- because of its basis, it's got a large, beautiful campus. As you know, like you said, it already had the foundation. So for example, sitting in your office here, this is one of the older community college buildings I've been in. And it's very nice, very historic.

VEAZEY: Well, I think another key tie with Paducah Junior College is the 15:00-- one of the unique aspects is that it's now solely a foundation board for West Kentucky Community and Technical College, when at the time of Paducah Community College, it was an advisory board. And with the new legislation, it became truly a foundation board. But the uniqueness is that there are currently lifetime appointments. Now, that's certainly something that could be a subject all unto itself, but the uniqueness of lifetime appointments and the strong heritage of the Paducah Junior College aura of this former campus and downtown, coming out here today, 16:00means that that has maintained that tie to the community. And the people who serve on the board have always been considered to be Paducah leaders. So you have a huge tie-in and buy-in from the community for the college. They're very proud of this college. They're very proud of what it's been able to do for the community. That still exists today. Now, it's always surprising to me that more people don't know about (laughs) the college, and that, you know, people would be surprised that you're able to do certain things. But that being said, the tie with Paducah Junior College and what it was originally has maintained strong community support for the college.

17:00

O'HARA: You've mentioned several of the economic benefits that the community college has brought with the nursing working very closely. What are some of the cultural benefits? In going back to the community college years, some of the community colleges promoted cultural activities by arranging for entertainers or lecturers to come and appear at the colleges on a regular basis. Or other communities found out what the local community wanted, like arts and crafts, or promoted local artists. And what were some of those activities in the '70s and '80s that you recall?

VEAZEY: Well, the Arts in FOCUS program, I mentioned earlier. The television program, the distance learning, those were academic programs. But the Clemens Fine Arts Building was, of course, the -- I 18:00guess the showcase place on campus for what we call our Arts in FOCUS programming series. But in those very early days, I don't remember it, but people talk about it having performances in the Rosenthal lecture hall area. I remember having performances in the gymnasium. I remember going to performances at Tilghman High School. They were all sponsored by the college, and they were what was called Arts in FOCUS. And that name continues today for our performing arts series. In the early days, that was chaired by and it was launched by Sara Penry, and that was under the presidency of Dr. Don Clemens. And the 19:00PJC board gave 'X' number of dollars for those performances each year. And they would be -- entertainers would be booked, and they would come in, and maybe we would have, you know, three or four performances a year. And that would all be underwritten by Paducah Junior College Foundation or Paducah Junior College, Inc. And that was the only -- at that point in time the only entertainment, only cultural opportunity that was provided to the region was through Arts in FOCUS. We didn't have Market House Theatre at that time. We didn't have the Four Rivers -- or the Carson Center Performing Arts, so it was really a pioneer 20:00in promoting the arts in the community. I think as a result many of these other things have evolved. Now, I don't know that anyone would particularly say, "Oh, this is due to Arts in FOCUS at the college," but it certainly was a strong presence at that point in time, along with -- there was a community -- sort of a community concert association that did some things like that as well. But they didn't have the money base, again, that PJC had. They were doing it through ticket sales or charitable donations. And when you have a base of money that you can put out for a performing art series every year, yes, you hope you'll have ticket sales, but if you don't really rely on that to be able to have a program the next year, then you're pretty much assuring success. And those are some of the things that PJC did do.

21:00

O'HARA: You mentioned earlier technical programs and how more recently, since the change in governance in '97, you've obviously -- West Kentucky Community and Technical College has been able to offer a lot more technical programs than in the past. But going back to the time when there was West Kentucky Industrial College and Paducah Community College -- and both institutions have undergone many name changes and governance -- during the '70s and the '80s and even the '90s, do you -- during your tenure, do you -- were you aware of any coordination between Paducah Community College and West Kentucky Industrial College -- or West Kentucky is a part of Kentucky Tech, I believe, at that point?

VEAZEY: It was. Well you know, I just didn't think I would remember much about these questions.

O'HARA: You're doing great (laughs).

VEAZEY: I thought, "I won't remember this," but this has really 22:00triggered a big memory, and that is, in -- oh, it had to have been -- it was 1988, but let me back up and say there really was no real coordination between -- in 1978-79 PJC donated the land for Kentucky -- for what is now, it's the Anderson Technical Building is what we call it, but at that time it was West Kentucky Industrial School or West Kentucky Vocational School at that point in time. And PJC donated the land to have the facility moved from on Joe Clifton Drive where it was established in 1909 to this campus. That whole story has also 23:00a whole story, because those who -- it had been an African-American college, strictly African-American trades, and they had dormitories and a whole culture of programs, of people who loved that school with a passion. And so when it moved to this new location, there were some very bitter feelings, and those feelings, surprisingly, exist to this day, from a buy-in of the African-American community who were students of the school in the '60s -- '50s and '60s -- '40s, '50s, '60s. And when it moved to its new location, it became totally integrated and then evolved into, certainly minority African-American populations 24:00being very much the minority because you became so large and it grew so. But there was -- so there was very little coordination. In fact, I don't think there was any that I can remember between the two institutions. But in 1988, under Senator Helen Garrett, the Allied Health Building was funded as a joint project between the technical system -- technical-vocational school system and Paducah Community College. It was the first in the state to have a collaborative initiative between vocational and community colleges. So it was funded in 1988. I remember very clearly, I was the coordinator of the 25:00nursing program at that time, Dr. Clemens calling me in and trying to be really cheerleadery, upbeat, "Wow, this is wonderful. We're going to have a whole new building, and you're going to be able to move the nursing program over there. And it will be in a joint facility with the technical school." Well, that doesn't sound too -- I mean, no one was overjoyed by that at all. You get into your -- it's like -- it's a later version -- that was an earlier version of consolidation.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: And so no one was looking forward to that at all. And at that point in time, it was about 19- -- well, it was funded in '88, but by the time they went through the planning and then they started building it, it was coming on board in 1990, '91. And at that point in time, the 26:00University of Kentucky was cited for a lack of women in administration, and they started then a leadership program. It was under the University of Kentucky Community College System, but it was all under UK's umbrella. And they were looking for individuals to start grooming for administrative -- upper-level administrative positions within the system and certainly targeting women and minorities. But at that time we were -- you know, women were not in the forefront at all.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: So I was chosen in that very first class to be in that leadership program, and my project was to consolidate and move us into that Allied Health Building and it be the first-ever -- our first initiative in the state. So in that was in 1990 that all of that was 27:00happening, and we had a new president come on board in 1991, Dr. Len O'Hara. So moving us into the building, start-up of all the equipment, furnishings, relationships, and how we would all share everything was happening at that point in time. That really became the model, then, for later joint use of facilities throughout the state of Kentucky.

O'HARA: What a foreshadowing of events!

VEAZEY: Well, true, and then in -- gosh, it was the early to mid-'90s. It was mid-'90s. The -- you could see the dire need for the community and technical colleges to have a stronger relationship, and you could 28:00-- you know, every year it came up, that the community colleges needed to be removed from the University of Kentucky and they needed to be combined with the technical colleges. Or you would here about taking the technical colleges as a part of the community college system in Kentucky. So you heard this every year. About the time it got around to a legislative session, you would hear that being talked about. And no one ever thought that this would ever really happen, but you would hear it. So it was starting to gain momentum in the mid '90s. And so what happened was we put together a group from the technical -- technical was not technical college at the time, but vocational- technical school -- and the community college in the technical programs 29:00of, like, CAD. It wasn't called industrial maintenance at that point in time, but something of that nature. We put together this committee that developed parallel courses. If you -- well, actually it was -- you would take your Gen Ed courses here, and then we would give credit -- the community college would give credit for the technical courses at West Kentucky. And then a student would come out with a degree in technical studies. And we validated the coursework done at West Kentucky by bringing in outside consultants to say that, "I have reviewed the curriculum, I have reviewed the competencies in the class, 30:00I reviewed the labs, and this is the equivalent of a three-credit-hour class at Wytheville Community College in multiple areas." And so we then -- this college developed that very first technical studies program that was then to later become, again, a model for the beginning of the community and technical college -- what later became called the General Occupation and Technical Studies degree, the GOT, AASGOTS.

O'HARA: Which is still in use in the system.

VEAZEY: Mm-mm. But that all started here.

O'HARA: That's amazing. I didn't know where that came from. That's a great story.

VEAZEY: It started here.

O'HARA: Wow!

VEAZEY: And actually, that was when I interviewed for the presidency. I had -- I mean, I had worked with the community college (laughs) and the technical college on getting into the Allied Health Building. I had 31:00-- I was dean of academic affairs when that technical studies degree was developed, and so I was -- had some history of working with the technical college individuals.

O'HARA: That's amazing. That's a fascinating story. That is really neat. It's really neat to know that all that was brewing prior to legislation.

VEAZEY: Well, it really was, and I think it was the -- you know, you can think that everyone's heart was in the right place and we were doing it for the right reason, but really we were doing it to try to say that we could make this work without actually removing the community colleges from UK or putting the technical colleges and the community colleges together under one system. That was really the driving force.

32:00

O'HARA: And you mentioned that there was a change of leadership in '91 when you were starting to go through the consolidation with the Allied Health Building and bringing everyone together. So what type of leadership support were you getting? Was it the leadership was definitely really behind this idea of working more closely with the technical college? Or was it sort of at the beginning something you had to work on?

VEAZEY: Well, I can remember talking with former Governor Julian Carroll after my -- after I became president. And it was just a -- it was not a conversation that had anything to do with -- you know, with the governance of the college. It was just a conversation. And he was talking about -- he was then governor when the land was given 33:00to the vocational school to move out onto this whole land owned by Paducah Junior College, because all of this is owned by Paducah Junior College for the most part, and that he -- you know, he always thought that at point in time -- or that at some point the two schools would consolidate or merge, as people used to call it. I talked -- I've since talked to Dr. Don Clemens since I've been the president. And we had dinner together, talked about -- he wanted to know what was happening with the college, how things were going, and his comments were, "I always wanted us to be able to consolidate. I just always wanted that to happen but we could never make any inroads in that." And then I became the dean of academic affairs shortly after Dr. 34:00Len O'Hara became the president of Paducah Community College. And I can truly say that Dr. O'Hara, from day one, always wanted the technical college and the community college to be consolidated. And the technical studies was an avenue to begin that process, but that he always knew that the future really had to be linked, because, you know, how do you do just -- you're just a liberal arts college here, which some would want -- you know, many people wanted this to just be a little uppity liberal arts college in far Western Kentucky. But that's just not going to get you anywhere in today's world.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: And so people who realized the future of economic development 35:00knew that the only path to take was to join the two colleges together. So I think those who, you know, were the leaders of the college and the leaders of the community -- the leaders of the community were always behind consolidation. And so I think here -- and I know that wasn't the case everywhere, but here they were solidly behind consolidation. And the people who held that back, it was the faculty and the staff. And you know, nobody wanted change and no one wanted to have to get together and try to figure all of this out if you didn't have to.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: And so it really was the resistance, I believe, of the troops (laughs) that kept it in the background for as long as it was, at least at Paducah's level.

36:00

O'HARA: That's interesting. It gives me a real insider snapshot of how a community college and a technical college can merge -- technical school. I'd love to interview you more on the current system. That's very interesting.

VEAZEY: Well, I do think -- I am the only community college -- community and technical college president that has been moved up from within the ranks of the college, the only one that has stayed in one college environment and moved up. Now, Pat Lake and Bruce Ayers and Ed Hughes and Tony Newberry were with the community college system and have stayed in the system and moved into the role of president. But I'm the only 37:00one who has stayed within the same environment and saw the college -- changes in the varying years -- or in the years in a different system.

O'HARA: It appears to me, as looking -- it's your adaptability. It really impresses me, and the foresight. And of course, you had great support and leadership. But it's just amazing that back in the '80s and '90s, some of these early movements toward consolidation were already occurring, and you were open.

VEAZEY: Well, they were occurring, and I think -- you know, you saw that -- if you read anything (laughs), that the technical -- you know, the technical fields, that was going to be the need for the future in terms 38:00of getting a job.

O'HARA: Economic development.

VEAZEY: That's right. And so you could -- this college, I'll talk about Paducah Community College. And because I'm from Paducah, you know, I've heard it so many times, it's just such a loss for people to have had that name change or to have lost what they felt that this college was. And they really felt it was a wonderful little college, and they never saw those technical programs -- nursing, physical therapy, business, they didn't really consider that technical. Those were --

O'HARA: Even though they were a part of the curriculum (laughs).

VEAZEY: But they didn't see that as technical. What they think about 39:00as technical is, you know, HVAC or machine tool, welding, those real hands-on, get-your-hands-dirty kind of fields that they just did not want that to be part of the -- what was Paducah Junior College and then Paducah Community College. And when I say everyone was behind consolidation, I'm talking about people like the mayor and the head of the chamber of commerce. But you had some community members who really did not see that those two belonged together. But people who really were out there trying to bring in industry and who knew what kind of skills were needed to be able to attract industry knew that they needed to consolidate. And then when you carry that on, we -- 40:00our community leaders, in terms of the economic development leaders, the mayor, knew that we did not have the courses or the faculty or the equipment to be able to attract industry now or to be able to serve industry well. And that's why they were so pushing this back in 2002 when I became president. I mean, we were one of the last colleges to consolidate, even though we had been in the forefront of trying to do some curriculum development, that sort of thing. But it was the people's resistance that made it linger until 2002.

O'HARA: So when you became president, how did you pull it all together?

41:00

VEAZEY: Oh, I have (laughs) --

O'HARA: (laughs) That's a loaded question.

VEAZEY: I do not know how I did it. Well, I think that by then, when I was hired, everyone knew that we were going to consolidate because we were in the last stages. It had been attempted previously and thwarted. So by the time that 2002 rolled around, everyone knew, You're going to do this, it's going to have to happen. And so by then, quite frankly, I could see where we were going and knew that's where we were going, and no one would be derailed on that path. And I had people that were working very closely with me and who knew the way to go, and people 42:00might not like it, and they were going to have to either get on board or leave. And quite frankly, that's it. That sounds a little more ruthless and heartless than I actually was in making it happen.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: But you knew that this is what needed to happen, and it was going to happen, and we were not going to be out of the loop on this one (laughs). It was going to happen. And so you just -- I just took that path and never veered from it.

O'HARA: That's impressive. That's unique, to see that it was in the forefront and then it kind of went stalemate, and then -- but they -- I can see why now. They made a good choice. I mean, it's obvious with your background, that's unique.

VEAZEY: Well --

O'HARA: And you knew the whole -- I mean, you knew the academics, the political, you knew the system in and out (laughs).

43:00

VEAZEY: I'll tell you, I think it's pretty interesting that Dr. McCall invited me up to Lexington -- this was in 2001 -- to be -- after Dr. O'Hara was retiring, to serve as the interim president while they searched for a new president. And so I said, "Are you -- ." You know, I can't say that I was just dying to be the college president, but I had served as interim in '96-'97. During the House Bill 1 war, I was interim president.

O'HARA: Wow!

VEAZEY: So I really didn't have a desire to be interim president again and do all that work and, you know, knock myself out, which I knew I would, without really being president. So I said, "Are you going 44:00to consider -- would you consider an internal candidate?" And he was lovely, but he said, "No," which I really appreciated him being upfront and honest. And he said, "No. It's going to take someone from the outside to be able to do this. I really think it will." And I said, "I understand, I understand. I'll think about it. I'll give it some thought and I'll get back with you." But I knew when I walked out the door that there was no way I was going to do an interim again. So I never, ever had any inkling of actually being offered the position of college president. I just threw my hat in the ring as one of those statements that, I'm going to do this just because I don't want to be totally bypassed just because I've chosen to stay at this college. It was a deliberate choice, because I loved the college and I loved Paducah, and I didn't want to leave.

45:00

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

VEAZEY: So --

O'HARA: And that was the next step up in leadership.

VEAZEY: It was never really -- I never really thought that that position would be offered. But I've always been grateful that it was.

O'HARA: I remember seeing it announced, and I wondered, I thought, "She's internal. That is so unique."

VEAZEY: Well, it is unique.

O'HARA: But it takes a unique person to fill those boots and to prove that you could, you know, definitely take it into its next level.

VEAZEY: Well, I'm coming up on my fifth anniversary, and I can look back and say that there are -- you know, there are great advantages, but there are huge disadvantages to being an internal person as well. So you know, you can look at it both ways, but it worked here.

O'HARA: It did, it did. But you have a good point. Sometimes they say you have to leave the nest, and --

VEAZEY: Sure. You know people or you -- people would react totally 46:00different to an outsider or a -- you know, someone coming in. Their reactions are --

Search This Transcript
SearchClear