Colleges at UK – a history

Did you know that the University of Kentucky was born out of a college within another University? What we know now as UK was originally derived from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the Kentucky University.

clip of a map of Lexington in 1877

1877 Lexington city map

The Kentucky University was created out of the merging in 1865 of two earlier institutions, Bacon College of Harrodsburg and Transylvania College. The newly merged university had been granted substantial initial funding from the federal government through the Morrill Act of 1862.

In 1878 the state separated the Agricultural and Mechanical College from Kentucky University, and the next year founded the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky under the leadership of James Kennedy Patterson. The new institution was placed in a Lexington park and fairgrounds (the 52 acre Maxwell Springs where military encampments and political barbeques/debates had historically been located), south of the city limits.

1882 Agriculture & Mechanical College; first 3 buildings and smokestack (left

1882 Agriculture & Mechanical College (left-right: President’s house, White Hall Men’s Dormitory, smokestack, Administration/Main Building)

The Kentucky College’s male students dressed and marched as military cadets. In 1880 the Kentucky legislature called for the establishment of a teacher training program at the College, and subsequently 43 women students enrolled here for the first time. Pictures of these early days as the Kentucky College can be found in the UK Archives website.

In 1908 the College was renamed State University, Lexington, Kentucky; and Transylvania returned to its historic name used today.  In 1916, the State University was renamed the University of Kentucky. (See more details on this in the University Archives website.)

The earliest versions of UK’s colleges supported vocational training in agriculture and engineering (the classical liberal curriculum we associate with UK baccalaureate degrees today came with the reforms by President Patterson in the late 19th century). By 1908, when Kentucky State College became the State University, the legislature reassign the responsibility for training teachers for the elementary grades to the Normal schools at Bowling Green and Richmond – the UK Department of Education was assigned the mission of training high school educators and superintendents.  The State University comprised the following colleges:

  • College of Agriculture (now the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment)
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Law
  • Colleges of Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Mines and Metals (merged in 1918 to create the College of Engineering)

The Graduate School was founded in 1912. Today the Graduate School administers 64 doctoral, 98 master’s and 4 specialist degree programs. In addition 29 graduate certificates are administratively housed in the Graduate School.

UK physiological chemistry lab, April 1917

Segregated physiological chemistry lab, April 1917; Mary E. Sweeney, instructor, at right.

Then in 1916 the University’s Department of Home Economics in the College of Agriculture formed a new College of Home Economics that would focus on the scientific management of women’s domestic work, efficiency and consumer research in child development. The first woman dean of an academic college at UK, Mary E. Sweeney (see the Wikipedia article recently completed) came from the having taught physics and chemistry at Campbell-Hagerman College in Lexington (a girl’s school) and five years as an agricultural extension agent in rural Kentucky.  While in the field, she had introduced hot school lunches as well as courses in cooking and sewing in Kentucky rural schools. The College lasted only one year – Sweeney was appointed to be the chair of home economics for the U.S. Food Administration and direct the nation’s food rationing programs in World War I. The University merged it back into the College of Agriculture in 1917. Then in July 1967, the College created the School of Home Economics. In May 5, 1970, the School was promoted again to a College status, again with a female dean and a predominately female faculty. It was renamed the College of Human Environmental Sciences on January 22, 1991, with the addition of the Department of Interior Design (now situated within the UK College of Design). The College was dissolved, and the University’s only African-American woman dean, Dr. Retia Walker, was reassigned to lead the Office of Experiential Education and organize volunteer opportunities for students. The College faculty and staff moved into the predominately white male College of Agriculture to become the School of Human Environmental Sciences there on July 1, 2003.

In 1923, the College of Arts & Science’s Department of Education became a College.

The Gatton College of Business and Economics, founded in 1925 as the College of Commerce which became the College of Business and Economics in 1966, was named for its generous benefactor, Carol Martin Gatton, in 1995.

The College of Pharmacy was founded in 1947 (originally established in 1870 in Louisville). In 1956, the first Dean of the UK College of Medicine, William R. Willard, helped to create the UK Medical Center; and the College of Medicine accepted its first class of 40 students in 1960. The Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing also started up in 1956. The School of Allied Health Personnel was created in 1966, renamed the School of Allied Health Professions the next year and by 1970 was raised to a college – it was renamed the College of Health Sciences in 2002.

In 1964 the School of Architecture separated from the College of Engineering and was raised to a College of Architecture in 1970. In 2002 the School of Interior Design was removed from the College of Human and Environmental Sciences and placed along side the School of Architecture and the Department of Historic Preservation – renaming them together as the College of Design.

In 1968 two educational units separated from the College of Arts and Sciences to become their own educational units.

  • The School of Social Professions was raised to College of Social Professions in 1970 and renamed College of Social Work in 1980.
  • The School of Library Science was raised to a College of Library Science in May 1970.  In 1982 it was renamed the College of Library and Information Science.

The College of Arts & Sciences spawned two more colleges in 1976:

  • The College of Fine Arts was created out of three departments that separated from the College of Arts & Sciences: School of Music, Department of Art, and Department of Theatre Arts.
  • The College of Communications came from the School of Journalism and the Department of Human Communications out of the College of Arts & Sciences. In 1993 the College of Library and Information Science merged with Communications to become the College of Communications and Information Studies (housing both the separately accredited Schools – Journalism, and Library and Information Science. It was renamed the College of Communication and Information in July 2012.

In 1997 the founding Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Louis Swift (a Classics professor in the College of Arts & Sciences), having led the University successfully through the process of creating the new general education program (the University Studies Program) a decade before, became responsible for several educational programs in the College of Arts & Sciences:

  • the University’s Honors Program,
  • the Undergraduate Research Program,
  • the Discovery Seminar Program, and
  • the Central Advising & Transfer Center.

As chair of the Undergraduate Council, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies already had a strong governance role that was University-wide, and in 1999 began reporting to the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Services instead of the Dean of Arts & Sciences. In 2000 with the reorganization of the University to a Provost model and the appointment of Dr. Phil Kraemer as the new Dean of Undergraduate Studies, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education was created as a member of the Provost’s senior staff. This position now has oversight of faculty in the UK Honors Program, the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence and the faculty director of the new Undergraduate Certificate for Global Studies. Under the Dean of Undergraduate Studies,  nearly 50 different courses under the “University-wide” designation are offered each year with students earning totals of as many as 2,340 credit hours (with a headcount enrollment of nearly 2,500 students). The Senior Assistant Dean (formerly of the Central Advising & Transfer Center) and the Undergraduate Studies professional advising staff administer the academic status and advising needs of as many as 5,000 students in any one semester who are not affiliated with a formal college.

The University’s youngest college is the College of Public Health which was founded July 1, 2004.

*** See also ***

Bibliography of UK History, compiled by University Archivists Terry Birdwhistell and Tom Rosko.

About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Exploratory Students, General Education, UK Core, Undergraduate Curriculum and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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