Skip to main content

Otis A. Singletary Oral History Project: Otis A. Singletary Oral History Project: Part II

This guide will help you find primary source oral history interviews pertaining to former University of Kentucky President Otis A. Singletary.

Annotated Guide to the Otis A. Singletary Oral History Project: Part II

If not available online, audio copies and/or transcripts of the interviews in this project are available in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

 

89OH06 OAS17

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  January 12, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 10 minutes

Audio Conditions:  Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary discusses current events in higher education.  Singletary talks about problems in the universities in Kentucky, such as politics, finances, and administrative turnovers.  He speaks a great deal about former governors Edward T. Breathitt and Louie B. Nunn being named to the board of trustees at Kentucky State University.  He talks about each individual’s character and the way they compliment each other.  Singletary discusses the position of anyone in a leadership role (whether it is at a university or elsewhere). 

Singletary says that there is a need for strength on a board of a university so that things may get accomplished.  He does say, however, there the state should not overstep its bounds when it comes to matters of education.  He again discusses freedom of speech v. freedom of action.  Finally, he talks about African American students at higher education institutions, as well as affirmative action bringing minority faculty in to the University of Kentucky.

 

89OH48 OAS18

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  March 1, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions:  Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins interview eighteen with a discussion about December, 1972, when he was appointed Director of the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland.  He discusses the role of a university president in that kind of position, as well as a kind of education he received about economics.  He emphasizes the connection between business and education.  The focus of the remainder of the interview is 1973.  Singletary talks about Robert Griffith stepping down from his position at the Tobacco and Health Research Institute and the politics behind it. 

He mentions interacting with Garvice Kincaid and the desire to raise dormitory rates.  He discusses the fiscal affairs of the university and praises Henry Clay Owen.  Singletary talks about his relationship with the board of trustees and the work they did.  He stresses the importance of trustee confidentiality and talks about lessons he learned from his time spent at the University of Texas.  He brings up the appointment of Ray Hornback in University Relations and the role of public relations at the University of Kentucky.  Singletary wraps up the interview by stating the reasons for the construction of Commonwealth Stadium on campus, as well as the things he had to deal with regarding the retirement of Adolph Rupp.

 

89OH83 OAS19

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  March 28, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions:  Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary discusses contemporary problems in intercollegiate athletics.  He believes that athletics can establish a university’s reputation and serves as a means of competition between universities for students.  He says that he supported Proposition 48, which was aimed at correcting and controlling corruption in intercollegiate athletics.  He argues that despite certain temporary drawbacks, it is necessary.  He discusses the problems that U.K. President David Roselle faced coming into his presidency, including NCAA sanctions and specific charges that were leveled against coaching staff members as well as student athletes.

Returning to events of his presidency, Singletary talks about his impressions of Dr. Harry Sparks (president of Murray State University, 1968-1973) and Dr. James Miller (University of Louisville, 1973-1980).  He discusses the tension between the University of Kentucky and other colleges and universities in the state during his presidency; much of this was caused by the battle for funding.  The rest of the interview focuses on the Council on Higher Education and how it was coordinated.  Singletary mentions that there was some conflict between what the council thought ought to happen and how much power they actually held.  He talks specifically about A.D. Albright as director and his role on the council. 

 

89OH122 OAS20

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  May 3, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions:

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins with a discussion of current events.  Murray State University's decision not to renew the contract of President Kayla Stroup was touched upon.  He covers problems at Kentucky State University and the governor’s role in universities.  Budget issues and funding are mentioned, as well as the blessings and difficulties inherited by Dr. David Roselle when Singletary left the presidency of U.K.  He also talks about regrets he had and changes he would make in his administration.

After discussing contemporary events, Dr. Singletary talks about the 1973-1974 academic year and the Board of Trustees at the University of Kentucky, as well as Garvice Kincaid’s role on the board.  He mentions his dealings with governors in his term and problems he encountered with Governor John Y. Brown, Jr.  In November 1973, Ed Carter replaced Don Clapp as budget director at Kentucky, and Dr. Singletary gives his opinion on this appointment.  During this time, discrimination towards women within the university became an issue, as well as academic freedoms.  Singletary supports his decision in November 1973 to have Kentucky basketball games televised.  He mentions the appointment of Dr. John Wyatt as director of the Tobacco Institute in December 1973.  Singletary finishes with a discussion of the community college at Owensboro and how important it is to that community.

 

89OH135 OAS21

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  June 1, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins interview twenty-one with a discussion of the pressures and public life of a university president.  He talks about contemporary events, including the final NCAA sanction on the University of Kentucky.  He mentions the roles and responsibilities that the athletes and coaches have; he comments on the hiring of basketball coach Rick Pitino.  He discusses three books on the university environment:  Purely Academic (Stringfellow Barr), Pictures from an Institution (Randall Jarrell), and Prof Scam (Charles Sykes).

Dr. Singletary continues with his comments regarding the Owensboro community, and then segues into the decision to put a veterinary school at the University of Kentucky instead of a Murray State.  He discusses problems he had with Pralltown, a community in Lexington, in 1974.  Joe Jasper referred to U.K. as a “slum lord.”  Singletary comments on this and the expansion of the university.  During the spring 1974, T. Harry Williams came to Kentucky as a visiting professor.  Singletary discusses the controversy that arose in March 1974 when a suggestive film from the New York Film Festival was shown on campus.  It was during this time that Paul Willis was appointed director of libraries and Sue Feamster was appointed as the assistant athletic director.  Movements in women’s athletics are touched upon, and Dr. Singletary discusses a Dick Wilson article about the first five years of his presidency.  It was also during this time that Dr. Singletary's parents passed away.  He discusses a job offer at Southern Methodist University and his decision to stay at Kentucky. 

 

89OH183 OAS22

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  August 2, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In interview twenty-two, Dr. Singletary addresses a contemporary decision by the  Kentucky Supreme Court, and the control of education at all levels.  He talks about Lyman Ginger’s role as dean of the College of Education and the decision during the Oswald administration to replace him with George Denamar.  He states that the university needs to be accountable, both as a business and in the classroom.  He discusses admissions at the university level and the importance of standardized tests such as the SAT. 

Dr. Singletary mentions that inflation created several changes on the campus and affected the university's budget.  Singletary discusses ideas about tenure among both the younger and older faculty.  He talks about the resignation of Dr. Irvin Lunger from Transylvania University in August 1975 and compares the administrations of the two schools.  Singletary goes on to discuss the problems of Northern Kentucky State College during the fall of 1975 when Dr. Frank Steely, resigned as president.  He finishes with a discussion of the growth of research at the University of Kentucky, specifically in the coal research lab and in tobacco research. 

 

89OH227 OAS23

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  August 31, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins the interview with a discussion of the Council on Higher Education and its interaction with community colleges throughout the state.  Financial issues are also a topic of discussion as it influences every aspect of higher education.  He talks about the role of vocational and “adult” schools and their interaction with colleges and university.  Singletary addresses the question of whether or not there are too many people in college.

Dr. Singletary discusses the issue of funding, with a move to claim quality education based on the dollar allocation per student.  He compares salaries at U.K. with other Kentucky universities.  Singletary also talks about the drawbacks of having a single governing board over an entire university as well as coordinating boards.  He comments on A.D. Albright’s resignation in 1976 as director of the Council on Higher Education. 

 

89OH245 OAS24

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  September 26, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In this interview, Dr. Singletary follows up on a previous discussion regarding Harry Snyder’s appointment as director of the Council on Higher Education.  He explains that while budgeting and funding are serious issues faced by the Council, it does not have power as a governing board.  Singletary gives his impressions of Gov. Julian Carroll’s appointments to the Board of Trustees at the University of Kentucky, and recalls the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lexington Civic Center (Rupp Arena) in 1976. 

Dr. Singletary also talks about football programs in Kentucky, specifically that of University of Louisville, coached at that time by Howard Schnellenberger. He discusses the 1976 NCAA investigation of the U.K. athletic program that found 23 student-athletes in violation of the student code.  

 

89OH271 OAS25

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  October 11, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In this interview session, Dr. Singletary discusses the need for reform in intercollegiate athletics.  The revenue brought in by athletics was extensive and Singletary compares athletic systems at other schools to Kentucky.  He again argues his support for Proposition 48 and the changes it would attempt to make in intercollegiate athletics.  Discussion of two books, American College and the Culture of Aspiration (David Levine) and The Emergence of the American University (Laurence Veysey) lead into the growth of the university and issues within a growing university.  He talks bout the rise of the woman’s movement on campus and the importance placed on having minorities in the university.

During the 1976-1977 academic year, the university radio station was created (WUKY/WBKY) and Singletary mentions the role of campus radio.  In the spring of 1977, President Jimmy Carter offered Singletary a job with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Singletary discusses Jimmy Carter’s presidency and reasons for turning down the position.  Also during that year, there was a push to have an Appalachian Center on campus and Dr. Singletary conveys his feelings about that project.  He finishes the interview with his opinions on the creation of an athletic dorm (Wildcat Lodge) and the logistics behind its creation. 

 

89OH274 OAS26

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  October 25, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary continues the chronological discussion of his term as president at the University of Kentucky.  During the academic year 1977-1978, he appointed Terry Mobley as director of Central Development at the University of Kentucky.  Private donations to the university also increased dramatically during that year.  Singletary discusses the dispute that arose upon granting Bob McKeown an honorary degree.  It was also during this time that financial support aided in the establishment of the Markey Cancer Center and the Gaines Center for the Humanities.  The research institutes at Kentucky, according to Singletary, are a “reflection of grant support and the private money.”

The decision to expand student housing was a concern facing the administration.  Space was already limited on campus, and further student housing would create changed for parking and traffic flow on campus.  Singletary recounts the debate between making the campus convenient or allowing it to grow with the students.  Gov. Julian Carroll suggested cutbacks in the university budget, but Singletary argued that higher education should be seen as an investment and less as an expense.  The matter of establishing a quota system came up during this time as well.  This system applied not only to minorities, but also to the numbers of in-state and out-of-state students.  In April of 1978, the Honors Program at the University of Kentucky started undergoing some changes.  Singletary describes about how his experiences at the University of Texas at Austin impacted the changes his oversaw here. 

 

89OH285 OAS27

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  November 14, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary discusses the Jefferson Community College and the Owensboro Community College and the impact they had on other areas in Kentucky.  In the spring of 1978, the University of Kentucky basketball team won the national championship under Coach Joe B. Hall.  Singletary talks about the influences this had on the university as a whole, and compares Duke University and U.K.  He mentions the appointment of Warren Terry to the U.K. Board of Trustees that spring.  Rights on campus continued to be important and Singletary talks about the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Commission at the university. 

Singletary discusses of his feelings on a mandatory retirement age, and the possibility of extending it by five years.  During 1978, Fran Curci wanted to put in a special dorm for the Kentucky football players, and Singletary explains why he and David Grissom declined to give university monies toward its creation.  In the spring 1978, CIA Director Stansfield Turner visited the campus.  Singletary talks about the events surrounding a disruption by the students and the following arrests.  He also talks about efforts to internationalize the University of Kentucky campus, and the implementation of an alternative professional fee plan at the medical school in June of 1976.  He discusses the reaction to this, as well as his appointment of Dr. Peter Bosomworth as chancellor of the medical center.  

 

89OH325 OAS28

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  December 6, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary addresses the new building projects on UK’s campus. He discusses the construction of  a new fine arts center (later named the Singletary Center for the Arts), an addition to the Student Center, the Sanders-Brown building, the law school addition, and the possibility of a building for the College of Architecture.  Dr. Singletary counters criticism he received for being a “bricks and mortar” president, putting public monies into new construction instead of new programs at the university.  He points out that housing and dining services are run without taxpayer money, and many new facilities have private funding as well as public. 

Singletary also speaks about his personal life during his time at Kentucky.  He mentions personal recreational activities and time spent with his family.  He revisits his time in the navy and compares his service to that of his son, Scott.  Singletary discusses personal friendships he established while in Lexington, as well as relationships with politicians in Kentucky.  He mentions women’s issues that came up during 1978; particularly the fact that there was a shortage of women being hired in the sciences and engineering.  Dr. Singletary addresses this, as well as his move to try and stop equal spending in women’s sports.  He states that the hiring of African Americans was also important to him.  He focuses on ways that House Bill 44, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly, affected funding at the University of Kentucky. 

 

90OH01 OAS29

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  December 22, 1989

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary and Dr. Birdwhistell begin this interview with a discussion of contemporary events.  Dr. Singletary talks about President David Roselle’s decision to go to the University of Delaware, why he left, and why he feels it was bad for the university.  He talks about Governor Wallace Wilkinson’s relationship with Roselle’s administration and the possibility of Dr. Charles T. Wethington becoming the next president of the University of Kentucky.  He discusses the faculty reaction to Dr. Roselle’s decision to leave U.K. including their very vocal protests to Dr. Wethington becoming president. 

Dr. Singletary also talks about issues surrounding the U.K. athletic program and the NCAA; he mentions pressures from basketball boosters on the administration.  He also addresses the search for a new football coach and problems that arose.  The abilities of Fran Curci and Roy Kidd are addressed, as well as the need recruiting by football coaches.  Singletary concludes with a discussion of the interim president and the new president. 

 

90OH02 OAS30

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  January 12, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary discusses current events at UK and in politics.  Dr. Singletary states that as the University of Kentucky made a transition in administration, Governor Wallace Wilkinson made a move to provide funding for higher education.  Singletary talks about the presence of politics within the U.K. Board of Trustees.  He gives his opinion of Bill Curry being hired as the new football coach at Kentucky, and what happened when Fran Curci was let go in 1981.  He remembers the Kentucky football program in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  This leads into a discussion about the NCAA convention and Propositions 42 and 48.  He also talks about the College Football Association (CFA).

Singletary talks about his relationship with Governor Julian Carroll and Jim Amato.  He reflects on his ten-year anniversary at Kentucky, and mentions his service on the Senate of Phi Beta Kappa and his role with the Library of Congress.  He ends the interview by talking about his free time and the things he did for recreation while president at U.K. 

 

90OH15 OAS31

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  February 6, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins this interview with a discussion of Jack Blanton and his work as vice president for Business Affairs.  He reflects on the work of Joe Burch, Bob Zumwinkle, and Lynn Williamson.  Singletary talks about the role of civic virtue at the University of Kentucky.  During 1978, the dedication of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging took place.  Singletary talks about not only statewide government, but also gives his opinion about Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  In the fall of 1979, the federal government established the Department of Education and Singletary gives his opinion and projected effects of the federal department.  It was also during this time that the Center for the Arts opened and he mentions the purpose and intentions behind the building as well as the benefits he saw after its opening. 

Dr. Singletary goes on to discuss Western Kentucky University taking control of graduate courses at Owensboro Community College, and the role Western wanted to take as the University of Kentucky of the West.  He visits prejudice and racial issues on campus.  Singletary talks about Kentucky as a place to live permanently.  He discusses the importance of politics among native Kentuckians.  He finishes by describing the Council on Higher Education’s employment of Robert F. Sexton to study the future of higher education and the role that the Prichard Committee on Education played. 

 

90OH18 OAS32

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  March 1, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary discusses other career options that he encountered before dedicating his life to education.  He had the opportunity to go into business or to serve as a career officer in the navy.  He gives a little insight into the personal side of his life.  He mentions that he never minded facing problems and he loved working in the university setting.  He also responds to the claim that he was very conservative with the budget and the necessary growth at the university.  He addresses ambitions at the University of Kentucky to improve its standing among public universities nationally.

Dr. Singletary discusses the resignation of Dr. James Miller at the University of Louisville in January of 1980, and what it meant to Louisville.  The controversy regarding the missions of U.K. and U of L arose during this time.  In March 1980, Singletary was elected president of the Southeastern Conference.  The University of Louisville’s basketball team won the national championship and Singletary describes the statewide reaction.  He states that there was also a suggestion of a U.K. versus Louisville basketball game and he explains why he opposed that.  He finishes with a discussion of possibly expanding or realigning the Southeastern Conference. 

 

90OH97 OAS33

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  March 21, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins this interview with a discussion of his administration in August of 1980.  With a bad economy and a limited higher education budget, Singletary discusses the budget cuts the university underwent. He states that faculty and people outside of the university often had the wrong idea about how much state-appropriated money was actually available. He discusses and defends the honorary degrees awarded to Edward F. Pritchard and Harry Caudill.  In September of 1980, Edythe Jones Hayes was the first black woman appointed to the Board of Trustees at the University of Kentucky, and Dr. Singletary talks about the qualities she brought to the board.  He also discusses Ashland Oil’s $1 million gift to U.K. and his decision to use the donation to spark more negotiations for corporate and personal gifts to the school.

While talking about athletics on campus, Singletary takes the time to point out that he did not work on athletic fundraising.  He explains the source and use of athletic money.  He talks about the appointment of Michael Baer as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in February 1981, and the role of that college on campus.  Also during this interview, Singletary takes a look at The Examined Life (Robert Nozick) and The University:  An Owner’s Manual (Henry Rosovsky).  He talks about the importance of history and the humanities and focuses on the life and career of Andrew Jackson.  In March 1981, Richard Furst was named Dean of the College of Business and Economics.  Singletary explains the interaction between the business community in Lexington and the business school on campus.  He visits the support for cigarette taxes and the role of the Tobacco and Health Institute.  He comments at length on the removal of Dr. Gary Huber and the effects of gossip and bias in the press.

 

90OH98 OAS34

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  May 3, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins with a discussion of monies donated to specific causes on campus.  Leslie Combs pledged a donation to the cancer foundation but made a stipulation that a certain member of the faculty there be fired.  Singletary discusses his reaction to donations with stipulations and defends his position of refusing the money.  He addresses a recent move by the Kentucky legislature to assist higher education.  Singletary revisits the search for a university president after the resignation of Dr. David Roselle, particularly the possibility of Dr. Charles T. Wethington becoming the next president.  He talks about the education reform package and the need to improve teaching as well as funding.

Singletary discusses his impressions of Connie Wilson as a member of the faculty and of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees.  Relations with Kentucky State University are visited at length; Singletary talks about shared programs and the “creation” of the current Kentucky State.  He mentions Dr. Lewis “Bud” Cochran as academic vice president and comments on Harry Caudill and the attack on his research in Kentucky Coal Journal.  Dr. Singletary talks about a confrontation between the NCAA and the College Football Association in the fall of 1981, and college athletics in general.  Also included in this interview are discussions pertaining to James King’s appointment as Special Assistant to Singletary, the death of Kentucky Speaker of the House Bill Kenton in November of 1981, and a $50,000 gift to the Art Museum from Armand Hammer. The interview concludes with Dr.Singletary talking about Senator Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee and the University Artist Series. 

Browse The Oral History Collection By Subject Or Keyword.