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

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 III

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.

 

90OH140 OAS35

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  May 25, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary addresses misperceptions of the role of the university in society.  He talks about power and positions on issues; he states that colleges and universities are not perfect institutions.  In late 1981, there was a move to have a Humanities House on campus, and the Gaines Center (named for John Gaines) was soon established with a fellowship for outstanding students.  Dr. Singletary talks about how his experience at the Honors College at the University of Texas assisted him in working with these types of programs at Kentucky.  He discusses the firing of Fran Curci as head football coach in November 1981.  He comments on the possibility of Howard Schnellenberger coming to the University of Kentucky as head football coach, and the eventual hiring of Jerry Claiborne.

Dr. Singletary talks about the need to step up recruitment at Kentucky and the role that a coach plays in the recruiting process.  He compares his relationship with Jerry Claiborne to that with Fran Curci.  In February 1982, John Y. Brown appointed Brereton Jones and Larry Jones to the Board of Trustees.  Singletary talks about these appointments and the need to “challenge old Doc.” 

 

90OH141 OAS36

LOUIE B. NUNN

Date:  June 5, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Former Governor Louie B. Nunn addresses many of the issues previously discussed in the interviews with Otis A. Singletary.  He begins by talking about the role of higher education in Kentucky; and the Council on Higher Education is discussed at length, along with the political appointments Nunn made including Bob Martin, Adron Doren, and Harry Sparks.  He addresses problems in education such as tax burdens, remedial education, illiteracy, drugs and alcohol.  He believes that college admittance should be based upon academic standards, not financial aspects.  During the 1967 gubernatorial campaign, false claims were made of what Nunn intended to do at the University of Kentucky if elected, and President John W. Oswald’s position became a factor.  The activity of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) caused problems with Oswald, and Nunn discusses the nature of Oswald’s resignation.  Governor Nunn admits that his relationship with Oswald was rocky; but he strongly defends his decisions in office, despite conflict with the students and public.  He states that he did something because he felt it was right, not because of something someone had said.

Governor Nunn explains the appointment of A.B. “Happy” Chandler to the U.K. Board of Trustees.  He addresses the issue of freedom of speech versus freedom of expression on campus.  A comparison is made between the Nunn/Oswald relationship and the Wilkinson/Roselle relationship.  He talks about the skewed view presented by Herndon Evans at the Herald- Leader.  He discusses Oswald’s resignation in April 1968 and gives the reasons behind his decision not to reappoint Dr. Ralph Angelucci as chair of the search committee.  Nunn recalls the search for a new president in the fall of 1968, the initial overtures to Dr. Singletary, and Nunn’s initial impressions of him.  He addresses the success that Singletary has had working under five different governors.  The riots of May 1970 presented problems for both the governor and the president of U.K.  Gov. Nunn states that he was responsible for sending the National Guard to the University of Kentucky campus and explains his reasoning for doing so.  He gives his impression of the president of the U.K. student government, Steve Bright, and comments on his role at the time of the demonstrations.  He ends the interview with a discussion of money, revenue, and taxes, and their impact on education in Kentucky. 

 

90OH142 OAS37

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  June 19, 1990

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 spends a great deal of time focusing on environmental issues at the University of Kentucky.  It was during the 1981-1982 term that a controversy arose regarding the use of Robinson Forest.  Terry McBrayer suggested mining Robinson Forest in hopes of alleviating some financial stresses at Kentucky.  Jesse Dukeminer, an environmentalist from UCLA, came to Lexington to address issues Kentucky was facing.

George Denmark, the dean of the College of Education resigned in 1982, and Singletary talks about his feelings regarding that move.  He also discusses how he felt about other deans of the College of Education including Lyman Ginger and Frank Dickey.  He states that he did not attempt to rank the colleges at U.K.  He discusses the appointments of Richard Domek as Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and Robert G. Lawson as Dean of the Law School in 1982.  Singletary gives his opinions about the SEC having its own tournament in addition to the NCAA tournament.  He talks about Coach Rick Pitino hiring a female men’s basketball coach.  He concludes this interview by revisiting the issues that arose between Rick Pitino and Sean Sutton, the previous coach’s son, regarding Sutton’s recruitment by the University of Kentucky. 

 

90OH230 OAS38

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  July 13, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary talks about George C. Herring, Jr. and his role on the long-range planning committee.  He mentions his work on the Board of Trustees.  A good deal of the interview concentrates on his role in the Cassidy controversy.  The University of Kentucky had hired the lobbying firm of Cassidy and Associates to aid with a robotics program that had been created.  It was a short-term contract that was later renewed by Dr. David Roselle.  Issues began to arise when Singletary took a position as a consultant at Cassidy and Associates upon retiring from his position at Kentucky.  He discusses the roles Elvis Starr and Frank Rose played and the federal funding that Kentucky received to finish the robotics center.

Dr. Singletary mentions the American Association of Universities and compares first tier and second tier universities.  He discusses his attempt to reorganize the university’s administration in June of 1982.  He talks about Dean Charles E. Barnhart and Art Gallaher, the first chancellor of the Lexington campus.  He touches on financial issues surrounding the medical center as well as the importance of retaining quality employees. 

 

90OH231 OAS39

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  August 2, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions:

Transcript:  Yes

Restrictions: None

In this interview, Dr. Singletary continues a discussion of the Cassidy controversy and newspaper editorials about it. He talks about public policy and lobbyists within Cassidy and Associates.  It was the December after his resignation that Singletary became a consultant for Cassidy and this raised a lot of speculation about the nature of Cassidy’s relationship with the University of Kentucky.  He talks about the University of Arkansas moving into the Southeastern Conference.  Dr. Singletary addresses the desire to have a U.K. versus Louisville basketball game in the spring of 1983.  In a board meeting, Singletary said that he “yearn[ed] and pine[d] for the day when the really true serious matters of the University of Kentucky will get the same kind of expressions of interest and concern that have attended this item.”  He discusses the public pressure that was felt by the U.K. Board of Trustees.

Dr. Singletary comments on Don Clapp as an administrator and his replacement, James Orville King.  In November 1983, Martha Layne Collins was elected governor.  Singletary mentions their cordial, but not close, relationship.  In 1984 five million dollars was given to the university by the Markey Foundation.  Being the largest single gift to Kentucky at the time, the monies went to equine studies and medical research.  In January 1984, John Stephenson was named the president of Berea College.  Singletary discusses what he really likes about Berea College and leads into his opinions about other institutions in Kentucky.  He finishes with a discussion of his optimism going into the 1984-1985 school year and the role of Guy Davenport. 

 

90OH236 OAS40

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  August 24, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

This interview, which covers the year 1984, begins with a discussion of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission addressing the issue of women faculty at the University of Kentucky.  There was a feeling that not many were being employed or retained.  Dr. Singletary talks about this and moves into a discussion of the tenure system in universities.  He talks about his feelings regarding affirmative action (whether it is applied to race or gender).  He explores Diane Ravitch’s The American Scholar and goes into depth about multiculturalism in schools, problems with television, the decline of the family, and individuals’ perceptions of the world, our history, and our freedom. 

Dr. Singletary discusses the Gulf War codenamed Operation Desert Storm and the contemporary events in the Middle East.  He mentions the book The Wise Men and its focus on Kinnon, Dean Atchison, John J. McCloy, and Averil Harriman.  Singletary discusses his interactions with Sheik Omar Makhtoum and the $5 million donation to the Equine Research Facility at the University of Kentucky.  In February 1984, Dr. Singletary was invited to the Middle East with Bob McKeown and Gov. Martha Layne Collins to visit Makhtoum.

 

90OH237 OAS41

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  October 2, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Singletary describes his friend John Silber, a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate. He mentions Silber’s strong personality, which has formed many strong allies and enemies, but has certainly thrust him into Massachusetts politics. Singletary shares his insight into the appointment of University of Kentucky President Charles T. Wethington. Singletary disputes any claims of political maneuvering within the board and the selection process and supports the school’s decision.

In the second half of the interview, Singletary looks back on some of the issues that arose during his administration. He addresses the great debate over maintaining an equal balance of research and teaching among the faculty. Singletary also remarks on a possible University of Kentucky and University of Louisville merger, a proposal that never materialized, but which would have been monumental. Finally, Singletary discusses the hiring of Eddie Sutton as basketball coach and successor to Joe B. Hall. Among the factors involved in this decision were Sutton’s reputed drinking problem, his conflicts with his former athletic director, and his wife’s involvement with his former employer, the University of Arkansas.

 

90OH284 OAS42

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  November 1, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

Dr. Singletary begins with a discussion of the simultaneous growth of popularity and controversy in collegiate athletics. He gives particular attention to the ticket scandals surrounding Joe B. Hall and the recruiting scandals at the University of Kentucky. He is highly critical and suspicious of the manner in which the Lexington Herald-Leader investigated and reported the story, mainly because of their decision to withhold tapes that leaked crucial evidence for conviction. Singletary also acknowledges the new phenomenon of sports entertainment and its importance to academic institutions. However, he was careful to note that academics remain the first priority of these institutions and that sports could and should be a vital supplement to their growth.

 

90OH323 OAS43

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  November 20, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In this interview, Dr. Singletary discusses the controversy surrounding the University of Louisville and the Fiesta Bowl.  He talks about problems with media coverage of the event.  It was during this time that Martin Luther King, Jr. was being accused posthumously of plagiarism.  Singletary argues that this issue should not distract the public from the great things King accomplished in his lifetime.  He also expresses his disappointment in the loss of John Silber, president of Boston University, to Michael Dukakis in the gubernatorial race in Massachusetts in November of 1990.

Dr. Singletary then discusses events at the University of Kentucky in September 1985.  He talks about the establishment of a Futures Committee and Michael Baer as its chairman.  He mentions the desire to create a vice president for research.  On April 1, 1986, Singletary announced his intention to retire on June 30, 1987.  He discusses the university’s status at the time and assistance it received from Governor Collins.  On May 6, 1986, it was announced that Singletary would be appointed to the Ashland Oil Chair upon his retirement.  He talks about Robert Zumwinkle and Don Clapp both leaving the university.  On December 9, 1986, the Center for the Arts was renamed the Singletary Center for the Arts.  He shares how he felt about this honor and its timing in regards to his retirement. 

 

90OH354 OAS44

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  December 11, 1990

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length:  1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In the summer of 1985 a draft from the Council on Higher Education was published by the Lexington Herald-Leader.  It attacked the U.K. Dental School as well as the community college system.  Dr. Singletary comments that it was, “The most serious assault on the University of Kentucky in modern history, and maybe in its existence.”  He discusses the roles of Harry Snyder, A.D. Albright, and Ted Gilbert on the council, and the function the Council on Higher Education is supposed to serve.  Singletary explains how the university mobilized support from political friends and alumni, and he details the changes that the council has undergone since 1985. 

Dr. Singletary also visits the role of the graduate schools at the University of Kentucky and argues against duplicating graduate programs.  He talks about the value of higher education.  Four books were also discussed during this interview:  Prof Scam (Charles J. Sykes); Hollow Men (Michael Gold); The Closing of the American Mind (Allan David Bloom); and The Killing of the Spirit:  Higher Education in America (Page Smith).  He compares education in America to that in other countries and talks about the civic mission of the university.  Singletary responds to the death of Harry Caudill by discussing both his friendship and business relationship with him.  He talks about the impact of Caudill’s book, Night Comes to the Cumberlands and also discusses Walter Prescott Webb’s The Great Plains. 

 

91OH103 OAS45

OTIS A. SINGLETARY

Date:  February 18, 1991

Location:  Lexington, Kentucky

Interviewer:  Terry L. Birdwhistell

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Audio Conditions: Good

Transcript:  First Draft

Restrictions: None

In his last interview, Dr. Singletary discusses the media’s reaction to the announcement of his retirement.  He looks back on his time spent at the University of Kentucky and comments on what he feels his greatest successes are and the type of legacy he has left.  He spends a good deal of time talking about the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees and the appointment of trustees.  Singletary compares U.K. to other universities in the state and the problems that they have faced.  He discusses the procedure of recruiting a new president and his role in that process. 

Dr. Singletary reflects on his administration and those he worked with throughout his entire term as university president.  Singletary compares his growth from his arrival at Kentucky until his retirement, and talks about the success he felt giving his final commencement address as president.  He discusses the dedication of the Singletary Center for the Arts.  His approach to retirement was matter-of-fact and he describes regrets he had as he left the university.

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