Records give glimpse into past

Kate Russell/The News A handwritten enrollment book shows the list of every student from Sept. 24, 1923, to Jan. 24, 1930.
Kate Russell/The News A handwritten enrollment book shows the list of every student from Sept. 24, 1923, to Jan. 24, 1930.

Kate Russell/The News
A handwritten enrollment book shows the list of every student from Sept. 24, 1923, to Jan. 24, 1930.

Lisa Downey, records assistant in Registrar’s Office, sits only yards away from a time capsule.

The time capsule is not a trunk stored in the darkest corner of a basement or a container buried far below ground. It is a vault in the Registrar’s Office in Sparks Hall.

Downey is in charge of security maintenance for the vault. Approximately three weeks ago, she and fellow co-workers in the Registrar’s Office began to pull books, boxes and files out of the vault. They found documents and records dating back nearly 100 years to the beginning of Murray State’s history.

The materials pulled from the vault included enrollment records, faculty minutes, catalogues, academic records and records from when Murray State was a Navy Preparatory School.

Tracy Roberts, University registrar, said she didn’t know these specific documents were stored in the vault.

She said they began pulling the materials out to start the process of digitizing University records.

“If we can get it digitized, then everyone can read it,” Roberts said. “This is a time capsule right here.”

Though a majority of the information is confidential, both Downey and Roberts shared some of their favorite finds from the vault.

Downey read out of the Murray State Teacher’s College Catalogue from 1924-25 that Kentucky residents paid no tuition and nonresidents paid $18 per semester. Room and board was $4-$6 a week.

Downey enjoyed a section from one old collection that claimed there was “too much dancing” on Murray State’s campus.

One of Roberts’ favorite facts was in the Faculty Senate minutes from the 1920s-40s. She read that President Rainey T. Wells borrowed all the money he could from Murray and Paducah, Ky., banks, as well as tapping into his personal funds, and he still could not afford to pay faculty salaries. She said the minutes reported faculty willingly going without salary for a time so the University could stay open.

“It just walks you through the beginning of a university,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the Registrar’s Office will likely release “fun facts” in its newsletters or pass them along to other University officials to relay to the student body.

Jay Morgan, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, sent out copies of some documents in an email last week to faculty and staff.

He sent out minutes from the Faculty Senate meeting in December 1923, when the official colors of Murray State were decided upon. He also sent a Murray Teacher’s College Transcription Card, from when Murray State hosted naval cadets as a U.S. Navy Prep School.

“There’s so much neat stuff in there,” Morgan said. “There are old minutes of faculty meetings. There are old transcripts of notable Murray graduates. There’s just a wealth of knowledge in these old documents.”

Ashley Rogers, assistant registrar, has also helped sort through the old documents.

Rogers said reading through the old catalogues and minutes has given her a strong appreciation for the work that went into making Murray State what it is.

“This makes it all come to life,” she said. “You can see they cared about the students at Murray State from the very beginning.”

Story by Kate RussellStaff writer