Story by Brianna Willis, Staff writer
Ninety years ago this summer, the graduating class of 1926 walked out of their commencement ceremony in Wrather Hall and immediately walked to Wells Hall, where they founded what we now know as the Alumni Association.
“The whole idea of an alumni association is to support and promote the idea where engaged alumni are critical to not only universities, but any institution,” said Mark Welch, director of Alumni Relations.
Welch is an alumnus of Murray State. He graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science in radio-television and a minor in journalism. He stayed for his master’s in mass communications.
“At that time the department was called Journalism, Radio, TV and Film,” he said. “So, I wanted to be a TV news anchor,” he said. “That is what I wanted to do, but I got involved with WKMS as a sophomore and fell in love with it.”
As an alumnus who stayed in Murray with his wife Karen, who is also an alumna, Welch said he has noticed many changes on campus and in the city itself. He said it was a time of construction, with many changes coming to Murray and Murray State constructing new buildings, such as Roy Stewart Stadium. Welch said he remembered when Waterfield Library was first built.
“It was the student center at that time, so the T-Room [Thoroughbred Room] was downstairs,” he said.
Welch said students jokingly would refer to Murray State as “Muddy State” because of the heavy rains they experienced in the 70s as well as the construction at that time.
He recalled being an employee for WKMS and being able to interview the first driver under the newly constructed overpass many students cross today.
While the tangible aspects of campus have been torn down or newly built, Welch said the atmosphere of campus remains the same and said Murray is a great place to study and then put down roots. He and his wife have raised two sons in Murray, both of whom are alumni of Murray State. Welch said between his wife, his sons and himself they have received seven degrees.
Tim Miller, former president of Murray State and professor emeritus of accounting, is the first and only president to have graduated from Murray State, and his wife Patsy is the only first lady to have graduated from Murray State. Prior to his retirement, Miller taught for 47 years.
Miller originally attended Eastern Kentucky on a football scholarship. His sophomore year, he transferred to Murray State with a baseball scholarship.
“It [Murray State] was really different from Eastern Kentucky,” he said. “I couldn’t believe people would see you on the sidewalk and say ‘hi’ and ‘how are you?’ It really was a friendly place and I loved it from day one.”
Miller met his wife after she transferred from the University of Kentucky. They married on Christmas Day in 1966. Unfortunately, the Shoe Tree was not a tradition then, otherwise they would have nailed shoes up, Miller said, smiling.
One of the biggest changes Miller has noticed about campus is the growth Murray State has experienced over the years.
“When I came in 1963 we had about 3,500 students,” he said. “Now, today we have over 11,000 students, so it has really grown student-wise.”
Miller also said that in terms of the student-body makeup, the amount of international students has grown, remembering hardly any international students when he first arrived. Miller jokingly said that, back then, “international student” meant they were from New Jersey.
“It really adds so much diversity to campus,” Miller said.
Miller also noted that an increase in social media has lead to a change in campus culture. He said that now it seems students have a wider array of events to attend and passing information via social media has increased students’ ability to be selective.
“Back then, we didn’t have social media and there wasn’t that much to do, so everything was word of mouth,” he said. “There was a large student turnout to all of the campus events, like football games and basketball games.”
Miller said that the growth in educational opportunities is a benefit to campus. He said there are a lot more class offerings and majors now, which he attributes to the young faculty who went out to bring new companies and courses to campus.
“When I started teaching, I was 23 and many of the faculty were in their 20s,” he said. “We went out and recruited new companies to come and recruit on campus.”
One thing that has not changed over the years is the atmosphere that makes Murray State and Murray such a great place to live and study. Both Welch and Miller said Murray is still a friendly place and a great place to raise a family. Miller said that he was shocked by how friendly campus was, and this continues to be true today.
Welch said that this summer will be the 90th anniversary of the first graduating class and in turn, the Alumni Association. Welch said one of the interesting things about this anniversary is finding that a family has produced five generations of Murray State students. He said this connection to ancestry and the university is an interesting one, and one he hopes to explore and honor.
“Having that ancestry so rooted in campus is just awesome,” he said. “We are going to try and find a way to honor that family.”
Miller offered one bit of advice for new students: one of the most important things they can do is to pick a major they will be happy with.
“That will be more important than money,” he said. “You need to be satisfied and fulfilled in what you do.”