Last week was an especially interesting and important week in the life of our University.
For many of us, it was marked most significantly by homecoming – a time when parents, alums and friends of the university returned to rekindle memories and, I hope, note the progress we have made together as the university for Kentucky.
At the same time, there were numerous reminders of the breadth and depth of this special place – of how we heal and help across our state, of how we teach and unlock doors of promise, and of how we practice creative scholarship that opens minds and stirs souls.
Consider just a few examples of all that occurred across UK last week alone:
- Last Monday, we were joined by William Adams, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, for our Bale Boone Symposium in the Humanities.
- During the week, we hosted Dr. Xiangkun Ren, Vice President of Sanjun Environmental and Science Company in China. Our Center for Applied Energy Research has a significant research partnership with Dr. Ren’s company.
- Last night, Bobby Seale (co-founder of the Black Panther Party) and Civil Rights Activist Shaun King held a conversation with several hundred members of our community.
- Also last night, the UK Opera Theatre opened its season with the musical “Ragtime”.
And, on Friday, we had a particularly busy day as:
- Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was on campus for a series of conversations about the scourge of drug abuse.
- U.S. Senator Rand Paul, in his role as Chair of the Subcommittee on Children and Families for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, held a hearing on prescription drug pricing.
- The Kentucky General Assembly’s Interim Joint on Agriculture held its monthly meeting.
- We celebrated the Grand Re-opening of our Gatton College of Business and Economics, the result of $64 million in private gifts and pledges.
And our efforts continue.
This afternoon, U.S. Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will join us for an announcement about a substantial national initiative involving our College of Law and UK Libraries. And this evening, author Christina Baker Cline will discuss with our campus her book, Orphan Train, which is our Common Reading Experience for 2016-17.
And then there are those events that don’t necessarily happen in the spotlight, but that remind us of who we are and why we are here.
As many of you know, we have a rich legacy of writing and creative scholarship. Names like Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, Nikky Finney, Gurney Norman, and Bobbie Ann Mason have marked our University as an important hub of regional and Southern writing. We are building on that reputation.
This story and video tells of seven writers in our English and growing Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs. All of them have works just out or that are about to be published. Several of them, almost simultaneously, have been reviewed or featured in national publications or outlets such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, National Public Radio, and Slate, among others.
Last night, these writers came together in Lexington’s resurgent distillery district to perform readings from their new works. The writers organized this reading as a way to further engagement with our community, but also display the rich vein of talent that exists on our campus in creative scholarships and arts.
What is remarkable about these artists, when you hear and listen to them on their video, is their diverse perspectives and backgrounds, as they work across many different styles, but they still share a connection to this place and its legacy. Too, they share something else beyond a passion for their crafts – they are passionate about teaching.
These are examples of what it means to be at a university like Kentucky. It exists nowhere else in our Commonwealth. And, increasingly, the country is recognizing what is here as well.
It is gratifying to be part of a community doing so much, in so many ways, to leave a positive mark on our state and our world.