Happy Birthday KSU!
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted unanimously to create Kennesaw Junior College on Oct. 9‚ 1963‚ and a mere three years later‚ the college opened its doors to 1‚014 students.
(Oct 20, 2003) — “It was a challenging and exciting period of time.”
That was how Dr. George H. Beggs‚ the university’s first faculty member‚ summed up the early history of Kennesaw State University in a 1998 interview.
That same sentiment rings true today‚ as the university celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted unanimously to create Kennesaw Junior College on Oct. 9‚ 1963‚ and a mere three years later‚ the college opened its doors to 1‚014 students on the campus of today’s Southern Polytechnic State University. Today‚ nearly 17‚500 students‚ including a growing segment who live on campus‚ can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees in more than 55 programs of study.
“We’ve certainly come a long way in 40 years‚” history professor Dr. Tom Scott said.
As part of a yearlong celebration commemorating the university’s ruby anniversary‚ more than 600 civic‚ business and community leaders are invited to this year’s convocation‚ which will be held Oct. 16. USG Chancellor Thomas Meredith will deliver the convocation address and former Gov. Carl Sanders will also be featured in videotaped remarks. It was Sanders’ 1962 campaign pledge to place public colleges within commuting distance of every Georgian that helped give rise to KJC.
Ironically‚ the institution Gov. Sanders first envisioned would have been located in Bartow County. But a 28−member steering committee‚ headed by Bob Fowler‚ editor of the Marietta Daily Journal‚ brought the college to Cobb instead by promising to donate the land‚ build the necessary roads and utilities and pay for the construction of the original eight campus buildings. Additionally‚ Cobb and Marietta voters approved a $2.35 million bond issue on April 22‚ 1964. Classes were held on campus beginning in January of 1967.
“The county thought it would be a great thing‚” Lex Jolley‚ namesake of the LeoDelle and Lex Jolley Lodge‚ said in a 1987 interview. “A branch of the university system right here in our county. Our kids could get in the old Ford and drive up there to college and come back home. You could afford to send them to college when you couldn’t otherwise. It just swept the county like wildfire.”
Four decades later‚ the community served by KSU has grown far beyond the boundaries of Cobb County‚ and now includes the more than 120 countries around the world represented by KSU students.
Chronicling this amazing journey has been a major focus for Scott‚ KSU’s unofficial historian. Since 1978‚ the veteran faculty member has been documenting KSU’s growth and transformation through more than 200 oral histories he has compiled. More than 100 of these oral histories‚ including those of Jolley and Beggs‚ have been edited and made public.
In the past‚ this incredible story was only available to those willing to seek it out either at the main branch of the Cobb County Public Library or the Bentley Rare Book Gallery in the basement of the Sturgis Library. Now‚ however‚ Scott and his colleague‚ Dr. Catherine Lewis‚ are working to bring this history to life through a traveling exhibit that will make its debut in April and a permanent archive.
“When you turn 40‚ you don’t just celebrate you reflect‚” Lewis said. Lewis and Scott are members of the 40th Anniversary Celebration Committee. Lewis is also a curator with the Atlanta History Center.
The exhibit will be seven feet tall and consist of four‚ double−sided panels — each chronicling the meteoric rise of KSU. The university is also in the process of hiring its first archivist‚ someone who will be the official keeper of KSU history and memorabilia.
“As it is now‚ the memory of the institution is in people’s offices or in people’s minds‚” Lewis said. “The institution has collected photographs and archival materials about the last 40 years‚ but we don’t have an archive for scholars and that could be one of the legacies from the 40th anniversary celebration‚ an archive where scholars or other interested parties could go to learn about the history of the institution and the communities it serves.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.