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2004-12-10 Interview with Robert Blake, December 10, 2004 2005OH008 LCC 006 1:26:45 CC002 Community Colleges of Kentucky Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington Community College Lexington Technical Institute Robert Blake; interviewee John D. Adams; interviewer Lexington Community College 2005OH008_LCC06_Blake 1:|39(9)|67(7)|96(2)|122(8)|146(8)|185(2)|222(12)|254(4)|290(2)|322(5)|355(10)|382(1)|403(9)|442(12)|470(8)|493(12)|528(3)|558(5)|581(13)|604(7)|641(4)|665(2)|698(2)|734(6)|766(5)|801(7)|836(15)|870(11)|895(3)|921(4)|959(11)|987(13)|1015(3)|1032(8)|1049(4)|1077(7)|1097(2)|1129(4)|1160(3)|1204(13)|1255(7)|1287(2)|1311(4)|1333(7)|1351(9)|1368(11)|1409(10)|1445(9)|1478(2)|1502(2)|1522(9)|1557(2)|1586(14)|1611(5)|1619(10)|1658(2)|1684(6)|1705(9)|1725(11)|1755(10)|1778(9)|1796(2)|1821(2)|1844(5)|1852(9)|1874(4)|1884(8)|1893(6)|1909(12)|1935(2)|1960(2)|1989(11)|2005(9)|2019(6)|2046(5)|2061(5)|2085(6)|2118(2)|2129(5)|2146(8)|2169(2)|2194(10)|2221(2)|2241(11)|2260(5)|2287(10) audiotrans CommuColl interview ADAMS: This is an oral history interview with Bob Blake for the LCC's fortieth anniversary project and it's being conducted here in the Oswald building in room 210. And first question--or first thing I'd like to do is thank you for taking the time sir-- BLAKE: --you're welcome-- ADAMS: --for coming in. And for the record, just, uh, I'd like for you to state what your full name is. BLAKE: Uh, Robert--you want the middle? ADAMS: Yes sir. BLAKE: Robert John Blake Jr. ADAMS: Robert John Blake Jr. And do you go by Bob more than anything? BLAKE: I, uh, Bob--Robert, either way. ADAMS: Okay. Um, when and where were you born? BLAKE: When? August 23rd 1936. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Chicago, Illinois. ADAMS: Chicago? BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: Well, how did you end up in Kentucky? BLAKE: That's a long story. ADAMS: Long story? (laughs) BLAKE: I ended--I ended up here via Conne--I grew up in Connecticut. ADAMS: Oh really? BLAKE: The man that signed my birth certificate as a county clerk was a guy by the name of John Daley, which some people may have heard of. ADAMS: No way! That's interesting. BLAKE: He was the county clerk at that time. ADAMS: Huh, and this is in Connecticut right? BLAKE: No, this was in Chicago--Chicago-- ADAMS: --Chicago, okay. Could you tell me a little bit about your parents, like, you know, what was your father's name; mother's maiden name; what they did for a living, that sort of thing? BLAKE: Uh, my dad was, uh, well his name--Robert John Blake Sr. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And he was, uh, maintenance engineer for the University of Connecticut and their branch campus in, uh, New London, Connecticut. ADAMS: Did he do that most of his life? BLAKE: Um, partially at the university--well when the University of Connecticut closed that branch down and, uh--he went to work for, uh, a mill that made, uh, vinyl linoleum? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: and same capacity; maintenance engineer there. ADAMS: This is in Chicago? BLAKE: No, this was in Connecticut--in Connecticut--um-hm-- ADAMS: --oh, Connecticut, okay. And then, so you were born in Chicago? BLAKE: Right. ADAMS: --then I guess shortly thereafter moved-- BLAKE: --after the war, um, my dad went to Connecticut. And the reason why he went there is prior to the war he was in the merchant marine. ADAMS: Oh! BLAKE: And when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor he was in the merchant marine at the time, and, uh, made a couple of trips hauling cargo back and forth to Europe. And, uh, decided if the bad guys were going to shoot at him he wanted to be able to shoot back. And at that time the merchant marine were not armed-- ADAMS: --right-- BLAKE: --and so he left to join the Marine Corps. ADAMS: What year was that, do you remember? BLAKE: Uh, oh boy, that's probably had to be--probably the middle of '42. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: And then he served in the Pacific, on several of the islands. ADAMS: Okay. And once he got out of the military-- BLAKE: --he got out of the military, uh, he--the reason why he went to Connecticut was because he wanted to go back into the merchant marine. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And so he went to the, um, uh, what's the name of it? It's a college, for, uh, merchant marine officers. And he went there, and went through school, and got his degree, and then decided that, no, that's not really what he wanted to do. (laughs) ADAMS: Right. Now, um, what about your mother? BLAKE: Uh, she was a telephone operator for the navy's Underwater Sound Laboratory in New London, Connecticut. ADAMS: So, I'm taking it they met in Connecticut. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: And, uh, once they were married--what year did you say you were born? BLAKE: Nineteen thirty-six. ADAMS: Nineteen thirty-six. When did they get married, do you remember? BLAKE: No. ADAMS: Okay. Shortly thereafter you came along. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: All right. And um, how long was it that your dad worked at the school? BLAKE: Um, I'm going to guess probably right around ten years, maybe not over ten years, when they closed the campus-- ADAMS: --do you remember. Do you remember it any as a kid growing up, him working at the school? BLAKE: Uh, yeah, because I used to, uh, go over there, uh, after I got out of school. It wasn't too far from where we lived. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And it, uh, had a big, uh, Olympic-sized swimming pool there, where I went and learned how to swim and learned how to dive-- ADAMS: um-hm-- BLAKE:-- and, uh, learned how to play basketball. I went over there and got the coaches there to teach me how to play basketball and teach me how to swim and dive. So yeah, I remember a lot about hanging out there. (laughs) ADAMS: So as a kid you were around an institute of higher learning. BLAKE: Yeah, some. ADAMS: So, unlike a lot of other children who grew up that never experienced that, you actually got to experience a little bit of that growing up. Now, did your mom, once your mom and dad, uh, were married, did she still stay working as a telephone operator?-- BLAKE: --yes. Um-hm. ADAMS: What was her name? BLAKE: Uh, her maiden name? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Helen Douglas. ADAMS: Okay. Now did anyone, either your mom or dad, have family in Connecticut? BLAKE: Um, my mom-- ADAMS: --so you used to see-- BLAKE: --she had a sister. ADAMS: Sisters. So you got to see your aunt? BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: But as far as like your grandparents and stuff, were you around them much? BLAKE: Uh, no. ADAMS: Okay. All right. So, we started in Chicago and now we're in Connecticut. BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: How did you end up in Kentucky? BLAKE: I graduated from high school-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and didn't really know what I wanted to do. Um, I wasn't really ready to go to college. I'd thought about it. Most of the friends that I ran around with were going off to school. Um, so I joined the navy. ADAMS: Right out of high school, from Connecticut, right? BLAKE: Right out of high school. Well about a year later, about a year after I graduated. I worked for a while. Worked for a company that uh--kind of like a building specialties company. They did overhead garage doors and ornamental iron railings, and storm doors and windows, and that kind of thing. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Uh, a friend of mine's dad owned the company and I worked with that--for them for a while. ADAMS: And then you say you joined the navy? BLAKE: Joined the navy, uh, somewhat on my dad's, uh, advice. Because I had, you know, talked about wanting to go to college, and they really didn't have the money to send me. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And, uh, he said--this was at the time when the Korean GI Bill was getting ready to go out. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And, uh, so he said this would be a good time; and a good thing for you to do. ADAMS: What year was that you joined the navy? BLAKE: Nineteen fifty-five. ADAMS: Okay, so you was able to get some of the GI bill. BLAKE: Um-hm. I got two of 'em; got the Korean and the Viet--Vietnam. ADAMS: Now, you joined the navy in '55. What'd you do in the navy? BLAKE: I was, uh, an aviation electronics specialist. ADAMS: So that would explain some of what you're doing now--(laughs)-- BLAKE: ----------(??) what I do now. Yep, exactly. ADAMS: So, how long was you in the navy? BLAKE: Five and a half years. ADAMS: And were--did you ever--where were you sent? BLAKE: Um, my first--I went to boot camp in, uh, Pawtuxent River--no, in, uh, Bainbridge, Maryland. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: After boot camp, um, I wanted to, uh, go into the submarine service. Mainly because I grew up across the river from the sub base. ADAMS: So you got to see submarines as you was growing up? BLAKE: Going up and down the river-- ADAMS: --fascination?-- BLAKE: We'd go out sailing all the time and sail around them when they were coming up and down and-- ADAMS:--(laughs)--oh, really? BLAKE: Yeah, spent some time at the submarine base. And also they built them right across the river from where I lived, too--at General Dynamics-- ADAMS: --so you got to see everything?-- BLAKE: General Dynamics. Yeah, I saw the, uh, snuck in, uh, to see the Nautilus launch, the first, uh, atomic sub. ADAMS: No, you got to see that? BLAKE: Yeah. Yeah. ADAMS: Okay, one: how did you sneak in to such a thing like that? And two: what was it like? (both laugh). BLAKE: There were three--three of us that hung around together all the time and, uh, they were having the launching of--of the Nautilus, and one of them said: "let's go see it". It was a school day. So we skipped school and went across the river to Groton and uh, didn't know how we were going to get in or anything else. We just thought, you know, we'd do whatever happened. And, a bus pulled up to the gate and let all these people off. So we just got in with the people and walked right in the gate. I saw Mamie Eisenhower break the champagne bottle on the bow, and----------(??) it was pretty neat. ADAMS: Oh my gosh! And no one questioned these three kids all the way down with this group of people? BLAKE: Nope. ADAMS: How old were you? BLAKE: We were seniors in high school-- ADAMS: --oh man. What was that like? What was it like seeing?-- BLAKE: --so, yeah, seventeen. Uh, I--it was-- ADAMS: --no doubt there was a band there playing probably, the whole spiel-- BLAKE: --yeah. Oh yeah, they had all the--all the pomp and ceremony, you know, all the bunting up and, you know, on--on the Nautilus and everything. Yeah, it was--and the little platform that, uh, she got up on and broke the champagne bottle. In fact as I remember she had to hit it twice I think. ADAMS: To get it to break. BLAKE: To get it to break (both laugh) Yeah. ADAMS: Now, you know, that would be unbelievable. What an experience to be able to see the first lady, a senior in high school-- BLAKE: yeah--yeah----yeah, it was. I was really impressed by it. I mean, how impressed, I guess, by these things does a seventeen year-old kid get, but, yeah, I was-- ADAMS: --um-hm. So ever since you were growing up you, I mean, you got to see them as skeletons put together--sailing. BLAKE: Um-hm. Yeah. ADAMS: Did you ever, or were you ever allowed--sounds like it didn't matter whether you were allowed; were you ever allowed to go onto the base and actually walk through a sub and actually touch one and go on?-- BLAKE: --yes. Yes. Um-hm. ADAMS: Because I bet with your dad he probably knew some people-- BLAKE: Yeah. Yeah Um, yeah, I've--I've been on, uh, some World War Two subs that they have. They have a muse--uh, a museum at the sub base now-- ADAMS:--um-hm-- BLAKE: --and three years ago--four years ago now, uh, we went up there and took my grandson through all of that. It was pretty--yeah, so, yeah, I had been on 'em. So, anyhow, I guess back to where the story started--(laughs)--uh, that's what I wanted to do. But they didn't have a great need for people in the sub service at that time. ADAMS: Hmm. BLAKE: They had plenty left over from World War Two. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: And, uh, somebody thought that it would be a good idea if I got into the aviation end of it; they needed people. So I got--went to, uh, Pawtuxent River, Maryland, and they put me in what they call the electronic test unit. And what we did was work with, uh, manufacturers who were building, uh, radar and electronic countermeasures equipment for--for the navy; for the aviation. And that's what I got into. ADAMS: So that's where you got your training from as far as the electric-- BLAKE: --that, and then, uh, once I decided that that was probably a pretty good thing to do, I requested to be sent to electronics school. And so I spent a couple years going to school. ADAMS: Um-hm. With the navy. BLAKE: With the navy. And, when I got out of school down in--it was down in uh Memphis, Millington, Tennessee. When I left there, I went to, uh, San Diego, California. Actually just right outside of San Diego, a little town called Chula Vista? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And there was an auxiliary naval air station sat up on a mesa. And what I did there was I flew remote controlled jet drones that the, uh-- ADAMS: --cool!-- BLAKE: --fighter pilots used for air-to-air missile practice. And this is when they were developing the heat-seeking missiles. ADAMS: Oh! BLAKE: And so I'd sit up in the plexiglass nose of a patrol aircraft with my joystick and my throttle, and I would fly my little airplane and they would shoot missiles at it. And I would try to evade the missiles-- ADAMS: (laughs)--miss 'em-- BLAKE: So that--that--that was neat. That was a good tour. ADAMS: So the, uh, the whole, uh, Nintendo and all that stuff doesn't hold to what you did? BLAKE: Nah. (both laugh) ADAMS: Okay, so you--you decided, I guess, after five years in the navy that was enough. BLAKE: That was--well, the reason why I decided that was by that time I was married and had a family. ADAMS: Ah. BLAKE: (laughs) So I guess if we back up on the story a little bit-- while I was at Pawtuxent River, Maryland, I started hanging around with a guy from Lexington, Kentucky. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: And all I heard about was the bluegrass, and how great the bluegrass was, and there just wasn't anything like it. So, one long weekend I decide--he was coming home and I decided to come with him. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And so I came and he introduced me to his cousin. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: And after several trips from Maryland--(laughs)--to here on weekends, and then when I got stationed down in Memphis--I was down there for--see I went through A school and B school, so I was down there almost two years. And, uh, I kept coming up here on weekends, so one thing led to another and I got--when I went out to California I guess I got kind of lonely and came back and we got married. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: So, then I took her out to California with me and in the interim we had a child. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And at that point we really hadn't gotten into Vietnam but-- ADAMS: --heading that direction-- BLAKE: It was heading in that direction. And there were a couple of offers at the time because of the experience that I had that I could join, uh, a fighter squadron and get, uh, guaranteed flight status if I would, uh, re-up, and, uh, take that and--my wife wanted to come back home. ADAMS: Missing the bluegrass? BLAKE: Yeah, and you know, her family. And I wasn't really crazy about that at the time anyway, so I said, "all right, tell you what, if you let me go to school, I will." So I applied to UK, got accepted. ADAMS: What year was that? BLAKE: Nineteen-sixty. ADAMS: And what did you, uh, what'd you get your get bachelor's degree in? BLAKE: I got it in education with an area of concentration in science. I wanted to be a high school science teacher. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: I guess I must have been impressed when I was in--(laughs)--in school by my science teacher. I don't remember really why. But, that was what I wanted to do. ADAMS: So what year did you graduate? BLAKE: Nineteen sixty-four. ADAMS: Nineteen sixty-four. And then what did you do? BLAKE: I taught physics-- ADAMS: --where at?-- BLAKE: --and general science and math at, uh, Bourbon County High. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: For two years. ADAMS: Then what happened? BLAKE: I decided that I really wasn't cut out to be a high school teacher. I liked the teaching part; it was everything that went with it that I didn't care for. ADAMS: The politics? BLAKE: No, it wasn't the politics, so much, it was--in--in high school you have to be a whole lot of other things besides just a teacher with the kids. And I--it--it just wasn't me. I just didn't really feel comfortable. ADAMS: Wasn't your cup of tea, so to speak. BLAKE: Yeah, so-- ADAMS: and that would be '66, right? When you quit teaching?-- BLAKE: --that would be '66, and I thought then-- ADAMS: --so, what did you decide? BLAKE: I thought: well, maybe I'll go back to school. So I still had some people that I knew at UK, some professors that I had, and came back there, uh, to the physics department, and was talking to a couple of them. And one of them says, uh--and this was when they were building the Van de Graaf, uh--they'd just built the new chemistry- physics building?-- ADAMS: --hmm-- BLAKE: And they were building the Van de Graaf accelerator; they were putting it in. And they said: we need some people here with some electronics background and some physics experience, uh, to work here in the lab and help us set up the instrumentation for this and help the graduate students-- ADAMS: --so-- BLAKE: --with their research. So, I said: "That sounds like fun, I'll do that." ADAMS: So, you started to work for UK in '66? BLAKE: Sixty-six. July--July 1st 1966. ADAMS: All right, and did you start working on your master's then? BLAKE: Uh, not on my master's. I started working--I started, uh, taking some more classes. I was going to go and do the engineering degree. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: 'Cause I thought, well, I'm going to get back into this again, so that's-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --what I might as well go ahead and do. And so I started taking some classes then, and, uh, one of the people that was mentioned during our first committee meeting; guy by the name of Russ Puckett?-- ADAMS:--um-hm-- BLAKE:--um, got a job at the physics department also doing essentially the same thing. In fact he was my supervisor. And he stayed there for about a year or so and then he went to the College of Engineering. And it wasn't too long after he was over there--he was heading up, uh, a unit called, uh, Office of Research and Engineering Services. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And he asked me if I wanted to transfer over to there. And, I thought: well sure, why not? ADAMS: All right. BLAKE: I did that, and, uh, continuing taking a course working towards, uh, a, uh, engineering degree. ADAMS: When did you--when did you make that switch, to the Office of Research? BLAKE: Ah, I'm guessing I was probably with the physics department for maybe four maybe five years--five years at the most. ADAMS: So, we're talking '71. Seventy-seventy-one? BLAKE: Uh, no I guess I wasn't there that long. Because I got involved with LTI when I was at the College of Engineering and that had to be, um, pretty sure it was about 1969. ADAMS: All right. So you moved to the Office of Research probably in '69? BLAKE: No, before then, probably had to be '68. ADAMS: Sixty-eight. BLAKE: So, that would have put me only two years--but I was there longer than that--two, yeah, maybe three years. Well, that's a long time ago. ADAMS: A couple days back, wasn't it BLAKE: Two or three years. ADAMS: So you were at the Office of Research '68 with Russ Puckett. BLAKE: Sixty-eight or sixty-nine. Yeah. ADAMS: Then how did you, at--at any of this time, when this is going on, had you ever heard of LTI? BLAKE: No ADAMS: Okay, when was the first time that you ever heard of LTI? Cause you were over here on UK's campus-- BLAKE:--right-- ADAMS: --and this is part of UK, but you'd never heard about it? BLAKE: Never heard about it. ADAMS: When did you first hear about it? BLAKE: When I first heard about it was when Russ Puckett and a UK professor--engineering professor named H--named H. Alex Romanowitz. ADAMS: Can you spell that, or attempt to? BLAKE: R-o-m-a-n-a-w-i-t-z, I think. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Um, and you can check for the spelling on that probably out of the phone book, because his son lives here in Lexington, and he's an architect. ADAMS: Oh, okay. Okay. BLAKE: So, anyhow, they came to me. And the reason why they came to me was Lexington Bluegrass Army Depot, when it was the army depot, out here at Avon-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --uh, what they used to do out there was repair, um, field electronics equipment. And just about this time everything was changing over from vacuum tubes to transistors. And they called UK wanting to know if UK College of Engineering would set up some training programs for their people. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And the College of Engineering said: no, we don't do that kind of thing. ADAMS: Hmm. BLAKE: Well, Romanowitz had done that kind of thing-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: -- during the Second World War. And he said, "I can do it, but I'm going to need some help." And so I don't know how he got involved with Russ--Russ Puckett--well, they were all there in the College of Engineering and he knew Russ. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: But, you know, I--but they decided because I had some teaching experience-- ADAMS: --plus military. BLAKE: Plus military, plus the electronics and the rest of it, that I might be a good candidate to do that. So, they asked me if I would go out there and teach classes. And I said, "Sure, why not?" ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: And when they were putting this thing together, one of the things that's, uh, the army depot asked for was: can we get credit for this-- college credit? And there was no mechanism to do that and somebody said: well, we have this Lexington Technical Institute. ADAMS: Run it through them. BLAKE: So, we'll just run these courses through them. And so that was my first tie-in with Lexington Technical Institute. ADAMS: So, that's the first time that you've heard--hmm. BLAKE: Yeah, that was the first time I heard of it. ADAMS: So, when you started teaching these courses out at the--out at the depot--did you teach them at the depot? BLAKE: At the depot, yeah-- ADAMS: --okay. And they were filtered through LTI? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: What year was that, do you remember? BLAKE: Sixty-nine. ADAMS: Sixty-nine. Um, what involvement as being a teacher did you have with LTI. Or was all this set up behind the scenes? You didn't meet anybody over at Breckenridge and-- BLAKE: --uh, at that time, I did not meet anybody over at Breckenridge. It was all behind the scenes. ADAMS: So, Russ Puckett and whoever set all this up and-- BLAKE: --right-- ADAMS: --it went its merry way. So when did you start, uh--and you were employed by UK? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: Okay. When did you become, um--and I guess, how long did you teach these classes? BLAKE: Uh, probably--two years. ADAMS: Okay. So about to '71? BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: When did you officially become involved--I guess that would make you involved with LTI, but when did you become to where you knew the system?-- BLAKE: --well, the--the--the more official part of it came, um, when we terminated the program at Avon, um. ADAMS: Seventy-one? BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: When we terminated that program, somebody decided: why don't we just start offering courses to the public? ADAMS: In electronics? BLAKE: In electronics--yep, elec--electrical engineering technology. ADAMS: And that's what it was called in '71? BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: As near as I can remember, that's what we called it. ADAMS: And who came up with the idea of: let's start doing this? BLAKE: I think that was probably Russ Puckett's idea. ADAMS: All right. So how did that transpire? This idea came up, I guess, between Russ and you and a couple other people: let's do this to the public, and-- BLAKE: --um-hm-- ADAMS: was it presented to the powers that be at that time. Or how did that transpire, do you remember?-- BLAKE: --uh, I assume that it was. I was not involved with that at all. I was asked: would I be willing to teach-- ADAMS: --full-time?-- BLAKE: the courses No, because we didn't think that we'd have enough, you know-- ADAMS: --interest?-- BLAKE: --to--well, not enough interest, but initially enough people to warrant a full-time person. So they asked me if I would be willing to teach the classes. And we started, uh, offering them in the evening. ADAMS: Um-hm. You were still working in the physics?-- BLAKE: --no, College of Engineering at this point-- ADAMS: --College of Engineering, okay. You're at the College of Engineering, you're--you're doing that hat. BLAKE: Right. ADAMS: And then you started doing this other hat, teaching with LTI. BLAKE: Right, and I had another hat. ADAMS: Which was? BLAKE: Well, I was taking courses. ADAMS: (laughs) Taking courses-- BLAKE: --engineering courses and-- ADAMS: --don't forget father, and husband and everything else-- BLAKE: --and--and, uh, yeah. And, uh, I got to talking to Russ about it one day, trying to figure out how we were going to get all this to fit together without me just--(laughs)--totally losing it. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And he said, "Well, I've got another idea for ya." And I said, "What's that?" He says, "Why don't you go over to the College of Education and get a master's in that?" And I said, "Why do I want to that?" And he said, "Because I think this LTI thing is going to grow." And he says, "And you like it, you enjoy it. Why don't you do that?" And he said, "You've got enough engineering background that you don't need-- ADAMS: --more-- BLAKE: --more. So, get the master's" He says, "I think that'll be more beneficial." ADAMS: Then you could teach. BLAKE: Then I could teach. And I could still work--(laughs)--for the College of Engineering. ADAMS: So, he foresaw, and you--you did this on Russ Puckett's advice-- BLAKE: --yes-- ADAMS: --he foresaw that LTI would be growing and it would need professors-- BLAKE:--um-hm-- ADAMS: --and your experience in engineering and your background; if you got this Master's in education, you would be a perfect fit-- BLAKE: --yep-- ADAMS: --since you were already teaching. BLAKE: So, that was the direction I took. ADAMS: So, when did you start going over to Dickey Hall? BLAKE: That had to be probably--probably just about that time. Seventy- -seventy-two. Seventy-one--seventy-two. ADAMS: So you started your Master's in education. When did you finish that? BLAKE: Seventy-four. ADAMS: Now during this period, were you still teaching the night classes; still working in the engineering? Nothing changed during--? BLAKE: No, nothing changed. ADAMS: Okay. Well, when did, um, when did it change? When did you become a full-time teacher working for LTI? BLAKE: Uh, that would have been January 1st, 19--what'd we say, 74? ADAMS: Um-hm. So right when you finished your degree you had a job waiting? BLAKE: Yep. ADAMS: So, up to this point had you had any more affiliation with LTI other than teaching the night classes? In other words, did you get familiar with administration and how LTI was structured? BLAKE: Ah, yes. ADAMS: Okay, and when did you start doing that? BLAKE: Um, that I'm not sure. I--I just kind of gradually grew into it, um, going over to Breckenridge Hall and, you know, talking to the people over there, you know. I don't know that there ever was a starting point or--I--I--I don't remember. ADAMS: ----------(??) one of those things-- BLAKE: --I just remember, uh, yeah, trying to think of who the, uh, who the director--at the time. ADAMS: And I guess since you was teaching classes you had to get familiar with the director of the program. BLAKE: Yeah. Yeah, um-- ADAMS: --cause at that time there wasn't a president, there was a director-- BLAKE: --no, they was called director, yeah. ADAMS: --that reported to a vice president, who then reported to the president of UK. Is that how that works? BLAKE: Yeah. Um-hm. ADAMS: And in '74 when you started, was your office located in Breckenridge? Cause they--they taught-- BLAKE: --uh, when I started full-time, yes I did. I moved over to Breckenridge Hall. ADAMS: Was it in the basement or the third floor? BLAKE: No, third floor. ADAMS: All the administrative offices and teachers were located on the same floor or--? BLAKE: Second floor were the administrative offices and third floor was, uh, faculty. ADAMS: Where'd you teach your classes, cause none of this campus was built at the time?-- BLAKE: --classrooms, College of Engineering. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: We used all their facilities. ADAMS: So is it possible to have a UK student and an LTI student sitting next-to-next to each other in class and no difference being given?-- BLAKE: --uh, no. No, that did not happen-- ADAMS: --why is that? Because of the technical? BLAKE: Because of the--the level. Uh, ours, even at that time when it-- when it started was, uh, an algebra-trig based program. And engineering program was calculus based. And so they went in to more complexity than we did, and much more deeply into the theory than we did. We tried to have a balance of theory and hands-on. ADAMS: So, UK's engineering courses were much theory? BLAKE: Theory in nature. ADAMS: Whereas yours was much more theory slash hands-on. BLAKE: Right. ADAMS: We'll give you the water and teach you how to drink it, same thing-- BLAKE: --yep--same thing. ADAMS: Uh, so, even back then in-in'74 there was a slight difference, you would say, between the students on what they learned in a class? BLAKE: Um, a difference. I--I don't think I would say slight difference. It was more than a slight difference. ADAMS: It was considerable? BLAKE: Considerable. ADAMS: Did you ever see a lot of UK and LTI students mingling together? BLAKE: Uh, not at that time. ADAMS: So, there was definitely a: you're here, you're here, separation?-- BLAKE: --right. Yes. Uh, there was an attempt, and I did get involved in it--again; this was the initiation of Russ--Russ Puckett. Uh, at that time nationally there was a movement to create, uh, what they called a two-plus-two program. Where a student could enter an engineering field, uh, at a community college level or technical institute level-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and then if they wanted to go ahead and complete the second two years at an engineering school and get a bachelor's in engineering degree. ADAMS: Gotcha. BLAKE: And, uh, we worked on that for quite a while. Um, the University of Kentucky, particularly the College of Engineering, was not interested-- ADAMS: --really? Why?-- BLAKE: --in that concept. That I really don't know exactly. Um, I think there was some feeling that the quality of the courses that we were doing at that time was not really at the level that they wanted them to be for their program. ADAMS: So, your freshman and sophomore level classes were not equal to their freshman-sophomore level classes in your opinion? BLAKE: In my opinion, no they weren't. Uh, they weren't designed to be. ADAMS: Okay. So, a freshman and--and a sophomore, in--in UK's mentality, would be more advanced than a freshman-sophomore LTI student? BLAKE: Yes. Yes. ADAMS: So that was the reason they--but you would think--I guess maybe, uh, enrollment numbers were not that important evidently, that they would go for that because that would guarantee a certain percentage coming into their program. And then they--if they failed, they failed. But you gave them the opportunity. So, the engineering school at UK you say would be very selective at that time, in the early seventies? BLAKE: Um, they were selective. I--I don't know that I would use the word very, but yes, they were selective. ADAMS: Okay. Now--so, in your opinion, what role was LTI playing in the overall Community College System? 'Cause see it was founded differently than the other community colleges-- BLAKE: --Yes. Yeah. ADAMS: --what role do you think it played? BLAKE: Uh, we were the only truly technical institute in the system at that time, meaning more of our emphasis was on--on the technical programs. And on--it was at that time all of our general-ed--or most of our general-ed courses were taught at UK. Uh, we did have some what we call technical math courses, uh, that we had instructors to teach. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Uh, we had some technical writing courses that we had--LTI had their own instructors to teach. But, things like college algebra and--and some of those courses the--our students would come over here to U--would go to UK to take. ADAMS: So in their general-ed courses you could very well have an LTI student and a UK student sitting side by side and they would not know any-- BLAKE: --yes. Yeah. Right. ADAMS: I wonder if--I guess they were charged the same tuition? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: Everything was the same. BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: I wonder if they had to dual-enroll? BLAKE: Uh, we went through a couple of--of iterations on how that enrollment worked. Um, but at one time in--early on, uh, a student, an LTI student, could when they enrolled for classes at LTI also enroll for a gen-ed class at UK. ADAMS: So they didn't have to go through a dual-admissions process? BLAKE: No. ADAMS: Were they admitted--I guess trying to think about this in my mind, I guess they had to be admitted as a UK student, because LTI was just a separate college of the system-- BLAKE: --um-hm-- ADAMS: -- it wasn't a separate entity. So, if you had--you were first admitted to UK and then accepted into LTI. Is that how that went? Because you wouldn't be admitted to go through the admissions process through LTI. You'd do that through UK, wouldn't you? BLAKE: I don't know. I was pretty sure that a student could be admitted to LTI-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and then take English 101, uh, college algebra; any of the 100 or 200 level courses that UK offered, just simply by enrolling here. ADAMS: So, LTI had its own admissions? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: Okay, so they could then. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: I could say I wanted to be an LTI student and get the benefits of having these other gen-ed courses around me and take them there. BLAKE: Right. ADAMS: So, if you were admitted into LTI you were guaranteed to be able to take classes, your general-ed, at UK? BLAKE: Um, freshman-sophomore level courses, yes. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Well, that's the way I understood it. ADAMS: Okay. Now do--how do you think, since LTI was more technical oriented than the other community colleges, how were they looked upon by the other community colleges at that time? BLAKE: Um, only from maybe a limited perspective, some of the others thought that we thought that we were better than they were. ADAMS: Right, because I was going to ask you that because of the location. BLAKE: Because of the location. One, being on UK's campus. Plus being close to the systems office-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --that we might have thought we were special. ADAMS: A little step above. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: In reality that wasn't in your-- BLAKE: --actually, in reality--(laughs)--they were probably treated better than we were. ADAMS: Received more money? BLAKE: I think so. And I, you know, I don't know whether that was by intention or-- ADAMS:--Um-hm-- BLAKE: --or what, but uh. ADAMS: So you started in '74. So you can remember where we're currently located today here in the Oswald Building? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: What was the physical makeup of the landscape of where this campus sits today before it was built? BLAKE: It was a farm. ADAMS: Part of the dairy farm, the Good Barn?-- BLAKE: Part of the Good Barn? Um-hm. ADAMS: No football stadium you can remember? BLAKE: No. ADAMS: Just a pasture field? BLAKE: Yeah. Um-hm. ADAMS: Now Cooper Drive, there's been some discussion here. Did Cooper Drive end? BLAKE: Cooper Drive ended right in front of-- ADAMS: --right next to the practice field?-- BLAKE: where ,yeah, KET-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and the practice fields. Right there where they both kind of abut and--and the houses start? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Cooper Drive ended there. ADAMS: So the--the houses had a driveway that come out to a fence and Cooper come out to a fence. Why? Why do you think that that was never- -why was that bought, if there were two roads there, in your opinion? You know, I think the people in the community would want to be able to drive straight on down the road if--in other words if there was a road that led up to a fence-- BLAKE: --um-hm-- ADAMS: --and then a road that led up on the other side to the fence-- BLAKE: --(laughs)--well, I-- ADAMS: --was that something that UK or the city closed off? Because that was UK's property and they said: we don't want all that community traffic coming through here?-- BLAKE: Uh, that was probably it. I'm--I'm not sure. I'm trying to remember--was there a road on the other side of the fence? ADAMS: If those houses were there--were they there at that time? BLAKE: No, I mean on--on when you come off of Tate's Creek-- ADAMS: --um-hm- BLAKE: --and come down Cooper. Yeah, those houses were there. ADAMS: So, there had to be some road coming to those houses-- BLAKE: --but--but--right, Cooper Drive. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: but then it stopped. ADAMS: Oh, so it wasn't like a road-fence-road? BLAKE: No. ADAMS: I gotcha. BLAKE: It stopped, and then on this side was the pastureland and-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --for the agriculture. And I--I don't think there were any roads-- ADAMS: --leading up to the, uh-- BLAKE: leading up to it, no. ADAMS: Do you remember if KET was there? BLAKE: Uh, no not then. ADAMS: When was that built, do you remember? BLAKE: Oh gosh. ADAMS: Ballpark? In other words, was it there before this campus was here? BLAKE: For some reason, I don't think so. I think maybe it was built just after. ADAMS: The Oswald building? BLAKE: Um-hm, but I'm not really sure. ADAMS: 'Cause I've asked numerous people that question-- BLAKE: --um-hm-- ADAMS: --and--and they same the same thing. Is it--if it wasn't built when Cooper--or when Oswald Building was built, it was built shortly thereafter. BLAKE: Yeah, that's kind of what I think. I didn't remember anything else being here, but. ADAMS: When did they open Cooper all the way up, do you remember that date? BLAKE: Uh, no, I don't. ADAMS: 'Cause the--the football stadium, it was built before the Oswald Building, correct?-- BLAKE: --right. ADAMS: Do you know, 'cause you were in the administration at that time, being as a faculty member, do you remember why they chose where this campus sits? Out of all the land UK owns, why was this particular spot chosen? BLAKE: Not really, some speculation, but I don't think I really know what the actual official reason was why we were placed here. One, uh, I think they wanted to get us off campus because at this point we're-- we're growing. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: We're taking up, uh, space. ADAMS: Their space. BLAKE: Their space. Yeah, exactly. Uh, when we first started in--in the electronics program, when we started--first started doing classes, we had very small classes. Uh, we were doing most of them in the evening-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and the College of Engineering didn't offer anything at night. So the--they didn't have any problem with us being there. But as we started to grow we started offering day classes. And now we're asking to use their facilities during the daytime, and so now we're infringing. ADAMS: Gotcha. BLAKE: And I suspect maybe some of the other programs that were in the same situation we were using UK facilities, uh, we were starting to, uh, encroach on them a little bit and so they wanted us out. And, uh-- ADAMS: --be gone. BLAKE: Yeah, uh, and the land was available. And they were--had plans that they were going to develop this; put the football stadium in. And, uh, so this was a, uh, I guess a logical place to put it. Um, also at that time John Oswald was the president-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and he had an idea of forming something that was called the south campus; this was south campus. And what was going to happen here was the first two years of instruction. And then main campus would be the second two years and graduate school. And I don't know if in his mind that putting LTI over here and then allowing us to start offering our own gen-ed--gen-ed classes, that maybe that would be a start in that direction. I don't know. I just--that's speculation. ADAMS: Some people have said that they feel the reason that we were put here was because of the parking, because we were growing so much; ample parking. BLAKE: Uh, that was, yep, probably part of it. ADAMS: You're about the second or third person that's also said about, uh, it was heading in the direction of us becoming a community college way before we did actually become a community college. So, do you remember what this was like during construction, the Oswald building when it was being built, do you remember it? BLAKE: Um, I had come over here a couple of times and, you know, during the construction phase to look, you know, through it and see what was going on. Um, had some input, uh, into the rooms that we were going to use for the electronics labs and for the classrooms, and how we wanted those set up. Um, we were the only program at that time. Uh, Ben Carr was, uh, program coordinator at that time and, uh, he and I came over and essentially designed our laboratories and classrooms that we were going to use. ADAMS: That must have been nice. BLAKE: And we were the only ones that had three chalkboards in the classroom-- ADAMS: --oh really?-- BLAKE: --and everybody thought: why do you want to do that? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And one of the reasons is, is when you solve, uh, circuit problems there's generally several ways that you can solve them-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: -- and so what we would normally do was solve it one way on one chalkboard another way on another chalkboard and then on the third chalkboard we'd do it the third way and so they could see that you know they were all valid-- ADAMS: --all three were ways-- BLAKE: --ways to do it. And some problems lend themselves, uh, more to one type of solution than another. And-- [Pause in recording.] ADAMS: You were mentioning before we had to, uh, turn the tape over that you had three chalkboards in your room? BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: Now what was it like, as far as the faculty goes, about being able to--everyone to be in the same building; all the classes being taught in the same building? BLAKE: It was great. ADAMS: Was it wonderful? BLAKE: It was. Absolutely. It was fantastic. This was probably the best place to work. ADAMS: Really? BLAKE: Yeah. It was a great environment. ADAMS: So, did it make you feel more as a group? BLAKE: Yes, absolutely. When we were over in Breckenridge Hall, everybody, I mean, everybody was--was kind of there-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and--but you were just there for your office. And then when you went to class we went to the various buildings on UK campus and so we were apart. But here you'd see each other walking up and down the halls when you were going to class. And, uh, when we were over there maybe you knew some of the people in nursing because they were, you know, a couple offices down from you-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and you would see them and talk to them a little bit, but not like over here. Uh, we'd see them in the hall everyday and it was just--yeah, we were--we were a family. ADAMS: Made it a lot more conducive----------(??)-- BLAKE: --yes, absolutely. Yeah. ADAMS: Um, what was this space like during that time? Because now--of course you know, this, I'm not telling you anything-- BLAKE: (both laugh) --right-- ADAMS: --you don't know. What was it like then and--and what year did this building open? BLAKE: Uh, it had to be--let's see, I started in '74. And this thing was under construction then, so it had to be '75? ADAMS: Seventy-five, seventy-six, yeah. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: What was it like, uh, coming in to this new building? BLAKE: Oh, it was great. We had parking. Well, we parked out back then. We didn't have the side lot; had the lot out back. Uh, parking was great. Um-- ADAMS: --plenty of space? BLAKE: Plenty of space. ADAMS: Resources at hand? BLAKE: Resources at hand. Uh, we owned our own classrooms. We didn't have to worry about that we were borrowing them from UK and-- ADAMS: --right-- BLAKE: --whatever department we were in. And in the labs we had our own equipment, we weren't using UK stuff and worrying about whether damage would occur. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: Um, so yeah-- ADAMS: So it made you feel like it was yours, I mean this-- BLAKE: --it was ours. It was. We had an ownership. And kind of the neat thing about it too, at least from my program's perspective at the time; the students had an ownership too. They weren't over there mixed up with all the other people at UK. This was their school. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: And they went here, and they went to LTI and this was their school. You could walk up and down the halls then and not see trash all over the floor. You could go into the restrooms, and this was even after we were--had been here a couple three or four years, no graffiti on the stall walls, um, no trash on the floors-- ADAMS: --so they really kept--kept it up. BLAKE: The students were proud of this school. And the faculty was also. ADAMS: Do you think--was LTI, uh, really working with the community at that time? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: So the community was really behind? BLAKE: Yes, um, our program, and some of the other programs as well, but again, I have to talk from the perspective of mine. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Uh, we had, uh, several, uh, training programs with IBM and sent faculty out there. Um, a couple of the other faculty who are no longer here that were in the program, uh, taught classes out there. I did, for probably two years, maybe three. ADAMS: Who were some of the big companies in the community that were really pushing for the electronics? BLAKE: Uh, IBM was one. Uh, back initially, that got the electronics started, was, uh, Bluegrass Army Depot. Uh, who else did we work with? ADAMS: Because there was a call from the community to have this. It wasn't like UK said: I think we'll have this electronics department. There was a need. BLAKE: No, UK didn't. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: Yeah. In fact they saw, as far as the College of Engineering was concerned--(laughs)--they--they saw no use for us at all. ADAMS: Kind of a waste? BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: But you had businesses like IBM, the Army Depot. Now when you say the Army Depot, I guess you actually worked with the army, the federal government, correct? BLAKE: Uh, yes. ADAMS: And all that had to go through all the hoops and all that?-- BLAKE: -um-hm. I always had to have a special badge when I went out there to teach classes and I could only go to a certain part of the base. ADAMS: Um-hm. Did it help that you was a veteran when you got there as far as mingling with the people, did they really like that, hey?-- BLAKE: --um, I suppose. I--I don't really know. ADAMS: Okay. Do you think at this time, '75-'76, that you were meeting the needs of the community? BLAKE: Yes. Uh '75-'76 ,uh, the program was growing. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um-- ADAMS: --how big was it then? BLAKE: Probably in '75 and '76 we probably had maybe fifty or sixty headcount in the program. Um, around probably '77-'78 we got up to, uh, over a hundred in the program-- ADAMS: --almost double-- BLAKE: --maybe a 125-130 in the program. ADAMS: So once it got out in the community that this was being offered, you had a lot more students come. BLAKE: We had a lot more students. ADAMS: I guess you had to, uh, at the--and--and maybe I should have asked this at the beginning. You--you were a full-time faculty member to teach these classes. Were there others?-- BLAKE: --yes. Yes. Uh, Ben Carr-- ADAMS: --um-hm- BLAKE: -- at that time he was--well by that time then we were, uh, organized into divisions. He was the division chairman, and I think he taught two classes. And I taught three. Uh, we had another full-time instructor and several part-time. ADAMS: So it was growing? BLAKE: It was growing. ADAMS: When did you start seeing--and cause--I guess as this goes you said '75-'76 you had about fifty; '77-'78 you had 100-150. Was there always a steady increase? When did you start noticing that space was becoming an issue? BLAKE: Uh, space--(laughs)--rapidly became an issue. Uh, probably about '76 or '77. ADAMS: So right after it was built it started getting packed. BLAKE: It started getting packed, yes. ADAMS: When was Moloney and AT Building built, and which one was first? BLAKE: Moloney. ADAMS: Moloney? What--what year was Moloney building built? BLAKE: Oh boy, had to be mid-eighties? ADAMS: Was it built before we became a, uh, comprehensive community college in '84? Or was it built after the fact?-- BLAKE: --(pause)--um, if it was built before it was built right before. I think we were in the process of gearing up to go in that direction; to become a comprehensive community college at that point. ADAMS: So Moloney, then AT? BLAKE: Right. ADAMS: What was the, uh, going to be the purpose of the Moloney Building? Was it more to get the labs out of this and-- BLAKE: --uh, no, the Moloney Building was mostly office space. ADAMS: So it was to get the administrative-- BLAKE: --with--with some, well, faculty offices. ADAMS: Faculty offices out to free up for classes. BLAKE: And--and--and labs. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Faculty offices, uh, yeah, and labs; pretty much what the focus of that building was going to be. ADAMS: Did--I'm guessing since you all had so many labs that you were then moved to the Moloney Building? BLAKE: Uh, only the faculty offices. We kept our electronics lab here. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Um, in this building. ADAMS: Where was it located, downstairs?-- BLAKE: --we had two of them. Uh, down on the first floor we had, uh, we had two labs: 118 and 119. ADAMS: Gotcha. Were the com--there's computers there? BLAKE: Computers in one of them. Uh, since our program started diminishing in size-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --uh, at that time the computer program was growing and so-- ADAMS: --alternating out-- BLAKE: --they said: we need it more than you do. ADAMS: What was it like in nineteen--oh well, let's--let's step back one step. When did the big push for LTI to become Lexington Community College, to become a comprehensive community college, when did that push start and who initiated it? BLAKE: My guess the initiation was from the systems office. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: And had to be, again, I got to say mid-eighties. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: Eighty-three--eighty-four. Somewhere in there. That's-- ADAMS: Do you think in 1984, when Lexington Technical Institute became Lexington Community College, that it either severely diminished the original purpose of LTI or it strengthened its purpose? BLAKE: I think it diminished it. ADAMS: Took too much focus away from the technical side; or its original purpose. BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: Because of that do you think that's what led-- BLAKE: I think that that was a factor-- ADAMS: --okay-- BLAKE: -- in leading to the decreasing enrollment, uh, of our program. Prior to us becoming a comprehensive community college we had several students who would come here and live in the dorms from other communities that had a community college; that was part of the system. We had them come from Ashland, uh, we had 'em come from, uh, Henderson--Hopkinsville; would come here to take our program. ADAMS: So as far as your program is concerned it kind of hurt you. Cause then they could stay-- BLAKE: --it hurt. It hurt. ADAMS: Now what about the whole college in general, did it help? BLAKE: Eh, I suppose it depends on what criteria you look at. Uh, as far as growth, once we became a comprehensive community college, uh, the growth was phenomenal. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um, we started both in--in students and in faculty, uh, as we started offering, uh, transfer courses through the university. And so that added to the growth. And a lot of students, uh, would come here to take their first year maybe or--or two years-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and then transfer to UK. Um, it kind of eased the culture shock that I used to think of it as. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: You have a lot of students come from these smaller com-- communities and they come to UK and here's this big campus-- ADAMS: --huge-- BLAKE: --and they'd just come here and get lost. Or they can come to LCC-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --fit in, get acclimated, and then go on to UK and do just fine. So, in--in that sense, yeah, it--it was probably a good move. From my perspective and my program, no, it wasn't. ADAMS: Do you think that--or--has LTI ever been this--do you think when we became LCC we started being seen more as a feeder institution than what we were when we were LTI? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: For just those--some of the reasons, but one, just like you stated. Do you think that that helped or hurt the credibility of the institution? BLAKE: Well, again, I suppose you have to--it depends on--on how you look at it. From technical standpoint it probably hurt. Um, from, uh, the standpoint of offering more of a comprehensive education to our service area-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --then it--it probably was better; it helped. ADAMS: Well we probably started losing some of our technical students to Central, and other technical institutions that--that didn't want come to a comprehensive; they wanted to come here to get this skill. BLAKE: And that--right about that time, and again I--I don't know exactly what the timing was, but that's the time that, uh, Sullivan cropped up here. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And uh they have their technical school. I forget what it's called. It's--it's part of Sullivan, but they have another name. Uh, they cropped up, uh, and then we have what's going on out at--at Central. ADAMS: Do you think when we became Lexington Community College in 1984 that we were meeting or not meeting community expectations? And the reason I ask that for--like you said, Sullivan cropped up, these-- Central cropped up. Did the demands from the community for technical education, where our emphasis were more put on community college, is that what caused these other institutions to pop up? Whereas if we were still a technical school there would have not been no need. BLAKE: Well, that's--that's hard to say. Uh-- ADAMS: --in other words, were we meeting the community's needs at that time? BLAKE: I think we were. Um, the community was growing-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --um, in that period. Um, we started getting a lot of small manufacturing companies moving in and, uh, added demand for--for technical people. And--and I think that was probably a factor. Also, some of these other, uh, institutions moved--well like Sullivan moving in. ADAMS: Uh-hm. BLAKE: Uh, as far as, um, the vocational school, uh, you know, they had their programs out there and--and they had always been there. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: Um, so I--I don't--you don't know that that was--was a factor. I think between them and LTI we were probably meeting the needs. ADAMS: What was it like from, uh, let's--let's talk from 1984 on up into the nineties. I mean, we were growing leaps and bounds. BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: Space became an issue. Was the, uh, college community as far as the faculty still as tight? Or because it had grown so much was it not as conducive and as tight as it used to be? BLAKE: Uh, I think it was probably not--not as tight, um, as it used to be. Um, it was getting to the point in the late eighties--early nineties that, uh, you didn't know all of the faculty here. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: Where prior to that, we did. ADAMS: You knew every person's name-- BLAKE: --when we were all here in the Oswald Building, everybody knew everybody else. And you'd stop and chat for a while and whatever. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: And then as we grew, uh, faculty would come on board and, you know, we wouldn't know who they were. ADAMS: I guess the bigger you get the harder it is, even though its three buildings, the harder it is to. What do you think were some of the challenges and accomplishments of LCC during this time? BLAKE: Oh boy Well I suppose the--the challenges were to incorporate the change from being a pure technical institute into a comprehensive community college while maintaining the integrity of the programs that we already had in place. Um, getting faculty--(laughs)--probably like me, to buy into, um, the fact that becoming a comprehensive community college wouldn't be, uh, detrimental to our programs. Which I'm not sure I totally agree with at least in my case, but, uh, you know, those--those kinds of things. Because there were, at that time, a lot of faculty here who did not want to make the change, who--who did not want to become a comprehensive community college. And most of them were the technical faculty. I think most of the gen-ed faculty they-- that was fine with them, that's what they wanted to do. ADAMS: Um-hm. Why do you--why do you think that most of the technical faculty didn't want to become-- BLAKE: --uh, just from some of the debates that we had during faculty meetings when this process was going on, uh, just talking to different people in the hall. ADAMS: Changing our purpose? BLAKE: Um-hm. Just felt that it would be a diminishment of what we were doing. ADAMS: Well, this kind of goes right into the next question then. Um, what are you--what are, you know, you, what are your particular-- particularly disappointed with LCC. And what do you think it could have become? BLAKE: I guess my biggest disappointment was that we were not enable--we were not able to maintain the integrity of the engineering technology programs. Um, when we started we had three. We had electrical engineering technology; mechanical engineering technology; and civil engineering technology. All three of them very good programs. Um, civil engineering technology was the first to go. And we lost it probably before we became a comprehensive community college. Uh, mechanical was lost in the process of changing. And electrical, um, lost enrollment during that process. And I just think more probably could have been done to let the community know that the programs were going to remain viable and that they were here and that they weren't going to change. And I just don't think that was done. Uh, we did do some things; we made, uh, some promotional videos that I was involved with. Um, I guess that was back in the late eighties, um, to kind of promote our--our programs and try to let the community know. But those were, uh, shown at odd hours on KET. You know, as far as getting anything out to the community, uh, no-- ADAMS: --um-hm. Why, why did, uh, why did they decide not to have civil engineering and mechanical engineering here? Because you would think that the community would still need those? BLAKE: Um, well I was involved in the process. I was the division chair at the time and involved in the closing of the civil program. And it was a small program. Um, the graduates, uh, were being employed in the field. Um, the firms that were hiring them were tickled to death with them. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um, but the problem was it was difficult to get the students in. Our recruitment was really bad. Um, and what we found out was that most of the firms that hired the people that we were training would get them from the vocational school. Because there they were trained as, uh, in surveying, as rodmen and chainmen, and that kind of thing. And they would hire them with just the basic skills. Then if it looked like the person was going to turn out to be a good employee then they sent them to us. ADAMS: Gotcha. BLAKE: And we just weren't getting that many-- ADAMS: --gotcha-- BLAKE: --to justify the program. And--and at that point, uh, people were starting to look at how we're allocating our resources. And civil engineering program to try to keep up with, uh, advancing technology in the field, uh, we had to buy equipment, um, to keep pace and they were reluctant to spend the money. ADAMS: Attrition. BLAKE: And we were having some--some lean years, uh, budgetarily at the time. So that's why we lost the civil. ADAMS: Okay, attrition. BLAKE: Attrition. ADAMS: Basically. What was it like here from a faculty standpoint in 1998 when the whole separation of the community colleges from UK was going on and with LCC staying. How--what was the--what was going on then; what's the feeling of the faculty? BLAKE: The separation--oh of the system? ADAMS: Um-hm. Of the complete system and LCC staying with--'cause see LCC was the only school that was separated completely different from-- BLAKE: --right. Yeah, because we weren't mandated by legislation to be a community college when that system was first started. Uh-- ADAMS: --I mean was there-- BLAKE: --by--by and large I think most people were happy-- ADAMS: --to stay with UK? BLAKE: To stay with UK. ADAMS: How do you think other people in the Community College Systems felt about LCC--did that even create even a deeper wedge that was already there? BLAKE: Uh, I don't really have any experience to--to know, uh, how they really felt, but my guess is there probably was some resentment. (laughs) ADAMS: I mean they're already thinking that we're, uh, the favorite son, so to speak-- BLAKE: --yeah-- ADAMS: --and: okay they're going to pull them all away but they'll keep their favorite one-- BLAKE: --yeah, and they--and they get put out with the vocational system-- ADAMS: --and they'll get put out-- BLAKE: ----------(??)---------and we're staying here. Yeah. My perception is that, yeah, there-- ADAMS: --were you happy? BLAKE: That we stayed with UK? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um, I looked at it two ways. One, yes I was, because I'm now getting of an age where, um, I don't like change. (laughs) I guess that happens to all of us. Uh, when we're younger: yeah, okay; yeah, let's try this; this is new; let's do something different. Uh, but now I find I'm--I'm a little more reluctant--(laughs)--to--to change. So in that sense I guess I was happy that I stayed because things weren't changing. On the other hand, I wondered if maybe for our program-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --for the technical program that might not have been the better move. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: But, in retrospect now, I don't like what's happened to us. Because I think our programs when we merged--and in talking to some other people, uh, in some of the other colleges, uh, the quality has de--deteriorated somewhat. ADAMS: So the--well this leads into the next question. Do you think LCC becoming a part of KCTCS is a good or bad thing for the institution and the community of Lexington? BLAKE: I think it's a bad thing, from the perspective of the population that we're dealing with. And almost everyone that I talk to who is willing to talk-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and tell it the way they feel it, uh, the students we're getting now are not as qualified as they used to be. ADAMS: Here? BLAKE: Here. And I think that trend is going to continue now that we're part of KCTCS, because the population that they have always drawn from, the vocational side-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --are not prepared to come to do college-level work. ADAMS: The general-ed stuff? BLAKE: The general ed stuff or even the technical stuff. Not mathematically-- ADAMS: --gotcha-- BLAKE: -- uh, prepared; not, uh, prepared well enough in the sciences. ADAMS: So the KCTCS, in your opinion, draw several--or--or a high percentage of their students from students who graduate from a vocational school and high school to enter into their fields. BLAKE: Um-hm. ADAMS: Whereas right now LCC--a large population of our students are not vocational-type students when they graduate high school. So, us be--do you think because of association that we're going to lose our current population of students that we get? Or why do you say that? BLAKE: Um, again this is perspective from my own program. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um, in order to maintain the number of graduates that administration expects from a program to keep it viable-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: -- we're going to have to change some of the requirements for entrance into our program. Um, the level of physics that we require is going to have to be downgraded. The level of math that we require is going to have to be downgraded in order to get the numbers into the programs so that they can complete it and wind up being graduates. And from what we hear from our advisory committee is that our graduates are much better prepared than the graduates from the other programs. ADAMS: Is that because of the level-- BLAKE: --because of the level-- ADAMS: --of theory that they're learning at?-- BLAKE: because of the level. Yes. ADAMS: As far as the level of physics; the level of math. Is that going to hurt their hands-on? In other words, are they still going to be able to do the same? BLAKE: Yes. ADAMS: But they're not going to get that base of theory about why is what you're saying?-- BLAKE: --exactly. So, they're less--less--less adaptable, uh-- ADAMS: --well rounded-- BLAKE: --they can't go into a situation and then a new piece of equipment comes in and somebody throws you a manual and say: here, figure out how to set it up and make it work. They have a little more difficulty doing that than-- ADAMS: --right-- BLAKE: --our people do. Because they can wade through the material. They can work with an engineer in developing something, making modifications to equipment. It's just a different level. Um, as far as the hands-on, they're--they're more prepared than our people are. ADAMS: Um-hm. I gotcha. BLAKE: So. ADAMS: I guess it's just depending on what the company's wants and needs are. BLAKE: Exactly. ADAMS: They want somebody who can only press "A" and do just "A" or do they want somebody who can do the whole alphabet. BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: Who do you think, in your personal opinion, kind of forced the separation between LCC and UK? BLAKE: I guess I have to say it was President Todd. ADAMS: Why? BLAKE: Uh, well either, one: because having a two-year institution like this, um, didn't really fit their mission; becoming a top-twenty research institution. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Second thing is that we're demanding more resources. Also, uh, our Southern Association, um, didn't like, um, the control that U--UK had over our decision-making process on all of our courses. Um, that if we're going to teach English 101 UK was going to tell us how English 101 was going to be taught, simply because it's their course. ADAMS: Right. BLAKE: Uh, and those kinds of things. And so we were in danger of losing our accreditation. And in order to keep it, UK was going to have to make some major concessions that I think they did not want to make. Um, so it looked like, I guess, the best thing to do was to just cast us off and put us with the rest of the community colleges in the state. ADAMS: Do you think if there had been different leadership, let's say like Dr. Wethington, still in place at UK, we would still be with UK or not? BLAKE: I would say if it was possible to have kept it like it was, uh, Dr. Wethington would have done that. I think he had a special feeling for the Community College System, not necessarily for LCC, but I think because we were part of it, uh-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and he had such a strong affiliation with us that, uh, yeah, I think he would have done. Because when it was originally broken up, uh, he was--he was a force to keep us with UK. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: So, yeah, I--I think he would have, if--if--if it had been possible. It may, you know, be, that it was not possible to do under any circumstances, I don't know. ADAMS: So that's what I was going to ask you. Do you think that, uh, all it would have taken was some things for Lee Todd to do, and some simple things that could have easily been resolved if he had chosen to do it? BLAKE: That I don't know. ADAMS: Okay. BLAKE: You know, could they have made the concessions that Southern Association wanted made to give us more control-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and us still, uh, be a part of UK? I--I--I don't know. ADAMS: Because you're not the only person that's said, you know, that Lee Todd was brought in--that's what he was brought in for; to make them a top-twenty. That's his purpose. We did not fit that mold and we were dead weight, so. Now, you know, several other administrators that I've talked to, one in particular high ranking, said it would have taken one letter from Lee Todd and all this would have gone away. BLAKE: Probably. (laughs) ADAMS: You know, um, but, you know, he wasn't prepared to let Dr Kerley report directly to him-- BLAKE: --um-hm- ADAMS: --when the chancellor over the med center wasn't reporting directly to him. You know, little things like that. But what's done is done. Um, going forward now with KCTCS, do you foresee the electrical engineering department to grow? 'Cause you're going to merge with Central. BLAKE: Um-hm. Uh, well, that's--that's something that's interesting too, because what's going on right now is, um, a restructuring of the divisions-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE: --and it seems that, uh, the division that I am in now is not going to be with the electrical division at, uh, Central. We're going to be with Automotive Repair and Cosmetology. ADAMS: What? (both laugh) BLAKE: So. ADAMS: The electrical engineering department is going to be in the cosmetology department? BLAKE: In with them. Yes. ADAMS: Not with the electrical. BLAKE: Not with the electrical. That's what I'm hearing. ADAMS: Why? What would cosmetology?-- BLAKE: --I have no idea. I have no idea. It has to do, as I understand it, it has to do with numbers; that for some reason they want to try to keep the numbers of all the divisions the same. And so they're not particularly concerned on who they're--they're putting in with, uh, with who. Um, on the one hand that seems, uh, detrimental? ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: On the other hand it may not be. Because from this end we're saying: our program is different than your program. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: If we merge into the same division with them then the program is eventually going to be-- ADAMS: --gotcha-- BLAKE: --part of theirs. If we are in a different division we have, I guess, some unique identity-- ADAMS: --um-hm-- BLAKE:--for as long as that lasts and for as long as, uh, we can, uh, crank out enough graduates to justify the maintenance of the program. ADAMS: The cost. BLAKE: Uh, once that fails, uh, then we're going to have to merge with them; just going to be one program. ADAMS: Right. Well let me ask you, in your perspective, do you think LCC is where it should be? It's going to mark its going to mark its fortieth anniversary. Do you think that its lived up to its expectations or it's faltered? BLAKE: Oh, I think in many respects it's probably surpassed the expectations, uh, with a--you know, with a few exceptions here and there. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Um, but yeah, I don't--I don't think when this thing got started anybody envisioned we'd be what we are now. ADAMS: So back in the sixties when Russ Puckett told you?-- BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: So this is in your--in your mind, has it mushroomed and grown into something that--bigger than what you ever envisioned in the early sixties-- BLAKE: --it did. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely-- ADAMS: --when you started teaching classes out at the depot? Do you think we're on the right track to become one of the best community colleges? BLAKE: I think that could be a possibility. I think we've got the faculty here that has the ability and the desire and the will to push it in that direction. ADAMS: Um-hm. BLAKE: Uh, whether we have the resources or not to support it, that may be another question. ADAMS: That's always the question, isn't it? BLAKE: Yeah. ADAMS: Well, Bob, I really do appreciate you taking the time, uh, to sit down with me today. I know your schedule's real busy it being the end of the semester and everything with finals BLAKE: I'm just trying to make up exams that my students can't pass, that's all (both laugh). ADAMS: There you go. Keep the enrollment numbers up. BLAKE: There you go. ADAMS: Uh, but anyhow, I do appreciate you taking the time. BLAKE: Your welcome, it's been interesting. ADAMS: Is there anything else that you'd like to add right now before we end this interview? BLAKE: Um, not really, other than to say that it's been a great ride. ADAMS: Thank you, sir. Thank you. BLAKE: Thank you. [End of interview.] In this interview, Lexington Community College instructor, Robert Blake, discusses his career with the University of Kentucky, Lexington Technical Institute (LTI), and Lexington Community College (LCC). A witness to the launch of America's first nuclear submarine, Blake came to the University of Kentucky (UK) in the mid 1960s after a short navy career and teaching high school physics. Over the next four decades he taught courses in electrical engineering and witnessed the growth and evolution of LTI, including its transformation into LCC and the changes which came with LCC's conversion into a comprehensive community college in 1984. He describes construction of the Cooper Road campus and LCC's relationship with UK. Finally, Blake talks about LCC's merger with Central Kentucky Technical College within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). insert here