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2007-01-12 Interview with Warren Rosenthal, January 12, 2007 CC001:2007OH044CC19 00:51:07 History of Kentucky's Community Colleges Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Paducah Junior College West Kentucky Community & Technical College Warren Rosenthal; interviewee Adina O'Hara; interviewer 2007OH044_CC19_RosenthalEDT 1:|5(5)|22(6)|28(3)|36(9)|45(5)|54(4)|63(9)|73(5)|84(11)|92(12)|104(11)|114(11)|121(1)|133(2)|148(4)|160(4)|172(7)|183(1)|191(13)|203(8)|218(5)|240(8)|259(3)|272(5)|280(12)|291(1)|296(7)|305(1)|319(1)|327(11)|341(10)|359(2)|373(15)|385(1)|397(6)|418(7)|430(2)|441(9)|451(3)|470(7)|477(3)|499(9)|517(12)|540(14)|550(12)|556(10)|578(10)|589(7)|600(13)|617(5) audiotrans CommuColl interview O'HARA: I'm interviewing Rosen Warrenthal [Warren Rosenthal] [both laughing], at the KCTCS system's office in Versailles, Kentucky, on January 12th, 2007, for the Community College Oral History Project. Mr. Rosenthal, Paducah Junior College was founded as a private nonprofit junior college in 1932. Your father, Govriel -- ROSENTHAL: Think of "governor." O'HARA: Thank you, sir. Govriel Rosenthal's role in the creation of the community college, could you explain that? ROSENTHAL: Yes. Let me give you a bit of the history of the time, if I may. O'HARA: Please do. ROSENTHAL: This is in the depth of the Depression in 1931-32. And it was a situation where our youngsters coming out of high school could not afford to go away to college, with the expense that was involved. And a group of, I think, about six men got together and said, "Why don't we have a junior college here in Paducah where our youngsters can go for two years and then transfer their credits to whatever college in the state or out of state that they could?" And that was the root of -- commencing of the junior college. It was in a time, as I said, of great depression. The original student body consisted of, I think, around 30 or 40 students. And the -- my father was chairman -- or president. In fact, he was called president of the college throughout his entire lifetime. And the chief executive officer was the dean. But my father worked very closely with the school on a daily basis and was very close to the dean, who put his faith and trust in this board to fund the needs of the school. And this was the primary responsibility of the board and my father. O'HARA: Speaking of the dean, your father was responsible for hiring R. G. "Dean" Matheson for Paducah Junior College as the second president. Can you explain how the Paducah Junior College Board and Dean Matheson ensured the college's financial and academic success? ROSENTHAL: Well, there were a world of highly qualified faculty available who could not find employment in universities and colleges across the country. And therefore, to get a faculty was not a major problem, and the salaries that they were having to pay were very small. And it was beg, borrow, and steal the money to fund the needs of the ----------(??) school. I don't know whether it's of interest to you where the school was located originally? O'HARA: Yes, please. Awfully interested. ROSENTHAL: The school was housed in what was a house of -- at one time a fine downtown home that had been converted to a YMCA with a gym and a swimming pool attached to it. The grounds were strictly 100-foot, 125-foot lot with a couple of hundred feet deep; that was it. And consequently, you weren't looking at a campus, so to speak. In fact, the pool was closed early in its existence as a college, because they couldn't afford to operate that pool. The gym they used, of course. The -- Dean Matheson was the -- as you said, the second president and is responsible for really having accomplished a fine institution out of a little two-year school. I'd like to talk about the faculty, if I may, for a minute. O'HARA: Please do. ROSENTHAL: I attended in 1938 -- I'm sorry, 1941, and -2, and left in -- starting in September of '41-' 42, and '42 to '43. I left after my graduation. In fact, didn't even stay for graduation, went right into the Army. At that time, the faculty, 80 percent of them, were the original faculty. There was one fac - -- member of the faculty who did not have a doctorate degree, and he taught business. And all the rest had their doctorates. O'HARA: Impressive. ROSENTHAL: And they were excellent professors. After the war, I came back to the University of Kentucky to finish my last two years, and with the exception of two professors in those two years, there was no one that could stand up to the faculty that we had at Paducah Junior College. O'HARA: That's outstanding. ROSENTHAL: The college was having great troubles, as we said, keeping its head above the water. In fact, on many occasions my father would have to fund the payroll for the faculty for a week in a sparse time until they could feed -- pay it back to him as money came in. But it was obvious that something had to happen, so they were able to get the city to take over the ownership of Paducah Junior College. And that immediately took the weight off of having to be concerned about where the next dollar was coming from. O'HARA: How did that take place, as far as -- the date that I found for Paducah Junior College being taken over by the city and going on the taxpayers' -- being funded by the taxpayers was in 1936. So just four years after the founding. ROSENTHAL: Mm-mm. O'HARA: Technically speaking, what did the city have to do in order to be able to fund a municipal junior college? Because it was the first one in Kentucky. ROSENTHAL: I'm not certain of this, but it seems to me that there was a payroll tax of some sort, of about a quarter of a cent, that funded the needs of the school. The unique situation about the whole thing is that it never became a political football. The mayors and city council kept their hands out of it. The mayor was ex-officio on the board. Other than that, the board remained itself and reelected itself from time to time to time. So it was a pretty unique situation when you look back at it in that fashion. After -- I think it was around 1964 or '62 when they developed their new campus. Do you have a date on that? O'HARA: I sure do. I believe it was '64. Paducah Junior College moved onto its new campus that included the present-day Rosenthal Hall. ROSENTHAL: Uh-huh. That was a farm that -- there was a -- the major home on the farm became the office and administrative area for the school. And I think it was a matter of three buildings that were built to function for the school. And it was on a nice campus, with plenty of room. By that time, I would venture to say there were a couple thousand kids a year going to college at Paducah Junior College, a few of which were other than teenagers. It had not gotten to the point where people in their 30s and 40s were coming back to get additional education or to commence their college education while they were working, so it still was a young enrollment. The only sport that was played early on was basketball because we had a gym. And they did have a basketball team. O'HARA: Really? ROSENTHAL: That lasted about five years, and then the expense of a basketball team was more than they wanted to put up with, and they no longer -- when they moved into the new quarters they had no gym. So it was something that was lost and never missed, you know. I note that the colors for the school were -- are -- in the booklet says blue and yellow or something, but the school's colors were maroon and gray. O'HARA: Interesting. ROSENTHAL: And there was, of course, no tech school connected to it. It was strictly the first two years of college courses. And when I transferred to the University, every course that I had taken was accepted at the University of Kentucky. O'HARA: Excellent. ROSENTHAL: And had I gone out of state, I feel that the same thing would have applied. O'HARA: So who accredited Paducah Junior College? How did the -- do you know how the accrediting worked? ROSENTHAL: I don't know that it was much different than what it is today, in accrediting colleges, whether there was a junior college accrediting entity, or whether it was college accrediting, period. I don't know, but it was accredited through one way or the other. O'HARA: I did find that SACS accredited it much earlier than any other community college that I could find. ROSENTHAL: I think the concept of a community or junior college came out of the University of Chicago. And to my knowledge, I think Paducah Community College was probably one of the first junior colleges that came out of this idea. Now whether the University of Chicago had a hand in it for a while as far as accreditation, I don't know. Or whether it was done through the -- whoever accredited our other colleges in the state. O'HARA: I'll have to check on that and see. For a local community, there were cultural and economic benefits involved in two-year college development. Some junior colleges promoted cultural activities, ranging from bringing in lectures, entertainers, actors that appeared on the college on a regular basis. Do you recall any of those type of activities while you were a student there? ROSENTHAL: No. No, it was strictly a continuation of education, period. We didn't have guest lecturers, because that would have cost money to bring them in. And the only effort that was made was at the time of graduation, there was always efforts to help you consider where you were going to go and what you were going to study in the last two years of college or later on in your college career. O'HARA: So a traditional instructor, the professors, they -- do you know what type of a load they would have, how many classes per day they'd teach? And did they advise students? ROSENTHAL: Yes, they did advise students. I would say, on the average, they met three classes a day. And I have no real strong knowledge that I'm correct on that. But just in my mind's eye, they were there. In fact, our commons room, if you will, was the old living room of the house. This is a house built, probably, in 1880 or something like that. And there was always a bridge game or a chess game going on in the commons room. And it was not unusual for several of the professors to come in and join in and play either bridge or chess with some of the students. And although there was always -- there never was a closer relationship than Dr. and Mr. We would always called them Mr. or Miss, so first names never popped up. O'HARA: But there yet was a sense of community, as you described. Now, where did you all typically eat lunch? Was there lunch available at the school or did you walk downtown? ROSENTHAL: No lunch was available at the school. Our -- we were at Seventh and Broadway, and between Seventh and Broadway, and Fourth and Broadway, there were plenty of restaurants. My lunch usually would be to go down to Walgreens, and for 35 cents, have a meat and two vegetables and a drink for lunch. O'HARA: Wow. ROSENTHAL: And now we're jumping into ----------(??) when we talk about this. It was not unusual for -- I'll even go back before that. It wasn't unusual for a student to have classes in the morning and work in the afternoon somewhere. And I, for example, throughout the two years that I was there, sold shoes there at a ladies shoes store in Paducah, and worked five or six days a week -- O'HARA: Wow. ROSENTHAL: -- from 1:30 on, selling shoes. In that -- as I say, I was not unique, in fact, to be working. And prior -- years prior to that, the same thing occurred. O'HARA: Hard-working academically and -- ROSENTHAL: Yeah. O'HARA: -- in an actual work-related field, yeah. Did they ever offer courses in the evenings? Or because it was more traditional, did they pretty much keep it in -- ROSENTHAL: No, in the early -- not in those early years. Now, late in the '40s or early '50s they started having some night classes. And especially when they got on their new campus, then they had a lot of night classes. O'HARA: And did the non-traditional enrollment start to pick up after World War II, with the veterans returning? ROSENTHAL: Yes, mm-mm. O'HARA: And that would cause -- you know, what I've found in my research was that a lot of veterans had families, so they needed to work, you know, full-time during the day. So by offering these classes at night really met a need. ROSENTHAL: Yeah. O'HARA: You mentioned that there -- briefly you mentioned that there was another school in Paducah. It was known as West Kentucky Industrial College for a while? ROSENTHAL: Mm-mm, yes. O'HARA: And it had an early beginning as well. I found that in 1933 Paducah -- I'm sorry, not 1933. As early as 1918 West Kentucky Industrial College was offering technical programs to primarily meet the needs of African-Americans students in the area. Was there any coordination at all between Paducah Junior College and -- ROSENTHAL: None whatsoever. And as I knew that school, it was not concerned with the African Americans. It was concerned with those students who wanted to learn to be mechanics and beauticians. That was about what the limitations were. So if you wanted to be an auto mechanic or a beautician, that's where you went. O'HARA: And that was one of the earliest ones in Kentucky that offered those type of programs. Your father played such an instrumental role in the early years. When Paducah Junior College moved to its new campus in 1964, what was your father's role during that time period? Was he still on the board of trustees? Or -- I know he was very involved in the community. ROSENTHAL: Let me think here. He had died before the college was moved. He died in '48, so he was not alive when that occurred. O'HARA: But he's still highly regarded, and I find -- I found him in a lot of paperwork, you know, talking about him through the years. So I just didn't have a date on that. During the post-war years, Paducah Junior College requested that UK alleviate the financial burden from the local taxpayers by transforming the junior college into a branch of UK? Could you describe why it took until July of 1968 for Paducah Junior College to become a part of the UK Community College System? ROSENTHAL: Well, they -- the effort was maintained to remain separate from any other college. And there was a strong competitive situation between Murray, which you know is a state -- four-year state college, and Paducah Community College. And Murray always felt that there was no reason for Paducah Community College to be there in the first place. So they were fighting Paducah Junior College all its life. And so Paducah Junior College wanted to remain independent as long as it could. But then again, the same old problem of the cost of operating a college continued to grow to the point where it became a matter of need to consider becoming part of the University of Kentucky. Now, there was a lot of those who -- of us who opposed it, and a lot of us who were in favor of it. Dr. Oswald was president of the University at that time. And I remember well when he came down to publicly welcome Paducah Junior College as a community college. And it was still called -- one time community college, the next time junior college, except there was one definite difference. The property and the buildings was owned by Paducah Junior College. It is still owned by Paducah Junior College. And whatever is on that property right now is there at the pleasure of Paducah Junior College. And if they ever so desired, they could take back the property. If they did, they'd have a hell of a time financing, with the costs of running a college today. But it does give it some difference than exists in the rest of the community college system in Kentucky. It makes for a different situation. And there are those who have long since forgotten this, have accepted the fact that it is a part and parcel of the University of Kentucky, until the University of Kentucky lost it. O'HARA: In 1997. Well, that's interesting. I was surprised. I found that in my research, that the Paducah Junior College Foundation still exists to this day, and still owns the property. ROSENTHAL: Right. O'HARA: And yet several organizations have operated it, more or less. Very interesting. The relationship between UK and its community colleges was unique across the nation, as far as a flagship university having colleges. What were the benefits and drawbacks of Paducah Junior College's relationship with the University of Kentucky? ROSENTHAL: Well, there were financial benefits. The benefits were financial. The University of Kentucky did not interfere in the operation of Paducah Community College. The educational programs remained that which they'd always had. There was no -- because of the fact that the courses had always been accepted, there was no reason for the University to say, "Now we're going to change something." So it remained pretty much the same. This was basically under Dr. Wethington, I guess. '64, when did he -- that was still -- he hadn't taken over then. O'HARA: Dr. Albright? ROSENTHAL: Dr. Oswald was followed by Dr. Roselle, I think, and Roselle was followed by Charles. ----------(??) O'HARA: I think you're right. ROSENTHAL: And it pretty well was running itself with an eye from the University, with very little interference or requirements that were other than what they were satisfied with at the time. O'HARA: The school's -- the college's original board, did its role change with the merger with UK? Would they still be able to exercise quite a bit of power, as far as decisions internally? ROSENTHAL: That's 196- -- what? O'HARA: Eight.  ROSENTHAL: Eight. They still elected its own board. There were two boards. There was the Paducah Junior College Board, and there was a community college board -- O'HARA: Interesting. ROSENTHAL: -- many of whom were on both boards. They always kept that Paducah Junior College Foundation Board alive and strong to protect what they considered to be in the best interest of what Paducah needed. I'm sorry, I lost the question. O'HARA: No, that's okay. I was just -- yeah, you explained it, the -- how the board -- I was asking how the board had changed, with the merger with UK, but you said they created two boards, essentially. ROSENTHAL: Mm-mm. Now, I had left Paducah many years before that. I was living in Lexington from 1948 on, so except for my friends and going down and still visiting, and it was still home to me -- O'HARA: Mm-mm. ROSENTHAL: The board continued to be pretty much as it was. Some of the people who had been on the board had died off, and in some cases, members of the family had taken their places. And others, new people came on. And the board became a -- really a -- by 1970 that board was, I would say, pretty much a community board, without there being a question whether -- how long you'd been on the board or where you were in its founding and so forth. That had all passed. O'HARA: It was definitely a distinctive story, Paducah Junior College, like you said. I find it fascinating. I don't know how many people know that, except for obviously in Paducah, that Paducah Junior College's Foundation still exists and still owns the property and still keeps the mission going. You've offered me some very interesting information to myself and future researchers. And your personal experiences are interesting as a student, as well as your father's. Were there any other stories or questions that you wish I had asked that I haven't, that you would like to share? ROSENTHAL: Well, following the death of Dean Matheson, we got Dr. O'Hara. Do you happen to know Len O'Hara? O'HARA: I know the name, but he's no relative. ROSENTHAL: Who -- he has always been a very dear friend of mine, who came in to take over the school, and he brought some of the most exciting things to Paducah, in broadening the scope of Paducah Community College. [Sneeze] Excuse me. O'HARA: Bless you. ROSENTHAL: It was his idea that we needed an engineering school in Paducah. And the development of that engineering school, I think, is a very interesting situation. I don't know whether you followed that or not. O'HARA: I haven't. Would you like to take a break for a minute? ROSENTHAL: No, I'm all right. O'HARA: I don't want to -- ROSENTHAL: I get the sneezes once in a while. O'HARA: I do that too. Go ahead. Yeah, tell us about that. ROSENTHAL: When they began to talk about the need for an engineering school, why did they it, is because all the plants that are related to Kentucky Dam, all required and always had openings for engineers. But we had no engineers to give them. Murray had civil engineering, but didn't have any other engineering other than civil. But they quickly -- when they found out Paducah was ----------(??), they said it wasn't necessary, that there were not enough jobs available for our graduates, it wouldn't work. And to the credit of Dr. Charles -- O'HARA: Wethington? ROSENTHAL: Wethington. He was a strong supporter of backing that and supplying the faculty support that was needed and helped fund the community college to build an engineering school, which is a great accomplishment for a little town with a little community college to have. O'HARA: And there are no others in Kentucky like that. ROSENTHAL: No. And half the building is engineering, and the other half is math and science. So it's a wonderful addition to the campus. And they have not been able to supply enough graduates to take care of the needs that the local economy has embraced. So the college of engineering is really turning out jobs and income to Paducah families who stay in the area and work in the area. So it's proving to have been a very good move, and it still eats at the heart of Murray. O'HARA: That was smart on the part of Paducah to take advantage -- to meet that need when no one else would. ROSENTHAL: Dr. O'Hara has -- was a very, very decisive leader, and it was a tremendous loss when he left Paducah Community College, as far as I'm concerned, one that won't be replaced in a -- probably ever again, with the merger of the trade school with the educational school. O'HARA: How long was his tenure, Dr. Hara's? ROSENTHAL: I'm guessing -- I'd say probably 15 years, but I'm not positive. O'HARA: That's a long tenure. ROSENTHAL: I think it's something worth checking. O'HARA: I will. ROSENTHAL: If you have a problem checking, let me know, and I'll talk to him and let you hear. O'HARA: I think I may have it in here somewhere, from the website. ROSENTHAL: I happen to have been very opposed to the joining of the two educational systems, with the feeling that a college is a college, and a trade school is a trade school. And if you're going to upgrade the trade school, that's fine, but if it affects and degrades the college and the educational approach, then it's wrong. And that's what I feared when the two were put together. And I quite frankly can't tell you whether it has or hasn't, but I, again, quite honestly washed my hands of involvement with the Paducah Community College when it occurred, as well as washing my hands of Governor Patton, who fostered it. O'HARA: Are you still involved with the Paducah Junior College Foundation Board? ROSENTHAL: No, I have no involvement at all. O'HARA: Well, it is a fascinating history. ROSENTHAL: It is that. O'HARA: From its early beginnings in 1932. ROSENTHAL: And if you trace the board members, you would be amazed at the quality of the men that served on those boards over the years. O'HARA: Do you recommend any of those that are still living for me to interview? ROSENTHAL: I can't, because I don't know them anymore. O'HARA: Well, if you think about -- you know, if one comes to your mind, and you want to contact me, I'd be open to that, because I plan on traveling down there. ROSENTHAL: Yeah, you need to get somebody who's been more locally involved. I can say I was very involved when I was still living in Paducah, and growing up in Paducah. But you know, when you live in Lexington and go back once or twice a year and help them raise some money once in a while, that isn't the same thing. I think you ought to talk to Dr. O'Hara. O'HARA: Okay. ROSENTHAL: Do you have his number down there? O'HARA: I do not have his number. Is he still in Paducah area, or has he moved? ROSENTHAL: No, he lives in Florida and works all over the country. O'HARA: Well, I'm going to conclude the interview. ROSENTHAL: Here's his number, if you want it. O'HARA: Okay. ROSENTHAL: XXX . . . I'm giving you his cell phone, XXX-XXX-XXXX. And I'll give you his fax number, XXX-XXX-XXXX. O'HARA: Thank you. ROSENTHAL: I can give you an address too. O'HARA: Great. ROSENTHAL: XXX XXXXX XXX XXXX, XXXXXX - XXXXXX - XXXXX, XXXXXXX. XXX XXX XXXXX. O'HARA: Excellent. Yes, I'll be interested in knowing about his tenure and all the changes and the engineering school and everything. Well, you've provided a piece of the puzzle, a history that I wasn't able to find when I wrote my dissertation. I was able to cover the '60s, but I didn't know of anyone who'd attended Paducah Junior College or I haven't had the opportunity to interview anyone. And the fact that your father started it in the very beginning is just an extremely important piece to the puzzle, and I appreciate your time. ROSENTHAL: One of the interesting things we haven't talked about, my brother went two years there, I went two years there. My father's father died very young, and it was up to my father and his older brother, who was two years older, the two of them, to raise the -- to supply the income for two sisters, a mother, and another brother. And they put the two sisters through college to become teachers, but the brother had to go to work when he got out of high school, who had always wanted to be an optometrist or a doctor. So Joe, in -- I'm going to say -- the early '40s had -- and he was still single, the two sisters were doing well, his mother had passed away, so there was no need for him to have to contribute to their welfare, so he quit his job went to college at Paducah Community -- Junior College for two years, and then went on to get his degree and practice in Princeton, Kentucky, as an optometrist. O'HARA: Really? Fascinating. [End Side 1, Tape 1] [Begin Side 2, Tape 1] O'HARA: But that is -- now, he was one of the few non-traditional students -- ROSENTHAL: Yeah. O'HARA: -- who actually attended Paducah Junior College. And what did you say the date was? In the '40s? Approximately? ROSENTHAL: It was in the -- it might have been even earlier than that. It might have been in the late '30s. Trying to remember whether -- I think it was after I left, which was '41 or '42. So I'd say it was somewhere around -- between '43 and '47 when he did this. He was not in the Army. O'HARA: Were there majors? I know your background is in business and accounting, I guess, or economics. At Paducah Junior College, did you major in that? Or did everyone take the exact same thing, no matter -- ROSENTHAL: No, if you were working toward engineering, you would pick more courses in higher mathematics, and if you were looking toward philosophy, you'd take more courses in that area. And I took -- really, a very few courses were offered in business. There's only one that stands -- accounting and typing are the only two that I remember. Typing back then was one of the courses that the University didn't accept, but it was also very important that I should learn. They accepted my accounting courses. So I think it depended on what you were going for. O'HARA: So it was -- yeah. ROSENTHAL: But it was still -- liberal arts was the basis of it. And to this day, I'm a strong believer in small colleges and strong liberal arts schools. And frankly, I like private schools. I've been on the board at Transylvania in Lexington for some -- 30 some-odd years. ---- ------(??) small college experience. O'HARA: I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Shearer -- ROSENTHAL: Oh, did you? O'HARA: -- two days ago. Yes. So when I read your biography and all the contributions you'd made at Transylvania, I saw the link immediately. ROSENTHAL: He's an interesting man. He's done a wonderful job at that school. O'HARA: A long tenure. Well, I'm going to go ahead and wrap up the interview. And I just want to thank you for your time and your information. ROSENTHAL: I hope I've helped you. And if I can fill in anything, I'll be happy to do it. On that original board, there were doctors and lawyers and merchants and manufacturing CEOs, so it was a well-rounded board. And it's been a pleasure. Hope I've been helpful. O'HARA: You have been very -- thank you very much. Oral history with Warren Rosenthal, whose father was instrumental in the founding of Paducah Junior College (later to become Paducah Community College). Rosenthal discusses early faculty at the college, his own activities as a student, the relationship between the college and the University of Kentucky prior to the 1990s, and the engineering program. insert here