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2007-05-01 Interview with Tom Alvey, May 1, 2007 CC001:2008OH135 CC 57 00:52:34 History of Kentucky's Community Colleges Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Madisonville Community and Technical College Tom Alvey; interviewee Adina O'Hara; interviewer 2008OH135_CC57_Alvey 1:|12(5)|26(3)|39(8)|52(12)|65(5)|80(4)|94(9)|105(14)|119(8)|130(8)|145(10)|157(11)|170(3)|194(6)|209(7)|225(16)|266(3)|283(14)|316(12)|354(2)|366(12)|384(1)|396(9)|409(12)|422(4)|439(4)|451(5)|469(10)|486(2)|500(4)|519(1)|549(13)|587(12)|613(7)|628(2)|641(9)|656(4)|676(1)|693(1)|721(4)|756(2)|771(8)|790(9)|807(11)|827(9)|844(1)|862(6)|882(8)|900(9)|921(2)|938(2)|949(5) audiotrans CommuColl interview O'HARA: This is an interview-- [Pause in recording.] O'HARA: This is an interview with Tom Alvey at his home in Owensboro, Kentucky, conducted by Adina O'Hara on May 1, 2007, for the Community College Oral History Project. Mr. Alvey, in March of 1984, resolutions passed the Kentucky General Assembly calling for the state to provide community college services in Owensboro for the 1984/1985 academic years. What was your role in the creation of Owensboro Community College? ALVEY: Well, at, at that time, I was president of Owensboro Council of Labor, and Dave Boeyink who worked for the Messenger-Inquirer came to one of our meetings and asked us if we would be interesting, be interested in, uh, in having somebody on this board or to look at the feasibility of, of, uh, having a community college. And, uh, and we told him that we would, and, and I wind up serving. There were, I think, if recollection is correct, there were seven of us originally that got together and just started batting around the idea of how can we get a community college in Owensboro. And we met probably ten, twelve, fifteen different times just coming up with different scenarios and different ideas, and, and I think at one of the, one, maybe the first or second meeting, we had determined that if we was going to get a community college, we was going to have to have money for a feasibility study. And, and, uh, we was wanting, like, 1.3 million dollars to do a feasibility study, and we was batting around the idea of how we was gonna get it because at that time Martha Layne Collins was, was governor and, and money was pretty tight. And, uh, of course, and, and, and we was setting around talking and John Hager was saying, you know, there, there didn't look like there was much of a chance of getting 1.3 million dollars, and I told John, I said, "John," I said, I said, "If we can't get 1.3 million dollars, shouldn't nobody in the state of Kentucky be able to get it?" I said, "We've got one of the most powerful men in the state, and that's Don Blandford." And at that time, he was Speaker of the House, and, uh, John asked me then how well I knew Don. I told him, I said, "Well, I know him pretty well." And he asked me to set up a meeting with him. So I called Don; I, I think we met on, like, a Thursday night or something, and I told Don I'd have a meeting Monday. So I called Don and asked him if he could meet with us Monday, and he said, "Sure." And we met at Gabe's, um, Restaurant here in Owensboro, and, uh, I told Don to meet me there at six, and I told John and, and, I forget who else was in the meeting. I know it was myself and John and, I believe, uh, um, Bill Chandler. I'm not for sure. But I asked Don to meet me there a half hour early before everybody else got there, and, and he did. And we sat down, and Don said, said, "What's going on, Tom?" I said, "Well," I said, "the bottom line is we need 1.3 million dollars for a feasibility study for a community college." And just about [snaps fingers] that fast he said, "That won't be no problem." And I said, "Don, are you sure?" I said, "This," I said, "We're, we're doing a lot of work on this." And he said, "If, if you've got a community consensus," he said, "I can get the 1.3." And I said, "Well," I said, "when John and them gets here," I said, "they've got paperwork that'll keep us here 'til midnight or one o'clock, you know, showing all the reasons why we need a community college." And so John shows up and, and, uh, Bill Chandler and, and there may have been another one, and, uh, John starts telling Don, you know, why we need the community college and getting into the, to the numbers, you know. And, and Don said, "John," said, "What's the bottom line?" John says, "We need 1.3 million dollars." And Don says, "I'll get it this session." So the, the way, the way it came down, and, and this is Don telling me, you know, that, uh, Martha Layne Collins was pushing her educational reform package, uh, at the same time, so Don was telling Martha Layne, you know, "I'm not going to sign this until we get 1.3 million for Owensboro." So anyway, they, they kindly done, done their thing, you know, and, and, and Don tells me, you know, he said, "It's the last day of legislation. I've got the clock unplugged, and I'm in the Governor's office talking." And said, "We finally ironed it out, and she came up with the 1.3 and she got her educational package,--" O'HARA: --Amazing. ALVEY: "--uh, passed." So Don was just, I mean, we were dead in our tracks if Don didn't come up with the 1.3. I mean, it was just all over with, and it would just be a pipe dream. But, but Don, Don was a, was a great influence in, in the legislature and, and tremendous help on this college, as were a lot of people and not the least of which was John Hager. John was superb; I mean, uh, his leadership, I think, is, is, uh, is what drove the community college and what drove all of us, and, and Dave Boeyink and, uh, uh, um, what was his name? Bob Darrell, Dr. Bob Darrell, uh, worked at the-- where's that? O'HARA: --Wesleyan. ALVEY: --Wesleyan College. He was the English professor at Wesleyan College and a brilliant man. Him and Dave Boeyink both are, I mean, just, they were just brilliant. They wrote, the, the feasibility study, study for the legislature, for Don to present to the legislature to get all this done, and it was just, it was just absolutely a work of genius. I mean, you, you, you ought to get a copy of it for your, for your report, and, uh, but they, Dave Boeyink and, and, uh, Bob Darrell sat down and, and hammered this, this proposal out. And, uh, it was presented to the legislature and, and to the Committee on Higher Education, and it was just, it was just a masterpiece. I mean, in, in, in, in politics if, if everything is not done, you know, perfectly, I mean, if they can find a hole, you know, some way to, to break into something, to dismantle it, they will, but this thing, it was just impenetrable and they done a fantastic job. And I think that was another, uh, point or hurdle that we had to, to cross. And, and with that proposal that, that these two came up with, you know, it, was just a giant leap towards where we was trying to get to. So there was, there was a lot of things that played into it, and, uh, and we met probably two or three nights a week and sometimes more than that for, what, two or three years. O'HARA: Wow. ALVEY: I mean, it was just, it was just one step forward and two steps back; one forward step, forward one, two steps back. But, um, but I think, I think the-- when it started out with the seven of us, you know, uh, I've got a high school education, you know, and, and, uh, and so, but, but it shows what, what can happen if, you know, I'm organized labor; John Hager's Messenger-Inquirer and corporate and, and about everybody else on, on the board was corporate, but, but all that put aside, you know, we knew, what we, what we needed. You know, my people needed a community college, you know, and, uh, when we went to the, um, the state, um, what is it, uh, the Higher Education Council on Higher Education, um, we had to go up before them to, to get an okay from them for another community college, and, and, you know, we went through the whole song and dance, you know, all the statistics, all the facts and figures of, of, of why we needed a community college and, and our from high school on to college rates, you know, and all of it. We had it all, you know, we had mounds of stuff like that, and, and Dave Boeyink and, and John, you know, spoke and, and, uh, and they, when they got through presenting all this information they asked if anybody had anything that they wanted to say. And, and I just told them, I said, "Look," I said, I said, "I represent between sixty-five hundred and seven thousand people in Owensboro and Daviess County, and," I said, "right now," I said, "we need this community college worse than we need a new industry." I said, "If I had my choice between, between a community college and a new industry," I said, "I'd take the community college anytime." And, and there's a lot of reasons and not just, not just for, for the people that I represented, but there was a lot of people in, in Owensboro. Uh, you know, there's, there's a lot of, of women in, uh, in the lower, uh, half of the community, uh, divorced and, you know, with two or three kids and in dead end jobs and didn't have a chance of going to college; you know, couldn't afford it. O'HARA: Mm-hm. ALVEY: Um, I think at that time Kentucky Wesleyan was, like, a hundred and thirty, thirty-five dollars, uh, an hour and Brescia was right there close, you know, and, and there was community colleges all around us at thirty-four dollars an hour, you know, and so, so there was a lot of reasons. And, and, you know, all of us that, that served on the committee, uh, seen the need, and, and there had been a need for a long time. But there just never was, uh, a real effort to get a cross-section of the community involved in getting a community college here. So, uh, I guess, I guess we found probably seven of the hard- headedest people there was in Owensboro,--(laughs)--you know, to, to try to get this thing here, and, and when somebody would throw up a, a roadblock, you know, we'd figure out a way of going around it. And, and, uh, and Dr. Bob Darrell and, and Dave Boeyink was just, were, they were just monumental in, in doing those kinds of things, you know. They, they had the statistics and, and, uh, and, and they knew how to present them, you know, so, so it was, uh, it was not easy but it was rewarding. And, uh, and it was just a lot of people out there that, that are probably going to get lost in this thing that, uh, I think the community owes a big debt of gratitude to, uh, for their efforts, but, uh, you know, there's, there's probably not anybody that served on this board that, uh, that, uh, is going to hold their hand up and say, you know, you know, "I done it," because it just didn't happen that way. And, uh, uh, I think, uh, I think the board could have done without some of us, but there was others on this board that were just instrumental in, in, in, uh, the effort probably wouldn't have made it without them. And I think, you know, without leaving anybody out it would be John Hager, Dave Boeyink and Dr. Bob Darrell and, and Bill Chandler and, of course, Don Blandford. Don, Don Blandford was just a life-saver, but uh-- O'HARA: --And yourself. ALVEY: Uh, well, my contribution was minimum, uh, you know,-- O'HARA: --Minimal. ALVEY: --uh, but, but it was still, it was still a part of the community that needed to be heard from,-- O'HARA: --Yes, very important! ALVEY: --you know, because of, uh, if, if, if just business goes up there or just labor goes up there, you know, you're, then, then they don't know what the other part of the community thinks about it. So if, if you, if you can't all go together and you arrive together and you stay together and you don't deviate from what you want, you know, and you don't try to, uh, you don't try to throw in something else that labor wants or you don't try to throw in something else that business wants, you know, you're here, you're focused, you're tunnel vision. You know, this is what we want. You know, we don't want nothing else. This is what we want. So, so it, it was a long haul, and, and, and there was a lot of obstacles out there to overcome and a lot of fears. There was a lot of fear for the supporters of Kentucky Wesleyan and Brescia, you know, that we was gonna hurt, hurt their enrollments. O'HARA: Uh-uh. ALVEY: And, um, and you know, that, that was a big thing that we had to overcome, but, uh, but once, I, I think, we could kind of convince them that, that we would probably be more of a feeder for them, you know, than we was gonna be taking. And, and we tried to explain to them, you know, that, that the people that we were trying to get to was not going to Brescia and they were not gonna go to Wesleyan unless they got two years of a community college someplace, you know, where they could see, you know, that, uh, that they had a chance of, uh, of making it, you know, and, and when you're a, when you're a divorced woman with one or two kids, you know, and you're there by yourself, you know, it's, it, it's hard. And, and, and, uh, and without, without them having some kind of hope, you know, they're not even going to try-- O'HARA: --Yeah. ALVEY: --for a college education, you know, because, uh, their first responsibility is their kids, you know, and trying to make a living for them. And so, so, you, you know, once, once Wesleyan and, and Brescia really understood that this community really needed a community college and, and we was well on our way to getting one, you know, they, they got on board with it. They didn't, they didn't throw up a lot of stumbling blocks and they didn't try to, to go behind us or anything, but they, they did have concerns and, and rightfully so, you know. But, uh, but I think, you know, it was just, it was just a long process, and, you know, uh, there was a lot of, uh, there was a lot of, of moving forward but there was a lot of moving backwards, too. O'HARA: May I ask when it, when did it, when did you begin, the very first? Um, was it around '80 or '82 or-- ALVEY: --Yeah. It was around, let's see. I, I think it was around, well, '80/'81 when, when we started meeting. I'm not, I'm not real sure. Probably, probably, uh, uh, I don't know if you're going to talk to Dr. Bob Darrell. O'HARA: I was just going to ask you. I had not come across his name I don't-- ALVEY: --Oh-- O'HARA: --think or if I have-- ALVEY: --I think you'll be missing a load. This guy-- O'HARA: --So he's at Kentucky Wesleyan,-- ALVEY: --Yeah. O'HARA: --still? ALVEY: Uh, O'HARA: --Or-- ALVEY: --He might be retired. O'HARA: I'm not sure. Okay. ALVEY: Uh, Bill Chandler can, can get you a hold of him. O'HARA: Okay. Wonderful. ALVEY: And, uh, Dave Boeyink, he doesn't live here anymore. I forget where he's, ----------(??); teaches at a university someplace, but, uh, but this guy was just borderline genius. I mean, his writings were, were spectacular. You know, he's just, and, and without, without all these people, you know, it's just, uh, it's just everybody had their own piece of, of the pie, you know. And, and when you put it all together, you know, it, it made a good group, and, and after we, after we'd met for several, several months, you know, we could just begin to see, you know, that well maybe we can take this a step further. O'HARA: Mm-hm. ALVEY: You know, and, and you just kind of keep, keep digging at it, and, and, and like I say, you know, roadblocks were coming in and you just kindly, uh, face one of them at a time. And, and, and I think, uh, especially after Don got us the 1.3, and I mean, he never hesitated. O'HARA: -------------(??)-- ALVEY: I mean, he never hesitated. We, we sat there at Gabe's, him and I, and, and I just, I just put it to him. I said, "Don, we need 1.3 million and without that we haven't got a prayer." And he said, "That's not a problem. I'll get it," and--(laughs)--you know, kind- kindly shocked me. You know, (O'HARA laughs) 1.3's a lot of money to me-- O'HARA: --Yeah! ALVEY: --but, uh, but he was a man of his word. And, and, uh, and there was, there was opposition in, in Frankfort and from the higher, uh, Higher Education Committee. You know, they weren't wanting another community college, you know. There was just kind of a,-- O'HARA: --Hm. ALVEY: --a freeze on because money was so tight at that time, and, uh, but, uh-- O'HARA: --Who was gonna finance it? UK? ALVEY: No. It was coming from legislature. O'HARA: Uh, uh, okay,-- ALVEY: --Found us some new money. O'HARA: --so the state paid for all that-- ALVEY: --Yeah. O'HARA: --and kind of put it back on ----------(??)-- ALVEY: And so the- Don was kind of our ace in the hole. Uh, at that time, you know, I, I'd say he probably had more power than the governor. I mean, he w- he'd have been there a long time. Everybody knew him, everybody liked him and if he didn't get 1.3, wasn't nobody gonna get it. You know, so there was a, he said there was a lot of talk,--(laughs)--you know, before, before it right, got right down to it, but, but, uh, she, she signed the 1.3 and Don signed the, her educational reform package. So it worked good. O'HARA: Amazing. ALVEY: That's the way politics works, you know. So-- O'HARA: --Sounds very successful, the, the, the, I'm just very impressed with the dedication of this committee for so many years, three times-- Bill Chandler told me the same thing on the phone about meeting-- ALVEY: --Um-hm. O'HARA: --every week,-- ALVEY: --Yeah. O'HARA: --three times a week. ALVEY: Yeah. O'HARA: Typically,-- ALVEY: --I mean it was-- O'HARA: --for, for years, and like you said, no one had their own hidden agenda-- ALVEY: --Mm-hm. O'HARA: --which is hard to find. (laughs) ALVEY: And, and, you know, uh, I guess, I guess you're always skeptical. You know, if, if, if you're labor and, and you're setting across the table from management and people that, that's a part of the Chamber of Commerce and John Hager owned the Messenger-Inquirer and, and Bill Chandler was, uh, superintendent of schools and, and you know, just all these people and, and you know, you, for a while you kindly look to see if there's anything going on, another agenda, but, but it didn't take long to find out that this committee was about nothing but going for a community college. And, uh, and it was easy to get on board, and, and, uh, and, and there was, there was so much talent on this board. And, and it wasn't, it wasn't anything that was, uh, that was engineered or contrite. It was just, it was just everybody doing what they was good at, you know, and, uh, so it, it, it worked out real good. O'HARA: Where did the idea come from? I don't know if it'd been perculating for decades. ALVEY: Yes. It had, it had been. I mean, uh, you know, and it was always-- whenever, whenever there was a group of people together, you know, always over in this corner, you know, somebody would be talking about a community college and somebody over there'd be talking about something else. You know how there's always a thousand things in a community that people want to get done? O'HARA: Uh-huh. ALVEY: And, and, so it, it, it's always been talk, but I think, uh, I think John Hager, from, from, from my point of view, would probably be credited with, with, um, getting the thing together and, and, uh, and making sure that, that he had people from all over the community, you know. And, like I say, uh, uh, Dave Boeyink came to one of our council meetings, and he worked for John. He was editorial page editor, I think, for, for Messenger-Inquirer, and he came to one of our meetings and asked, you know, if, if, what we thought about getting a community college here and if we'd be interested in having somebody serve on this committee. And, and he said, you know, said, "It's, it's not, it's not anything that's been sanctioned by anybody." You know, it's just people in a community that feel like we needed a community college and were gonna get together and see, see if we can make it happen. And, uh, you know, so at, at that time I was president of the Owensboro Council of Labor, and, uh, you know, I guess I kindly put myself in a position of, of me going to the Messenger-Inquirer and, and to Dave Boeyink and to John Hager and asking them, you know, to come on board for something that we wanted to do, you know, so, you know, I thought it was a, a step in the right direction, you know, that they was even willing to come and, and ask, you know, for our help, um, so, and, uh, and I guess you're always thinking or maybe leery that, that maybe there's an alternative motive but, but, and, and when I set down with John Hager the first time-- I don't know if John will remember this or not-- but I, I said something to John to the effect, I said, "John," I said, "I'm willing to get involved in this thing, but," I said, "there's got to be an understanding between me and you that, that the only thing that we're going to represent is what we're talking about; this community college. You know, there's not going to be a hint, uh, uh, of another kind of an agenda or anything else coming up in, into this." And he said, he said, "That's my only purpose." So-- and he was a man of his word-- so it, it worked out great. And, and it was a lot of long hours and we met at different people's houses and, you know, it would just-- John laying on the floor with his feet up on a chair looking--(O'HARA laughs)--, looking at the ceiling, you know, and we were just brainstorming and, and just trying to, to overcome obstacles and overcome different people's fears and, and, uh, and really I guess trying to convince ourself, you know, that we could do it; you know, that we, that we could get enough clout, you know, and enough people on board that, that we needed on board to do this type of a thing. And, and it didn't happen overnight and it wasn't easy, and, um, another-- once it kind of got flowing and things got going and it got down to, uh, to we had the money for the feasibility study, they set up the first community college in the Longfellow Building, you know, and it was a, it was a subsidy of, uh, just a part of, uh, Henderson's Community College. You know, and they said, We'll set up shop here in community, in the Longfellow Building and, and see how it goes. Well, I think the first semester it was like twelve hundred people-- O'HARA: --Oh my ----------(??)-- ALVEY: --that applied. I mean, it was just, it w- people was just knocking your door down, and it just, every year it was just twice as many and twice as many. So, I mean, I mean, the need showed itself just immediately, and that, that wasn't us, you know, out there saying, you know, You need to go because we need the, we need the people. We need somebody to show up for this, you know. They just, they was just there in droves, and, you know, it was like, it was like, you know, they kept saying, Well, you know, you've got a community college over here in Henderson. And I said, I said "Let me ask you something." I said, I said, "If you're a divorced with two kids working minimum wage job at McDonald's or someplace," I said, "are you going to have money to drive from Owensboro to Henderson two or three nights a week and hire a babysitter?" I said, "It's not gonna happen." I said, "It's not gonna happen for these people that needs a community college." And so it was, there, there was a lot of things that happened, but anyway when we got in the Longfellow Building and everything was just, I mean, we was busting at the seams there, and, uh, so we kind of got to looking for ground. And there was, uh, a part of Owensboro that wanted it downtown, and, and it was, uh, they hired this big firm to come in and do a feasibility study about putting it downtown. And, of course, they had, they had a big model of what the community college was gonna look like downtown, and they was taking buildings here on, on Second Street and on Third Street and on Fourth Street and on Fifth Street and on Seventh Street, you know, and they was gonna have classes from Seventh Street all the way to the river. O'HARA: Oh, my. (laughs) ALVEY: And, and, uh, I remember we was at, uh, City Hall and Jack Bishop was mayor at that time, and we was sitting there looking at this model, you know, of all these buildings we was gonna acquire to put different classes in and one of them was the police station. You know, and like I say, Jack was mayor then. I said, "Jack," I said, "uh, where you gonna put your new police station?" He said, "What new police station?" I said, "You building you a police station, aren't you?" And he said, "Not that I know of." And I said, "You better get over there and look at that model," I said, "because they're getting ready to take your police station." (laughs) So he went up there--(O'HARA laughs)--and he said, uh, he said, "This is the first I've seen of this," but it was just that kind of a thing, you know. Uh, there was a, there was a, a part of the, of the city that wanted it downtown, and, and we had all these meetings. I mean, it was a-- this was another expedition all in its own, all to-- it just took a life of its own, you know, and so we had-- the Citizen Committee had to get involved in all that, you know, because, uh, you know, and, and it's not that, that we didn't want it downtown, but it, it just really didn't work for the community college. And, again, that was our only focus. This wasn't urban renewal project,-- O'HARA: --Hm. ALVEY: --you know, and, and we didn't, we didn't care for it going downtown but it just absolutely made no sense. Kids in the wintertime was gonna be walking from building to building, you know, and trying to get across streets, and it was just, uh, it was, uh, some people promoting, their own, their own goods. And, and I had one gentleman at, at one of the meetings-- we, we was on break, and, and he's quite influential here in Owensboro, and he came to me during the break in the meeting, he said, "Tom," he said, "I wanna to tell you something." He said, "You've got a chance to do something great here for downtown Owensboro." And I told him, I said, "Look," I said, I said, "that's not what we're about." I said, "This is not an urban renewal project." I said, I said, "If, if it would work downtown, I'd vote for it, but," I said, "I don't see it working downtown, and it's not an urban renewal. It's about the community college, and, and," I said, "there's no way that you can stand there and take yourself out of the situation that you're in, owning buildings downtown and owning a lot of property downtown and tell me that this is the best interest for this community college." And, and so anyway, it, it was, it was kind of an ordeal, and, and it was one that, uh, when the final decision was made, which, uh, the city and the county got together, you know, and, and, and bought the property from the Fields family that the community college went on, and, and they had to make one of the bunch(??), they had to make an approval on where the community college went. And, and of course, uh, uh, the community college system also had to sign off on it, so and, and there was, there was different people in different areas that were trying to promote their property, you know, and, and we looked at all of it. But we just felt like that we, we had a big enough space out there to set up, uh, the two buildings or the three buildings or whatever we was going to have money for, and it's just-- and we knew we was going to grow. We just knew it was going to grow, and, and we knew if we got locked in downtown, you know, that, that prices were gonna go out of this world. And so they, they just bought all the land they needed in one spot, and, and it worked out great, I think. O'HARA: It's a beautiful campus. ALVEY: Yeah. O'HARA: What's impressive and unique about it is that, um, most of the other campuses were built in the 1960s or they were put in other buildings,-- ALVEY: --Mm-hm. O'HARA: --and at the time that they were building new community colleges in the sixties, only, like, one building was put up in most cases. ALVEY: Mm-hm. O'HARA: Some of them were of poor quality,-- ALVEY: --Yep O'HARA: --and, um, in Owensboro's case it's impressive how the, maybe not all the buildings but a good portion of the campus was erected at once. ALVEY: Uh-huh. O'HARA: And the layout-- ALVEY: Yeah. And, and see that, uh, a, a l- a lot of this came out of the people that was on this committee. You know, they were just, they were just focused, and they knew, they knew what Owensboro needed and, and they knew the type of layout and the type of campus that they wanted, the type of buildings that they wanted. And, and we didn't want to get locked into old buildings-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --and repair and, and kids walking from one street to another. I mean, they was gonna be walking five or six blocks, you know, and, but, uh-- O'HARA: --Probably parking issues eventually. (laughs) ALVEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And, you know, gonna have to build a parking garage, and just it was on and on and on and on, the list of things we were going to have to do. And, and there was going to be over, like, a three- to five-year period to acquire all these properties. You know, it was just,-- O'HARA: ------------(??)-- ALVEY: --it was an ongoing process that would have taken a bureaucracy of its own--(O'HARA laughs)--you know, to operate. (both laugh) It was just,-- O'HARA: --Yes. You're right. ALVEY: --it was just monumental. I mean, the community college would been like a pebble--(O'HARA laughs)--compared to what woulda have to happen to, to get all this to, to work downtown. O'HARA: Owensboro feels like a small town, but it's the third largest city in Kentucky. I mean,-- ALVEY: --Yeah. O'HARA: --it's, it's got that,-- ALVEY: --If we, uh-- O'HARA: --it's got all the advantages. ALVEY: We are right now if, if we can keep Bowling Green off our heels-- (both laugh)--but, uh-- O'HARA: Well, you've been answering my questions magnificently. I'm just going down here checking them off as I go. Um [pause] um, one, one question I wanted to follow up on is, um, that intrigued me was, um, understanding all the approval levels you had to go through. Did you have to get approval from UK or just simply, was that sort of after the fact you all went and, and, h- and purchased the land, I mean, the city and county purchased the land? Or did you have to go to UK first? ALVEY: You talking about for the property? O'HARA: I mean, just to get approval for a community college system. ALVEY: Um,-- O'HARA: --Um,-- ALVEY: --well,-- O'HARA: --I mean for a community college within their system. ALVEY: Yeah, um, now the, the Higher Education Committee, um, what is it? The-- O'HARA: --Council-- ALVEY: --State Council on Higher Education. You know, we went to them, to them, and of course we went, we went to, uh, UK and to the community college and, and they was, uh, I think they were probably doubtful that we's gonna be able to pull it off. So they, they really didn't say, No, we're not going to do it,-- O'HARA: --Okay. ALVEY: --you know, they just let us spin our wheels more or less, and, but I think, I think, uh, uh, when a lot of things fell into place and, and when we came up with the money, the 1.3, you know, that was, that was just huge. At that point, it was, it was almost a foregone conclusion, you know, unless something just absolutely, uh, blew up; you know, u- u- unless, I guess, unless when we went to the Longfellow Building, you know, and we couldn't pull it off. But, uh, but by that time this committee had done enough work and, and there was enough people in education, uh, that were, that were consulted and a part of this committee, uh, that we, we just almost knew that they was, that there was just a wall of people out there that would be interested in a community college if it was here in their backyard,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --where they could get to it. And, and, uh, so there was, uh, there was probably, uh, a little apprehension on, at the community college higher-ups, you know, that, that it could work, that we could pull it off because, like I say, at, at that time back in the eighties, you know, um, money was tight. And Martha Layne Collins, uh, uh, her focus was her educational reform package, you know it. That's what she was pushing, and, and she probably didn't want a lot of others, uh, distractions. You know, she wanted the legislature focused and she wanted the senate focused, and, but, uh, but she had to, she had to get Don focused first, you know, and that cost her 1.3 million. So, so it-- O'HARA: --Sounds like that was the turning point. ALVEY: Yeah.--(O'HARA laughs)--Yeah. It, it was, and, I mean, and, and, uh Don was monumental but, but I think, I think for somebody to have set in their house one night and said, you know, you know, I gotta do something. You know, somebody's gotta do something. Somebody's gotta start someplace. Somebody's gotta get a bunch of yahoos together to get a community college started, and, and uh, and I think probably John Hager was that guy, you know, that, uh, that said, you know, It, it's, we've beat our chests long enough. It's time to do something. So, so I think, uh, I think number one step was, was that, was him deciding that, uh, that, uh, something needed to be tried, you know; even, even if it was tried in vain, at least you're trying, you know, uh, to sit and talk about something is easy. To get, to, to move, to make the first move when, when you're looking up a mountain, you know, and to sit down here and think, Yeah, we've gotta get up there, you know, it's, it's hard to do, but, uh-- O'HARA: --And to bring such a, um, such strong-- seven strong leaders and from different areas without their own agendas, the leadership-- that was one of my questions. What was unique about the local leadership, and, uh, I mean, probably in your career, you know, it's, it's rare to have such-- ALVEY: --Yeah. I mean, uh-- O'HARA: --cooperation. ALVEY: Um, my particular field, you know, is construction. Uh, we set machinery, built turbines and generators and power houses, and, and, uh, you, you know, when I was president of Owensboro Council of Labor, they, they were involved in some community, community things but not, not to a large extent. And, and I just felt like that if, if, uh, if we wanted to be present in the community and, and, and have our voice heard that, that we needed to do other things other than push our own agenda. You know, you n- you need to, uh, you need to work on all parts of the community and, uh, and to kind of get out of your own little niche, and, and I don't know how but, um, I think we found seven people that, that agreed with that, you know, that they needed to get out of their own little,-- O'HARA: --Compartment. ALVEY: --their own little world and, and talk to somebody else that was in, in the world with them. So, so once we, we got two or three meetings under our belt and everybody kind of felt everybody else out, you know, and, um, it, it just, it just kindly snowballed. And, you know, and I don't mean fast but I, I guess amongst us, you know, we felt like that, uh, uh-- w- I guess we knew we was fighting uphill, you know, that, uh, but, uh,-- O'HARA: --But you all knew how to-- ALVEY: --it didn't seem to bother us. O'HARA: --you knew how to tackle roadblocks-- ALVEY: --Mm-hm. O'HARA: --and you knew how to get around them because of your positions-- ALVEY: --Absolutely. O'HARA: --and your experience, and you knew how not-- ALVEY: --Yeah. And,-- O'HARA: --to let things get in the way. (laughs) ALVEY: Yeah, and, and, and when we, when we found something that, uh, that maybe none of us was comfortable with, we found somebody that did, did know what they was doing or where, you know, that knew something about that particular roadblock, and, and we'd, we'd get them on board. And, and again, I, I think two of the key players was, was Dr. Bob Darrell and, and Dave Boeyink, and Dave just borderline genius and, and so was, is, uh, is, uh, Dr. Bob Darrell. And if you entered, I thi- I think, I think, you, you owe it to yourself just to sit down and talk to Bob Darrell. O'HARA: Well, I'm intrigued-- ALVEY: --You know it. O'HARA: --now. (laughs) ALVEY: You will be. This guy is, is impressive. He's, uh, he's a huge man, and he's writ- he's written several books and, uh, and several English books for high school and college and just, he just knows. I mean, he's just, has a deep understanding. O'HARA: And he's, being a professor, he's, he's served his community, too,-- ALVEY: --Right. O'HARA: --which is so important when you have-- everyone has their gifts-- ALVEY: --Yeah. O'HARA: --and their-- ALVEY: --And he still does. I mean, he,-- O'HARA: --Wow. ALVEY: --you still see him involved in everything, so he, it's, uh, it was a, it was a good committee and it worked out great. O'HARA: Um, I was wondering what was, um, being a union representative, being, um, from labor, what was labor's relationship with the area technology center? And the area technology centers in Kentucky traditionally taught secondary and post-secondary students prior to House Bill 1 in '97, and I'm wondering, um, was there any discussion of including them in cooperation with this community, community college, or what was their role with your business industry and training? ALVEY: Um, not, not per se. You know, it, uh, it never was discussed to say, Yeah, uh, unions will be a intricate part of this, you know, that we'll, that everybody's gonna be hand-in-hand. I g- uh, most building trades, uh, have their own apprenticeship programs and their own training programs,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --and, and, uh, I, I think this,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --this center was-- you, you know, can't everybody belong to any one organization. I mean, uh, you can't take, even being a union, you can't take in everybody that wants to, to be in, and, and we can't send everybody through our, our apprenticeship programs and our training programs, you know. And there, there's a lot of people out there that, that are, are just like us, you know. They need the education. They need the work.-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --So I, I think you've gotta kindly, you kindly got to look past, uh, uh, a lot of things and, and, and you can't get a, a shot of the big picture. You know, uh, I, I always thought I was, I was blessed because, you know, I, I could work through the union and, and they trained me to do the things that I needed to do in my trade, and, and there was a lot of people out there that were, that were working at poverty level, you know, and, and, uh, and needed training that they didn't have any, any way of getting. So if, if we got a technology center and these people got a shot at, at, at being welders or,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --or electricians or pipe fitters or construction workers, whatever, you know, you can always incorporate them people. You know, you can always, I mean, um, I don't care how hard we push or our unions push, uh, there's never everybody that's gonna belong to a union. You know, it just, it's just, the world's just not that a-way. O'HARA: Mm-hm. ALVEY: So I think you, I think you, you learn to, to, to and, and live long enough to understand that, uh, that there's gonna be both worlds, you know, and, and that, and that people that need training need to have opportunity to get that training and, and to be bought up the, the food chain or up in, uh, their educational experience. And, uh, and, and the more education you get no matter where it comes from or, or how it's obtained, you know, uh, if you don't have those things, you can forget about industry. I mean, if, if we don't have the people that are qualified to operate machinery and to work on machinery and to do electrical work and to do plumbing work-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --then I'm not gonna do any construction work. You know, there's not gonna be anything to build. You know, industry's going to another state or, you know, someplace else so, so I think, I think anytime anybody can get an education,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --it helps me. You know, I've got a high school education, but anytime anybody gets a college education, it helps me. It helps me personally, you know, and I think it helps everybody. And, uh, and I, I think that was a whole lot of the outlook, you know, that, that maybe we didn't get everything that if, if we'd been writing the book, you know, we, we may have written it different, but we knew that as long as, as people were, were getting a, a good education at a fair price that sooner or later they're gonna help us, you know, that it's going to help the community, and anytime the community is growing, you're growing your part with it. You know, it-- O'HARA: --It's reciprocal. ALVEY: That's right, and we may not get a hundred percent of it, but we're gonna get our piece of it. And, and I, I think that's what education does, but if you're sitting in a community where, where your people coming out of high school, you know, don't go to college, then the community just in, in bad shape. And, and I think that's what we all realized, you know, that, that we was at that point that if we don't get more of our kids into college and, and get a degree in their hands and, and, and get them a formal education, you know, it's, it's a little bit different in, in, in the seventies and the eighties and the nineties than it was when, when I got in the workforce. When I got in the workforce, there was a lot of manufacturing jobs around. You could go to Alaco. You could go, you could go up to, to the aluminum plants up in Hallsville, and,-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --and you could go to work for, for a good wages. But, but a l- a lot of that was beginning to, to, uh, to die off, and a lot of those positions were filled and no new industry was coming in. And, and, uh, and it takes, it takes educated people. You know, it takes, uh, when the indu-- [Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.] O'HARA: Well, one more question. ALVEY: Okay. O'HARA: Um, critics have attacked the UK community college system since its conception because it is unique in the nation; it was unique in the nation in the way that it, uh, to have a university govern a community college system. What were the benefits and the drawbacks of, um, Owensboro Community College's relationship with the University of Kentucky? ALVEY: Well, I think one of the biggest things is, is the credibility. You know, it's, it's just automatic credibility. I mean, if you've got a, a degree from, uh, University of Kentucky, you know, uh, i- it's better than having a degree from, a, a college that we would set up and hire our own professors and stuff. You know, it's just, it, uh, when you've got a diploma, you know, you've got a, it makes a little difference where it comes from, and, and, uh, and plus, uh, I think UK, you know, is, is already established. Their programs are already established. It's not like coming in and trying to set up your own curricula and, and-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --trying to find your own, uh, professors and, and, and teachers, and, and so I, I think UK brought a lot to the table. You know, I'd hate to, I'd hate to think where we woulda have to have gone if we didn't have UK, if UK didn't have a community college system, um, uh, because-- and another thing, I think it helped kindly subsidize the lower education cost, you know. So-- O'HARA: --Mm-hm. ALVEY: --it was a, it was another way for, um, to be able to get money out of the legislature, out of the senate and out of the government, you know, for education if UK is backing it. You know, if Owensboro goes to, to legislature and the senate and says Owensboro wants to start its only community college, they're gonna say, you know, Where's your credentials? You know, Who says you can operate a college? But if you go asking for money and saying it's UK, you know, community college, then it's, that's just something you don't have to, n- it's just another hurdle you don't have to get over. So I think UK was, was huge in, in, uh, and like I say I don't know, I don't know where we would, what we could've done without UK. You know, I think it just wouldn't've been, wouldn't've been feasible, you know, to have a, to have a stand-alone college, you know. O'HARA: Yeah. Yeah. ALVEY: But, uh, that's basically with, uh, with the price that we was wanting to pay, you know,--(laughs)--where we wanted to get, get the cost of the, the, uh, to the people that we needed to get it to, you know. O'HARA: Um-hm. ALVEY: So I think it, I think they were huge. So-- O'HARA: Well, Mr. Alvey, um, you have answered all my questions without me needing to ask them which is wonderful. That's the way I always hope interviews will go. ALVEY: Thank you. O'HARA: Um, extremely informative. Is there any-- well, I was going to say is there any questions I haven't asked that you with I had, but, uh, is there any other topics or, um, related to this or, um, subjects that we haven't, haven't addressed? ALVEY: No. There's just, uh, there was just a l- a lot done, I guess, that, um, that will never be seen, and, and maybe rightfully so that doesn't necessarily be s- need to be seen because, uh, uh, there was nobody in it to, uh, that needed the notoriety or, or needed to, to be out doing this. You know, we didn't have any axes to grind, and, and we didn't. I could honestly say that, that of the people that I know that was involved in this community college gained absolutely nothing from it other than knowing that, that the community needed a college. You know, there was, uh, and, and the people that were, that were behind the scenes were absolutely happy to be there. You know, so, um, I th- I think that, uh, that without a lot of them people, we would still be traveling to Henderson, and, and that, that may have been our last shot at getting a community college especially with, with Don Blandford not being there anymore. It's just hard, unless you've got somebody like a Don Blandford. You know, i- it's hard. It's hard to get things moving, especially politically. And there was, there were several people that, that knew Don and knew-- And, and Don w- was from this community, and, and he was just a, he was just huge. So, I think that's about it. O'HARA: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Alvey. ALVEY: Thank you. O'HARA: I really appreciate it. [End of interview.] Oral history with Tom Alvey, labor representative on Citizens Committee for Higher Education, local community group which helped establish Owensboro Community College in 1984. Interview discusses work with Don Blandford in acquiring money from the legislature for the college, campus construction and location. Alvey describes the need for a community college in Owensboro as well as local response to proposal. Interview concludes discussing the benefits of early relationship with University of Kentucky. insert here