Betty Drymon Dickey, 94, the widow of former University of Kentucky President Frank Dickey, died Tuesday, said her daughter, Ann Haynes.
She most recently had lived at The Willows at Hamburg.
UK President Eli Capilouto issued a statement offering his condolences.
“Some of my earliest memories at UK involve seeing Betty at university functions and sporting events, where she delighted in being with people and a part of this community,” he said. “Betty was candid and funny, vivacious and full of life. She loved her family and she loved this special place. In very important ways, the Dickey family helped make possible what we know today as the University for Kentucky.”
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Frank Dickey was UK’s fifth president, serving from 1956 to 1963. His tenure marked a period of unprecedented growth, including the founding of the medical center; the construction of dormitories, a chemistry physics building and a pharmacy building; and the acquisition of Coldstream and Spindletop farms.
The couple later established an endowed scholarship for graduate students in the UK College of Education.
“Their work together, which spanned decades of service and accomplishment in higher education, included some of the most transformative and important years in the history of the University of Kentucky,” Capilouto said.
Betty Dickey was born in Missouri on Nov. 15, 1921, and grew up during the Great Depression. One of her favorite sayings, Haynes said, was “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
Her family moved to Lexington when she was a teenager, and she met Frank Dickey when she was a senior at Bryan Station High School and he was a student teacher there.
Their romance blossomed while she attended Transylvania College.
The couple were married for 68 years before Frank Dickey’s death in 2009.
Haynes said her mother had an outgoing, adventuresome spirit and loved telling stories.
In 2002, she told a Herald-Leader columnist about the woeful condition of Maxwell Place when she and her husband moved in after the presidency of Herman Donovan.
“There was no silverware, no china. The place needed rewiring and hadn’t had any interior work in 16 years because Dr. Donovan was allergic to paint. My sister had to ship us two barrels of china she got on the docks at San Francisco,” she said. “And oh, yes. Dr. Donovan had thought there were squirrels in the attic because he’d been hearing noises. It turned out there were two tramps living up there.”
But she said the family soon made it “a normal home, with teenagers climbing down the wisteria vines and sneaking the car out at night by silently coasting it down to the street before they started the engine.”
Frank Dickey reflected on those years too, telling the reporter that being president of the university was “a two-person job. I couldn’t have done it without Betty Dickey.”
Haynes said her mother was an excellent cook and gardener who enjoyed golf and reading, and she continued playing bridge until she was 92. She was active in a number of organizations, including the P.E.O. Sisterhood, which helps women advance their educations.
A memorial service will be at 2:30 p.m. April 30 at Crestwood Christian Church, with visitation beginning at 1 p.m.