Frank Graves Dickey, the University of Kentucky's fifth president, died of complications from pancreatic cancer Friday at Hospice Care Center at St. Joseph Hospital. He was 91.
During his tenure as UK's president, from 1956 to 1963, Mr. Dickey guided the university through a period of unprecedented growth. UK's medical school was launched and the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, housing the colleges of medicine, dentistry and nursing and University Hospital, was completed. UK's Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and a new school of architecture were established. Several dormitories, a chemistry-physics building and a pharmacy building were completed. New buildings for off-campus centers in Covington, Henderson and Cumberland were also built, and UK acquired Coldstream Farm, Spindletop Farm, Spindletop Hall and Cave Hill. UK's growth during Mr. Dickey's tenure was due largely to a 3 percent state sales tax that had begun to bear fruit.
UK's budget more than doubled, going from $21 million to nearly $57 million, and the number of students increased rapidly during his time as president.
"Those were the golden years of higher education," he said in an interview years later. "The money flowed freely, there were good students and good faculty, and it was prior to the days of great campus unrest."
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Mr. Dickey, who succeeded Herman Lee Donovan as UK's president, was 38 when he assumed the school's top job in 1956, making him the youngest president in the university's history.
From about 1949 to 1956, before becoming president, he was dean of the UK College of Education. UK's Dickey Hall, a College of Education building, was named for him.
"The University of Kentucky family has a heavy heart today," current UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. said. "President Dickey will forever be remembered for creating and establishing the UK Medical Center, an accomplishment that has impacted education, health care and economic conditions throughout Kentucky."
Laying the foundation for the medical center, including putting together its initial leadership, was Mr. Dickey's biggest contribution to UK, said Jerry Miller, who worked with Mr. Dickey for many years at UK and elsewhere.
"There were a remarkable number of those people who went on to become national leaders in medical education," Miller said, citing as an example Dr. Ed Pellegrino, the first head of UK's department of internal medicine.
Although Mr. Dickey left UK before the era of student unrest in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a student riot during his presidency. UK had defeated Tennessee in football the Saturday before Thanksgiving 1959. Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler declared the Wednesday after the game a state holiday. The governor left it up to individual schools to decide whether they would cancel classes that day. Mr. Dickey and the UK faculty decided there would be no holiday. About 3,000 UK students and others protested; several people were hurt and arrested during the demonstration.
While UK president, Mr. Dickey leveled charges of political interference with the university by state government leaders. He said that legislators and the administration of Gov. Bert T. Combs had approved the establishment of a UK community college system without adequate funding for it. Mr. Dickey also suggested that all elected officials, including the governor, be removed as voting members of the UK board of trustees.
Mr. Dickey stepped down as UK's president to become the first executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, where he served until 1965. The agency was in charge of maintaining accrediting standards for 384 colleges and 2,419 public and private secondary schools in an 11-state region.
He headed the National Commission on Accrediting of Colleges and Universities from 1965 to 1974; was provost of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from 1974 to 1976; became vice president of University Associates, an educational consulting firm in Washington, D.C., in 1976; and was interim dean of academic studies of the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem from 1978 to 1980. He returned to Lexington but continued to work as a consultant for about 10 more years.
Mr. Dickey was born Dec. 1, 1917, in Wagoner, Okla. He attended public schools in Wichita Falls and Lexington, having moved to Kentucky at age 10. He graduated from Lexington's Henry Clay High School in 1935. He graduated summa cum laude from Transylvania College in 1939, with a major in English and minors in music and history. He received a master's degree in English literature from UK in 1942.
Mr. Dickey taught in Lexington public schools, including Bryan Station High School, from the late 1930s to the early 1940s. He served in the Army during World War II, reaching the rank of master sergeant. He received a doctor of education degree in educational administration from UK in 1947. He was a post-doctoral fellow in educational administration at Harvard University from 1952 to 1953.
Mr. Dickey and Harold P. Adams co-wrote two books, Basic Principles of Student Teaching, published in 1956, and Basic Principles of Supervision, published in 1953.
Miller described his longtime friend as "always a courteous, friendly gentleman, (who was) kind almost to a fault."
While Mr. Dickey was UK's president, he received a letter recommending changes in UK's operation from a retired Army colonel who'd recently come to work at the university. The man signed the letter with his name, followed by "Colonel, U.S. Army, retired." Mr. Dickey wrote back, signing his letter "Frank G. Dickey, Master Sergeant, retired," Miller recalled with a laugh.
In 2002, Mr. Dickey, the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, received Omicron Delta Kappa's Laurel Crowned Circle Award, the national collegiate leadership honor society's highest honor. Also that year, Mr. Dickey and his wife, Elizabeth Drymon Dickey, provided the UK College of Education with an endowed scholarship for graduate students.
Survivors include his wife; two sons, Frank G. Dickey Jr. of Lexington and Joseph Terry Dickey of Simi Valley, Calif.; a daughter, Ann Dickey Haynes of Lexington; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 3 p.m. Aug. 22, at Crestwood Christian Church in Lexington. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. that day at the church. Memorial gifts are suggested to the Frank G. and Elizabeth D. Dickey Graduate Fellowship in Education at the UK College of Education or Hospice of the Bluegrass. W.R. Milward Mortuary — Broadway is handling arrangements.