Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Clay Davis, March 22, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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O'HARA: This is an interview conducted by Adina O'Hara with Clay Davis, president of Citizens National Bank, in Somerset, Kentucky, on March 22, 2007, for the Community College Oral History Project. Mr. Davis, Somerset had approximately 1,500 high school graduates in 1960. This created a great demand for higher education in Pulaski County that resulted in the 1962 legislation that created the UK Community College 00:01:00System and specifically legislated a college for Somerset. Because of your experience serving on the advisory board for Somerset Community College, you can explain the growth of this community college from a community member's standpoint.

DAVIS: Well, I guess I go back to 1973, not when it was instigated here in Pulaski County, but back in 1973, and Roscoe Kelley was president at the time. I've seen every -- or been associated with every president since Roscoe Kelley in the Somerset Community College system. Roscoe Kelley and then Richard Carpenter -- can't think of the next guy's name, and then Jo Marshall. And the college has been very progressive. 00:02:00There was some periods in probably about the late '90s or early 2000, that there was kind of a -- the college was growing, but some of the internal problems were going on at the college because of leadership and so forth like that. But they solved that when they brought in Dr. Jo Marshall. So the college has been moving forward now and building a better relationship within the community, trying to synchronize the needs of the community with the college, training and so forth, and -- which has helped because we have a tremendous amount of good workforce 00:03:00here, but some of them lack the knowledge of being specialized trained for whatever the industry is coming into the area. And this is where the college has tremendously helped, in that situation.

O'HARA: Historically, what are some of the unique programs that the -- Somerset Community College has offered its community to meet those local needs?

DAVIS: Well, now that the merger of Somerset Community College and the vocational school has occurred, now you can -- the college can be more specialized. If there's welders that are needed, they are in a position to -- because they have the welding school down there, to meet that need. Aviation is big. And according to one of the industries that has located here, that they are very impressed with the student 00:04:00and the educational programs that we have in the aviation courses. So -- which is -- and the possibilities of the community getting where we -- Sikorsky, which is the helicopters. This -- it blends in perfect with them and the community college, because of what we train and put out into the community, that they've got a resource that they can hire for working on these helicopters and so forth. So that one has been tremendous. A lot of them have just been in basically manufacturing jobs set up by their -- the new plant coming in, where instructors and et cetera go out and do the teaching and training on that new -- on that equipment and so forth. I'm sure there's a whole lot more other things that have been done that I'm not familiar with on a day-to-day, 00:05:00because I'm not down there on a day-to-day basis, nor am I in there every day talking from the standpoint of what's going on in the daily operations of the college.

O'HARA: But your community perspective is very important for economic development.

DAVIS: Yes. The thing about Somerset, Somerset is a very balanced local economy. We've got light industry, we've got medical, we've got light retail, and we've got tourism, and light agricultural. So all of this is a good mix and keeps a good flow throughout the year, as far as the local economy. You don't have peaks and valleys in the local economy here. It's pretty much standard all the way through the year, so this 00:06:00has been good. I think the college -- I can't tell you what the first enrollment was in -- when they opened up the college here, but I know that is has steady grown. Right now, I think it's about 5,600, 5,800 students, if my memory serves me correctly.

O'HARA: Impressive! It was -- according to the newspaper articles that I pulled, in 1965 when it opened its doors, the first fall it had 290 enrolled, was the first count. So that's, wow!

DAVIS: Yeah, it's tremendous growth.

O'HARA: Tremendous.


O'HARA: And the whole county's obviously growing. Every time I make a trip down here it's just booming. Let me take you back to when you first started with working with Somerset in 1973. What was the relationship with the community college and the area technology center at that point? I've noticed, talking to community college leaders, that 00:07:00some community colleges worked more closely with the area technology centers than others did, depending on the need.

DAVIS: Well, I don't know that in 1973 we had any technology center. Technology didn't come on, I don't think, strong until in the '90s, beginning of the '90s. We built the Rural Economic Development Center down here, which was probably about a $15 million investment, with the assistance of the University of Kentucky, and -- although now it is now owned and operated here in this community by the Center for Rural Development. Right now, technology is working great with the community college, and they feed off of each other. And there are benefits that 00:08:00the community college can derive, and there's benefits that the Center can derive with participating with the college. And we know -- we've got their drama classes that they have, and we've got the theater at the Center that they utilize to put on their plays and so forth. Then because of the structure of the Center, as far as the theater's concerned, it also represents a way for training people in production and whatever else in the theater business that's required. Then there's -- the big thing that's needed, I guess, around here is nurses and that type of stuff. That the hospital here has given, I think, about a million dollars for training and development of the nursing facilities down there, where hopefully we will turn out 'X' number of 00:09:00nurses that can be feeders to the hospital and also the other health care providers that are in this community, and there is quite a bit. Healthcare is big here.

O'HARA: And nursing shortages across the nation have also shown that. The nursing -- the associate's degree was the first two-year program of an occupational nature offered by the community colleges across Kentucky. And Somerset was one of the leaders in that area back in 1965. So it's still strong. Now, speaking of community, one of my -- this leads right into another question. Obviously, for the local community, there were cultural and economic benefits that you've highlighted, some of the current ones. Some of the community colleges promoted cultural activities by bringing in lecturers and entertainers 00:10:00to the community colleges on a regular basis. What I've found is that each community has their own unique way of reaching out to the community, and you mentioned plays. Are their other things? Do they bring regular lecturers in from the national level or statewide level or --

DAVIS: I'm not familiar with anything that they've brought in. No, I don't think so.

O'HARA: They do a lot of the plays and --

DAVIS: A lot of the plays, and that's all I can relate to in that.

O'HARA: Good.

DAVIS: Well, and probably there are reasons why not, because you've got the Center that's bringing in some high-quality entrepreneurs to give -- not necessarily lectures, but to give workshops. And then you've 00:11:00got the Lake Cumberland Performing Arts who brings in name -- like we just had -- and they brought him in -- Boots Randolph, down here at the Center. So you know, you've got other organizations that are non- profit that are helping feed that nerve that's not there.

O'HARA: Because of the size of Somerset, they've already got those organizations, whereas other communities may not have had anything else to bring in that. Very good. Some community colleges developed relationships with the state's regional universities, and others didn't. During your tenure since 1973, was there -- has there ever been any arrangements with, say, EKU because it's fairly close, Eastern Kentucky University? I was just wondering if those relationships were open.


DAVIS: Yes, there's with EKU, as you said, Midway College, and the University of Kentucky. I think Morehead is another one that relationships have been developed with. Cumberland College, which is a private college. And I'm sure that there are some others that right off the bat I can't come up with the names. But yeah, there's been a lot of -- and then too, we're in a situation -- I think the college -- or community college has worked up a program where now, through the Center, I can teach a class, let's say, on finance. And maybe they've only got three students here that's interested in taking it, 00:13:00but Clinton County's got two down there, and Adair County's got three. Maybe Eastern's got half a dozen. We can teach it down here through videoconference, and the student can sit at Eastern or McCreary County or over at Albany, Clinton County, in a room which has got two-way videoconferencing, which you can -- in Clinton County, I can talk to the instructor and vice versa. And the cameras can go right to that student or whatever. And the other students are seeing this also, when that happens. So that -- we're being able to reach more students now and offer more diversified courses that one school maybe cannot afford 00:14:00just to do it because of the number of students that's signed up for it.

O'HARA: Well, the support for the community college is obvious, you know, with the Economic Development Center and being a leader in this distance education movement that is meeting a broader range of needs.

DAVIS: The big thing, I think, the community college system has got to do is to -- they've been building on it, but I think there was a period in there that they were very lax, that they didn't build good rapport with the foundation or with raising money for scholarships and things like this. I mean, they do have some, but I think they could have been a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more organized, you might say, in that area. And if you've ever been in fundraising, 00:15:00you know that you don't walk into a person's office and say, "I'd like for you to give me $10,000 or $20,000 or $25,000." You build those relationships. And I think that's the thing that community college has got to do, and it's got -- it will be over time. It won't be -- can't be done in one year, and it can't be down it two years. It's going to be a constant effort, and I think that community colleges have got to fund a development person for each college to be out there to be working on this --

O'HARA: It's critical, absolutely critical.

DAVIS: -- because they can't depend upon the state of Kentucky.

O'HARA: Have you seen improvement in that area in the last --


O'HARA: -- five years, since Dr. Marshall's been there? That's what I thought. I noticed you were very involved with that and actually recognized on behalf of the bank for its contributions, considerable contributions to the development and scholarships. And I know that's 00:16:00a new initiative, you know, of the new organization. That's very important and critical.

DAVIS: Mm-mm. Mm-mm.

O'HARA: And I think previous to the legislation that created KCTCS, things were done differently in that area. Well, that kind of -- this is going back a bit to the beginning, but it reminds me -- a lot of my research was done on the early years. And there was a Educational Development Association created, because UK back in 1963 said to the leadership of this county, of Pulaski County, said, "We know you want a college. You need to provide support and provide the land." And that's what they did, they created the Educational Development Association. Is that still in existence today?

DAVIS: I don't think so. I haven't heard of it. That's the first time I ever heard of it. But I knew that the community had to come up with 00:17:00the property and funds at first, when the college was first located here. But I've never heard of that commission or whatever they called themselves.

O'HARA: So the foundation that you speak of in that relationship, perhaps that's replaced that. I'd have to --

DAVIS: The foundation was just organized in the last year.

O'HARA: Oh, really? I didn't realize it was that recent. I just assumed that each community college already -- had had one all along. Wow, wow! Fascinating.

DAVIS: I don't think they put emphasis on foundations then. And I think it was just a matter of fact to go out here and when we needed to raise 00:18:00$5 million, we'd try to hit all the communities and raise the money, which, to me, is not the best way to do it.

O'HARA: Unh-unh. Some community colleges offer classes during the day and the evening. During your tenure -- and since you're not on campus every day, I understand you may not know the differences. But I was wondering if you've noticed, since 1973, a shift. Has there always been predominately more traditional students? Or are you serving -- like now it really sounds like we're serving business and industry heavily at community colleges.

DAVIS: I think it's more diversified than even that. I think you're seeing the elderly being -- taking courses. When I say elderly, I'm talking about people in their forties, late thirties, and some in fifties (O'Hara laughs) that are taking courses that -- and then some 00:19:00are trying to learn new trades, learning -- taking specialized courses. I think they're touching pretty much everyone, and that's when I -- the reason I say I think it's more diversified. The -- I don't know what the percentage of -- age of students are, and I'm sure that most of it is the younger people, but they are servicing some older people.

O'HARA: Non-traditional students.

DAVIS: Yeah. When I say "older," I don't mean -- I'm talking about anybody that's over 21, basically, or 23, whichever.

O'HARA: (laughs) Talking about us.

DAVIS: Yeah.

O'HARA: Very good. I'm always interested to see, you know, if -- some colleges do predominantly -- did predominantly in the past serve the traditional students, and others have always, since the beginning, served a very wide range. And obviously, there are members of the 00:20:00community returning to military service that are receiving veterans' benefits. Has that been a major initiative in Pulaski County?

DAVIS: Haven't seen a whole lot of it.

O'HARA: Not a whole lot? Not real close to a base here, whereas some of the other ones are, so I was just curious. Student activities, I was interested to find out -- we're talking back in the late '60s, they actually -- some of the colleges, I've found out, had basketball teams and soccer teams, as well as other interesting intercollegiate team sports -- tennis. During your tenure, was there ever any type of athletic teams, whether it be intra-mural or even actually competitive playing between the colleges? Any interesting stories?

DAVIS: No, because -- that's when they pretty much dissolved the basketball program, in the early '70s. And no --


O'HARA: Hasn't been much past that?

DAVIS: No. And I don't think that's a big requirement for the community college system. Maybe, they need -- maybe they could have some intra- mural sports, but not to necessarily go out here and build a basketball court and things like that, because they need more of the -- well, in today's modern age, they need more of the videoconferencing-type stuff, more of the high tech stuff that they can do a better job teaching.

O'HARA: Yes, that's where the priority is.

DAVIS: Yeah, on the academic side.

O'HARA: Definitely. The relationship between UK and its community colleges, prior to the 1997 legislation, was unique across the nation, ----------(??) unique arrangement. What were the benefits and 00:22:00drawbacks of Somerset Community College's relationship with UK during your tenure?

DAVIS: Drawbacks? I don't know if there was -- they sup- -- they provided a lot of expertise that the community college didn't have when it was needed. They didn't have to go out and hire extra people to do, like, the architectural and a lot of the layout of the campus. They were able to draw upon the University of Kentucky. Plus, the University of Kentucky had -- their benefits were pretty good, which if the community college down here had to come up with their own benefits, it would be pretty hard unless there is like today, where there's a big 00:23:00conglomerate of them together.

O'HARA: Mm-mm.

DAVIS: But if Somerset Community College had to stand on its own, it would have been hard-pressed to be able to offer, number one, the salaries, and number two, the benefit package that it would require to have the proper type of teaching. So the university was in a position to help them there.

O'HARA: That's a good point.

DAVIS: But maybe also where -- maybe the drawback might have been that the University of Kentucky hurt the funding for the community college form the state level. And that could have been a draw- -- the only drawback that I can see with the University is on the state funding.

O'HARA: And as you've pointed out, since that change in governing structure, the community colleges have put forth more of an effort to create a foundation and build those relationships --

DAVIS: Try to learn and build up on their own rather than relying on 00:24:00outside sources.

O'HARA: -- which is very important.

DAVIS: Mm-mm.

O'HARA: Well, are there any questions that I haven't asked that you wish I had?

DAVIS: I'd have to think there a little bit.

O'HARA: I guess one question that I didn't come onto was maybe the development of the physical campus. Were you involved in new buildings and watching its growth?

DAVIS: Well, as you know, one of the buildings is named after Richard Cooper here. And Meece was the first one, I think, that was built. Then the Alton Blakley Building came on in the last few years. And then Congressman -- the one that's named after him, the college didn't ask for that building, but he was able to get it funded for them, so that was a plus for them and something that they hadn't -- didn't 00:25:00realize they were going to get. But he saw the need for it and went ahead, even though they didn't ask him and so forth. So that --

O'HARA: Just shows more of that community support. You guys, very tight. Very, very cutting-edge.

DAVIS: But the leadership was not strong at that time.


DAVIS: I don't know whether you need that in the report or not, but it was a -- that was a serious problem here. But it was resolved when Dr. Marshall came in, because she's provided the leadership and the exposure that a president should make in the community, and surrounding counties, too.

O'HARA: And I noticed doing my research, you know, she's on the Development Board. She's really immersed into the community and building those relationships which, like you say, is just key.


DAVIS: The only thing, probably, that I see that I think the college -- and I came back to that, they need a development officer.

O'HARA: And they don't have one yet.

DAVIS: No. They say there's no money for it. But they need to fund that, because -- and get somebody that's, you know, got personality and go out here and knows how to communicate with these people.

O'HARA: Yeah, that should be a big priority. Well, that's interesting. You've educated me on several issues that are current, and from the past, and I appreciate your time. Are there any other questions that you wished I'd asked?

DAVIS: No, I think that's it.

O'HARA: Well, Mr. Davis, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. Do you have anything else to --

DAVIS: Glad to help. I hope I've helped.

O'HARA. You have, you have. You've really brought a community perspective, and I appreciate it. Thank you so much!


DAVIS: Thank you.