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About Geography / Department History

Department History

In the 1920s and 1930s, few universities in the American South employed geographers. While there was evidence of interest in geography both in and outside the University of Kentucky, educators deplored the meager offerings and the ineffective teaching of geography in the state's secondary schools. Indeed, there were preparatory courses in geography in the course catalog of the University of Kentucky at the founding of the institution; the earliest course on record being Ancient and Modern Geography in 1865. Educators were pleading for more effective geographic instruction and the business world was demanding a content of more practical value. Among the prominent American geographers, Ellen Churchill Semple, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, informally encouraged Frank L. McVey, President of the University of Kentucky, to establish a geography program, when in 1920 she donated to the university the Cullum Geographical Medal (awarded to her in 1914 by the American Geographical Society). The need for a separate geography program was clearly demonstrated during the next two decades, but it was the decision of the recently appointed president, Herman Lee Donovan, to recommend the establishment of a Geography Department within the College of Arts and Sciences early in the summer of 1944.

Our department's history is regularly updated on Wikipedia.