Central University was founded in 1874 on the present site of Eastern Kentucky University. In 1901, beset with financial difficulties and small enrollment, Central University agreed to consolidation with Centre College. The Kentucky General Assembly of 1906 enacted legislation establishing the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School No. 1. The legislation was signed into law by the governor on March 21, 1906. On May 7, 1906, the Normal School Commission selected the site of the former Central University campus to be the location of the new school. In 1922 it became a four-year institution and changed its name to the Eastern Kentucky State Normal School and Teachers College, awarding its first degrees under that name in 1925. The school received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1928; then, two years later, in 1930, it changed its name again to the Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College. Eastern added graduate studies in 1935, and thirteen years later, in 1948, the General Assembly removed the word "Teachers" from the school's name, and granted it the right to award nonprofessional degrees. It was not until 1966 that the school was officially renamed Eastern Kentucky University. In 2010, the university awarded its first doctoral degree—in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. EKU continues to serve its service region by offering adult degree completion options and online degree programs in addition to its traditional on-campus offerings.
The years since 2012 have been marked by a significant building campaign that has altered the campus layout and improved aesthetics. Funding for the multimillion dollar project has relied heavily on public-private partnerships (P3) under the leadership of then-President Michael T. Benson. The recent construction efforts at the university mark the most significant period of campus facility development since President Robert R. Martin's tenure in the 1960s. Among the renovations and additions are:
#248 in Public Colleges (249 in 2017 and 250 in 2018)
#160 in the South (172 in 2017 and 167 in 2018)
In 1987, the faculty senate voted to approve an honors program to attract high-achieving students primarily from Kentucky. The board of regents subsequently approved the proposal on Saturday, January 16, 1988. The first 34 students entered the program beginning in the fall semester of 1988 under the direction of Dr. Bonnie Gray, a professor of philosophy who was appointed by then-president Funderburk in April of that year. Dr. Gray retired in 2008, having served as the well-respected director of the program for 20 years. The curriculum is interdisciplinary and capped by a senior thesis project. Students who successfully complete all program requirements receive the "Honors Scholar" designation on their diplomas.
Each year the honors program sends the largest delegation to the annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, where students present their research. Additionally, students in the program have received awards, including the Fulbright. Truman, Mitchell, and Phi Kappa Phi. In 2020, the program consisted of five full-time staff and approximately 496 students.
More than 230 registered student organizations are active on campus.
Student Government Association
The Student Government Association is the formal student governing body of the university. It was founded in 1954, with Ron Coffman serving as its first president and only consisted of a Student Council. In addition to the Student Council, which became the Student Senate in 1971, the SGA now has a Student Court, Executive Branch, and Student Activities Council which all act as independent branches of the government. Additionally, an Advisory Board of University employees provides advice and oversight. The association controls thousands of dollars in student money through an IT fund, RSO fund, diversity grant, and other sources. Every student enrolled in classes at the university is considered a member and able to vote in elections for Student Senators, the President, the Executive Vice President, and the Vice President of Student Activities.
Referred to as the "Maroons" until the mid-1960s, the Eastern Colonels compete in the NCAA's Division I (Football Championship Subdivision in football) in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The school is best known for its Football Championship Subdivision football team, which has captured 22 OVC conference titles and two Division I-AA National Championships in 1979 and 1982. Much of the success came during the long tenure of head coach Roy Kidd from 1964 to 2002. Kidd, with a career coaching record of 314-124-8, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Now led by first-year coach Walt Wells, the Colonels returned to the national FCS playoffs in 2011.
The Eastern Kentucky University men's basketball team won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship and its automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament in 2005, 2007, and 2014.
The men's and women's cross country team has also been a staple of success over the recent decade. The men's team has won all ten of the last ten OVC Championships, and the women have won nine of the last ten. In 2011 the men's cross country team qualified for NCAA National Cross Country Meet for the first time in school history. Since 2011, the team has qualified for the NCAA National Cross Country Meet five consecutive times.
Among EKU's most prominent traditions is the rubbing of Daniel Boone's left foot for good luck; the statue features prominently in front of the Keen Johnson Building.
The statue features prominently in front of the Keen Johnson Building. More recently, former President Benson initiated the Welcome Walk at the beginning of the fall semester; first year students gather in front of Keen Johnson Building with the President before walking along University Drive and passing through the new Turner Gate.
The Eastern Progress
The Eastern Progress, also known as The EP began in February 1922 and serves as the official student newspaper.
Founded on October 7, 1968, WEKU (88.9 FM) is a National Public Radio-affiliated station owned by Eastern Kentucky University. It primarily features NPR news and talk programming, along with Kentucky/Folk music on the weekends. WEKU operates 8 satellite stations including WEKP (90.1 FM) in Pineville, WEKH (90.9 FM) in Hazard, WEKF (88.5 FM) in Corbin and five translators in Middlesboro (102.5 FM, W273AY), Barbourville (96.9 FM, W245AS), Pikeville (95.1 FM, W251AI), Frankfort (106.7 FM, W294BG) and Harlan (96.3 FM, W242BR).
Steve Pence – former Lieutenant Governor and Justice Secretary of Kentucky
Dallas Robinson the state of Kentucky's sole Army Veteran and Olympian from the 2014 Olympics; Sochi Russia. He was a Team USA athlete for six years, two with the USA Rugby team and four with the USA Bobsled team. In 2008 he was ranked 1st in the USA & World in the 55m dash, indoor track and field. EKU school record holder & Hall of Fame Inductee. Also a Hall of Fame inducted High School Track and Field Coach.
Crystal Wilkinson – writer, poet, educator, and winner of 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
^ abGreat Journeys Begin Here. "About EKU | Eastern Kentucky University | Eastern Kentucky University". Eku.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
^As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian 2019 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2019 Endowment Market Value, and Percentage Change in Market Value from FY18 to FY19 (Revised)". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
^ ab"EKU Fact Book". Eastern Kentucky University Institutional Research. 2015.
^ abcAs of fall 2018. "Student headcount by level: All public institutions (2006-16)" (PDF). Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Commonwealth of Kentucky. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
^EKU Visual Identity(PDF). EKU. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2015-10-26.