Herman L. Donovan
Lee Donovan, a nationally prominent educational leader, assumed leadership in 1928. Under Donovan's direction Eastern achieved regional accreditation for the first time, abolished the normal school, established academic ranks, created a division of graduate study in 1935 with the right to grant a master's degree in teaching, reorganized most academic departments, and expanded programs.
Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College
Although severely hampered by the Great Depression, Donovan brought a spirit of innovation and activism to the campus. For several years in the midst of the Depression, faculty members received no salary increases and state appropriations decreased by 50 percent. Donovan, however, took advantage of several federal programs to secure funding for a much needed physical plant expansion.
The Weaver Health Building opened in 1932, and almost immediately the basketball team, coached first by Turkey Hughes and after 1934 by Rome Rankin, achieved a remarkable degree of success. Rankin also coached football on the newly prepared Hanger Field (1936) and led his 1940 team Students persevered through the Depression by finding whatever employment on or off campus they could locate and joining a large number of honorary fraternities that were organized during the 1930s. By 1940 the Fitzpatrick Arts Building; Miller, Beckham, and McCreary Halls; and the Keen Johnson Student Union had been constructed, in part with federal funding.
Brock Auditorium became the cultural center of campus and was, for more than three decades, the site of commencement exercises. The Weaver Health Building gave Eastern a large and modern athletic-academic facility that, as home of "maroon" basketball teams, would see Eastern win 225 and lose only 51 games in 31 seasons before it gave way to the larger Alumni Coliseum. The Keen Johnson Building soon became the social center of the campus and gave Eastern its most noted landmark, the clock tower.
When Donovan left Eastern in 1941 to assume the presidency of the University of Kentucky, America was on the verge of its second global conflict.