When Dr. Funderburk assumed the EKU presidency on January 1, 1985, he said the task at hand was to "make a good university a better one." From his perspective as one coming from outside of Kentucky, he quickly judged that Eastern was a much better institution than those close to her realized. He found a sound comprehensive regional university with a fine faculty, an appropriate array of academic programs ranging from traditional to contemporary, a student body whose members were serious about improving their lives through education, and a well-developed, beautiful physical plant.
The long-range strategic planning and budgeting process started by President Powell had been in place for two years, giving the institution a head start over many others in this activity. But, perhaps more importantly, Eastern over the years had remained true to its mission and had resisted the temptation to emulate other institutions.
All was not perfect, but most of the problems faced by Eastern were not unique. During the first half of the 1980s, enrollments had declined without a commensurate adjustment in the staffing levels of the faculty and administration. This resulted in the university's losing ground as the state's leader in faculty compensation. The physical plant, while well-planned and attractive, was suffering from budget-crunch induced deferred maintenance. No new building had been completed since 1979.
Enrollment under Funderburk's leadership surpassed the 16,000 mark by 1991 and reflected a national trend of more non-traditional students coming back to school for further educational advancement. While on-campus enrollment was at a record high, the university was also serving increased numbers of students on the extended campus and had begun its first permanent extended campus centers at Corbin, Manchester, and Danville so that greater educational opportunities could be provided to people in Eastern's service region. Despite enrollment increases, the institution faced several state budget cuts. In response to challenging economic times, Funderburk instituted strict fiscal management and major academic and administrative restructuring.
Although some academic programs were cutback, new master's degree programs were initiated in Criminal Justice, Occupational Therapy, and Nursing. An aggressive development program matured during Funderburk's tenure, including the establishment of two endowed chairs and several endowed professorships. Several building projects -- Dizney (Allied Health), Funderburk (Criminal Justice), and a major expansion of the Crabbe Library (the Hazel and Thomas Little Building)--were completed in the 1990s. In addition, a Wellness and Conditioning Center adjacent to the Begley Building and Student Services Building are in the planning stages.
Scott Perry took over the reins of the men's basketball program, thus becoming the first African American to assume a major coaching post at Eastern.
By 1998, over 75,000 people had graduated from the university. In addition, although Eastern had achieved a solid reputation as a comprehensive regional university, it still maintains its original commitment to providing a strong teacher training program.
On July 1, 1998, Dr. Robert Walter Kustra, Lt. Governor of Illinois, assumed the presidency from Hanly Funderburk.