Robert R. Martin
Dr. Robert R. Martin, the first Eastern graduate to serve his alma mater as president, assumed leadership on July 1, 1960. Martin, a master politician and the first Eastern alumnus to serve as president, had a vision of greatness for Eastern. He skillfully led his alma mater into a period of unparalleled growth.
Martin first focused his attention on a building program, especially on the need for dormitories to house an anticipated increase in the number of students. Eastern put its building program in high gear during 1960-61. Soon after ground-breaking for the Donovan Building, work began on Alumni Coliseum, Martin Hall, Brockton, and the Ault and Gibson buildings. In all twelve new dormitories, classroom facilities, physical education and athletic structures, a new student center, an experimental farm, several natural areas and recreational facilities, and other administrative and academic buildings came into existence. Social fraternities and sororities were added in the 1960s. In 1963 the Colonel image became Eastern's official mascot.
Eastern Kentucky University
Martin turned his attention next to academic development. In 1965 the institution underwent a major academic reorganization with the creation of five separate colleges and a graduate school. Many new faculty with terminal degrees were employed. Governor Edward Breathitt signed HB 238 into law on February 26, 1966, thereby granting university status to the state's regional colleges, effective July 1, 1966. After 1967 Eastern began offering a variety of master's degrees and a joint doctoral program in education with the University of Kentucky. During Martin's leadership there was growth in several innovative academic programs, notably in law enforcement and nursing. Eastern achieved a national reputation for developing career-oriented programs in technical and vocational education. During Martin's tenure Eastern's enrollment increased from 3,000 to 13,400 students.
It is impossible to appreciate fully the Martin years at Eastern without casting them in their historical context. They spanned from John F. Kennedy to Gerald Ford, from a president who was assassinated to the only one who achieved that office without being elected either president or vice president. America went from behind in the space race to become the first . . . and only . . . nation to land astronauts on the moon and return them safely. Our country involved itself in Vietnam and then painfully extricated itself. It was an era of hula hoops, streaking, and Woodstock. They were years that were not without controversy at Eastern; but fortunately they did not include the breakdown of communication and violence that visited some campuses.
With the same flair for the dramatically unexpected that had punctuated his administration, Dr. Martin had a surprise announcement at the April 3, 1976 meeting of the Board of Regents. He announced his intention to retire effective September 30, 1976, and asked that the Board designate him as "President Emeritus," which it did. When he retired five months later, he left an Eastern with his indelible mark upon it.
During his tenure, enrollment rose from 2,967 to 13,430. Faculty increased from 126 (23.8 percent with the earned doctorate) to nearly 600 (57 percent with doctorates). Degree programs had increased from 26 to 220 and the physical plant had increased in value from $7 million to $120 million.
When Dr. Martin became president, the board was comprised of six individuals. Five were appointed by the Governor, while the Superintendent of Public Instruction served as ex-officio chair. When he retired, it was a ten-member board, which included voting student and faculty representatives, and which elected its own officers. Under the leader of then chairman Robert B. Begley Sr., the Regents set out on a new venture for an Eastern board . . . a national search for a new president. While the search was national and finalists came from across the country for on-campus interviews, the new occupant of the Blanton House, Dr. J.C. Powell, had to move only a few blocks to take up official residence as Eastern's seventh president.