Herman Lee Donovan


Herman Lee Donovan
Born in Maysville, Ky., on March 17, 1887. Educator. President, University of Kentucky. University of Kentucky, B.A., 1914; LL.D., 1933. Died, November 21, 1964.
The sixth President of the University graduated from Minerva High School in Mason County in 1905 and immediately began his career in education. He was named Principal for one year of a two-teacher school at Lewisburg, Kentucky. The experience made him realize the need for further education. He sold a horse his father had given him for $150 and went to Bowling Green with $156.10 to enroll at what then was called Western State Normal School. Following graduation from Western he taught for a year at Ward School, Paducah, Kentucky, two years at Wickliffe, Kentucky, then back to Paducah for a year (as Principal). At Paducah he married Nell Stuart. He became Principal of a school, and won an American flag as prize for his school showing the greatest improvement in buildings and grounds. At Wickliffe, where there was no library, he and Mrs. Donovan organized a dramatic group. They earned $800 from presenting plays and purchased the nucleus of a library.
He then came to the University of Kentucky, where he earned a degree in 1914. The following year he became Assistant Superintendent of Louisville City Schools. During World War I, he took a leave of absence to join the Army as a psychologist; he served at Oglethorpe and Camp Taylor.
A restlessness after the war caused him to resign the Louisville school job and enter the hardware business in Jellico, Illinois. He was successful, but the experience strengthened his desire to be a good teacher. He studied for a year at Columbia University, and returned home to become Superintendent of Catlettsburg, Kentucky, schools (1920-21). After a year he accepted an offer to be Dean of the faculty at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College, 1921-23. Then, with a $2,200 fellowship, he went to George Peabody College in Nashville to study and serve as professor of elementary education; he went to the University of Chicago for several special courses, and in 1928 was called back to Eastern as its President. He taught at Chicago during the summer of 1930. The following summer he lectured at Colorado State Teachers College. He served the Eastern presidency until 1941, when he was named President of the University of Kentucky, serving until 1956.

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