Alumni Spotlight

What Pikeville College Did For Me

By: J. Morgan Chapman, '73
November 19, 2014

I am thankful. I’m not sure if I learned that from my parents, from my teachers, from God or a combination of all of them. I learned as a young child that there were things others had that I did not. The house in which we lived was not a mansion by any means, my clothes were often hand-me-downs and mealtime at our house was sufficient for all of us but rarely extravagant. You see, I was the son of a coal miner. As the middle child of five, I learned the value of hard work and perseverance to achieve my goals. Though my Dad had only an eighth grade education, he stressed his desire for us to get a good education so that we could have a better life than he could afford to give his family. His strict rule about grades and learning left no room for failure or lack of effort, and any disciplinary action we received at school was duplicated when we got home. Mom dropped out of school at fifteen to get married and like so many of her time, was a stay-at-home mother and never furthered her education until she later obtained her GED after her children were grown.
I was also extremely fortunate to have had teachers who valued education as highly as my parents did. One in particular, Mrs. Charles, my seventh-grade English teacher, went out of her way to help me see what a treasure that a book can be. She instilled in me a love of learning which enabled me to travel to distant lands, experience things far beyond my imagination and meet people who lived centuries ago, but were still alive in their accomplishments and achievements. Somewhere, someone challenged me to think, both rationally and emotionally about the things I read and heard. Someone taught me common sense about most situations and to learn from my mistakes. From Mrs. Charles and others, I decided early in my teens that I wanted to be a teacher, too. I wanted to do for other children what they had done for me. I wanted to open the minds of children and watch the wonder in their eyes as they discovered something totally new and fresh. I knew that other professions might pay more but nothing could deter me from becoming a teacher.
So, when I graduated from high school, I had to figure out how to get a college degree and a teaching certificate in order to pursue my dream. I had an older brother who was a sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University at the time and I knew that it was a strain on the family to keep his tuition and other expenses paid. As a very independent person, I refused to allow my Dad to add another college loan to his indebtedness, not to mention the sacrifices my other brother and sister that were still in high school, would have to make. So I worked at a local hotel as a night clerk and went to classes at Pikeville College during the day. I also worked at the G. C. Murphy’s Department Store after my last class on “The Hill.” By the time I ate at the college cafeteria and got to the dorm, it was about 6 p.m. I got to sleep about four hours and then, it was back up at 10 p.m. and back to work by 11 p.m.. Thankfully, the time at work at the hotel afforded me plenty of time to study, when I wasn’t too sleepy to concentrate. That was the way my freshman year was and I knew I couldn’t maintain that kind of strain very long. So, I worked out a plan with my advisor to work different hours during the day, taking classes in the evening and during the summer-terms and still stayed abreast of my peers.
At the end of my sophomore year, I heard about a federal government initiative that provided grants and loans to college students who were planning to become teachers. If, upon graduation and obtaining a teaching position in a qualifying school district, the loans would be repaid incrementally with each year of teaching experience the candidate received. That sounded like the answer to my prayer, so I applied. I was accepted and as directed by the terms of the program, I began working in the local school district as a teacher’s aide and a school bus driver. In doing so, I receive one-fourth of my student teacher requirements per semester, so that by the time I obtained my bachelor’s degree, that part of my teacher preparedness would be already done.
My fiancĂ© had just finished her R.N. degree and had begun working at the Pikeville Methodist Hospital, so in the fall of my junior year, we got married. This made attending classes in the evening and during the summer a little more difficult, but I was determined to complete my studies and achieve my goal. By the spring of 1973, I graduated from Pikeville College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and was hired that fall by the Pikeville Independent School District, teaching in their junior high school. I went on to earn two masters’ degrees and a Rank I degree from Morehead State University which prepared me to spend 23 years teaching various subjects and grade levels as well as five years in the administration of the Pikeville Independent Schools. I also served one year as the principal of the Christ Central School and Academy.
I have given all this background history of my educational experience to arrive at one point. Pikeville College made my dream of becoming a teacher a reality and prepared me well to go on to other levels of academic achievement. When I first stepped on that campus, I felt that it was small enough to recognize me as an individual and not just a number of thousands, but yet, large enough, with instructors and staff members that were as well-qualified as anywhere in the country. I also found that the instructors and staff members and yes, even the administrators genuinely cared about each of the students. You could tell by the time and effort they spent to help me when I needed it most. They knew me by name, greeted me with respect and encouraged me to succeed academically.
But, Pikeville College had one element that meant more to me than just about everything else that I have previously described. You see, I had just become a Christian at the end of my freshman year and desperately needed a nurturing, spiritual atmosphere in order to grow in my faith. I remember with great fondness the chapel programs we had each week. The speakers uplifted my spirit, challenged me to live my faith before others and to value the scriptures as the standard of truth and righteousness. Then in my junior year, I felt the call of God on my life to become a minister. I believe it was no coincidence that at the same time, I enrolled in the required old testament and new testament classes taught by Ms. Alma Culton. Everyone told me how difficult her classes would be and how that I would be lucky to just get a passing grade. What they did not know, was that I was like a desert that received a much needed rain. I read and studied the Bible and any other books that I could get my hands on, not just to pass Ms. Culton’s class, but to learn as much as I could about a God who loved me, saved me and called me into His service. I marveled at her knowledge of the Bible as the revealed Word of God and her command of the scriptures in order to provide answers for my curious mind. I determined to make this book my life-long study as well. And, oh, by the way, I received an “A” in both of her classes.
I’m sure I would have gotten a good education at any other college or university in Kentucky, but I still believe that Pikeville College was the best fit for my personality and my situation at the time. Most of the students came from similar backgrounds and I was able to form life-long friendships that I still treasure today. Pikeville College had a small-town intimacy that allowed me to get to know everyone personally from the president to the custodian. The instructors, as I have said before, showed me the compassionate consideration that I will never forget and that has inspired me to treat my students likewise. Finally, and most importantly, the spiritual emphasis Pikeville College instilled in me has left an indelible mark on my life. I pray this will continue to be an integral part of its framework and function as long as it continues to exist.

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