Alumni Spotlight

Patricia Thornbury Burchett, ’52J

By: Michelle Goff
October 13, 2016

Patricia Thornbury Burchett has the distinction of being the first University of Pikeville homecoming queen. She received that honor in January 1952, as a student at Pikeville Junior College.

“The presentation of the homecoming court and the crowning of the queen was during halftime of a basketball game,” Burchett recalls. “James Duff was my escort. I think President A.A. Page crowned me. We were voted on by the student body. To be honest, I was very surprised when I heard my name announced as homecoming queen. It was such an honor just to be on the court.”

Burchett, whose father, Jack Thornbury, died when she was young, says she chose to attend the junior college because the location allowed her to remain at home in Pikeville with her mother, Pearl Cline Thornbury.

“I was able to walk to school,” Burchett says. “I also knew that Pikeville Junior College had a good reputation.”

A biology/chemistry major, Burchett was a member of the German Club and editor of the yearbook and also performed in college plays.

“Some of my favorite professors were Ms. Spillman, who taught German; Franklin Day, who taught science classes; Stella Elkins, who taught history; and Rediford Damron, who sponsored the college plays,” Burchett says. “Some of my close friends were Peggy Appleton and Jean Keesee.”

She continues, “Life was so simple then. We hung out on the steps of the administration building and went to Jerry’s restaurant on the weekends.”

After earning her degree from the junior college, Burchett went to the University of Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s of science degree in bacteriology. She credits the junior college with preparing her for UK as well as her future career as a medical technologist.

“The classes were small so the professors were able to work one on one with us,” Burchett says. “They took a true interest in our well-being. They cared, and they were very knowledgeable in their areas.”

Burchett and her husband, Jack R. Burchett, live in Pikeville and have six children, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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