1st President: John W. Carr (1923-26, 1st term) (1933-36, 2nd
Born in Lawrence County, Indiana, on December 13, 1859, John
W. Carr was a high school principal and Superintendent of Schools in Indiana,
Tennessee and New Jersey before becoming Murray State Normal School’s first
president from August, 1923, until May 1, 1926. After his presidency, Carr
served as Dean of the institution until January 1933. He served as President
again from January 1933 until January 1936 and immediately after as Dean of
Murray State Teachers College until June 30, 1940.
Founder and 2nd President: Rainey T. Wells
A native of Murray, Kentucky, Rainey T. Wells led many
efforts in establishing educational institutions in Kentucky – the first of
which was a normal school in Kirksey, Kentucky. As a member of the General
Assembly from 1902-1923, he was a dominant and influential force in creating a
State Normal School Commission and establishing two normal schools – one in
Murray and the other in Morehead. From May 1, 1926, until December 31, 1932,
Wells was President of Murray State Teachers College. Following, Wells became
Chief Attorney for the Woodmen of the Methodist Church, a Rotarian, a
thirty-second degree Mason and a Shriner. In 1937, he was accepted to practice
law before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1946, Wells returned to Murray and lived at ‘Edgewood’ on South 12th Street (Highway 641) until his death on June 15, 1958.
3rd President: James H. Richmond (1936-45)
from Ewing, Virginia, Dr. James H. Richmond became the third president of Murray
State Teachers College in 1936, after being the Chair of the Board of Regents.
Before coming to Murray, Richmond was elected High School Supervisor for the
Kentucky State Department of Education and then became State Superintendent of
Public Instruction from 1932 until 1936. Richmond also taught in various places
and capacities in Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky.
4th President: Ralph H. Woods (1945-68)
The longest term held by any
University President, Dr. Ralph H. Woods began November 1, 1945, and maintained
his role until June 30, 1968, when he retired after a terminal leave. Woods,
however, remained President Emeritus of Murray State University. During his 23
years of service, the institution improved a great deal – enrollment increased
from 565 to 7,000 students; faculty increased from 62 to 376 full-time
professors; buildings increased from 10 to 51; Murray State Teachers College
became Murray State College in 1948 and later became Murray State University in
1966. Woods has served in many capacities, including Vice President and
President of the American Vocational Association, member of the White House
Conference on Children in a Democracy, consultant to the Advisory Commission of
the Council on National Defense, Director of the War Training Program in
Kentucky and member of the National Advisory Committee on Vocational War
Training for Out-of-School Youth. Woods was also named “Man of the Year” by
the Murray Chamber of Commerce in 1959 for his service to Kentucky agriculture
and was then named “Man of the Half Century” in 1968.
Acting President: M. O. Wrather
Raised in Calloway
County, Dr. M. O. Wrather stayed close to home and attended Murray State Normal
School and was among the first class to graduate from the newly-recognized
four-year college. Wrather became Director of Public Relations and Secretary of
the Alumni Association at the school. He served as Acting President when former
President Dr. Richmond passed away in July 1945, where he remained until October
1945. Wrather again assumed the role of President when Woods was on leave
serving as Special Representative of the United States Department of State in
Greece and again while Woods recovered from health issues. In 1968, Wrather was
named Executive Vice President and served in this role until his death on
September 6, 1970.
5th President: Harry M. Sparks (1968-73)
and coach hailing from Rockcastle, County, Kentucky, Dr. Harry M. Sparks served
as the Superintendent of Irvington County Schools before becoming Principal of
Russell Kentucky High School. Taking a break from education, Sparks joined the
Navy as a Lieutenant Junior grade but quickly advanced to Lieutenant Commander.
After serving in the Navy, Sparks was honorably discharged and returned to
education, becoming Principal of Mayfield High School. He then became a
professor at Murray State College in September 1948. In 1959 he became
President of the Kentucky Education Association. He also served as State
Superintendent of Public Instruction from January 1964 until January 1968. The
Murray Chamber of Commerce declared Sparks the “Man of the Year” in 1969.
6th President: Constantine W. Curris (1973-83)
Constantine W. Curris is a strong advocate for public higher education and its
students and a proponent of the qualitative strengthening of higher education
institutions in order to meet public needs and expectations in the 21st century.
Curris has been associated with the American Association of State Colleges and
Universities (AASCU) since 1973 and has served as a member of several
Association committees, its Board of Directors and in 1995 as recently retired
as AASCU President.
7th President: Kala M. Stroup (1983-89)
As the first
female President of Murray State University Dr. Kala M. Stroup oversaw the
opening of the National Scouting Museum of the Boy Scouts of America on Murray’s
Acting President: James L. Booth (1989-90)
8th President: Ronald J. Kurth (1990-94)
J. Kurth served as President of Murray State University for four years. During
his tenure the Martha Layne Collins Center for Industry and Technology was
9th President: S. Kern Alexander (1994-01)
Dr. S. Kern
Alexander oversaw many changes throughout his presidency at Murray State
University. Under his guidance, the Residential College system began at the
University, which had a goal of drawing students into the “total” university
life. The Regional Special Events Center was erected in 1998, work began on the
Science Complex, and a new wing – aptly named Alexander Hall - was added to the
College of Education. The Thoroughbrewed Cafes in both Hart and Regents College
were added during Alexander’s presidency. Dr. Alexander also served as Interim
President from January – August in 2006.
10th President: F. King Alexander (2001-05)
his predecessor, S. Kern Alexander, Dr. F. King Alexander equally made many
contributions to Murray State University. Under his presidency, the Alexander
Hall Education Building reached completion, the Thoroughbrewed Cafes were
completed and the Susan E. Bauernfeind Student Recreation and Wellness Center
Interim President: Thomas I. Miller (August – November
11th President: Randy J. Dunn (2006-present)
Randy J. Dunn became President of Murray State University on December 1, 2006,
and continues to serve in that role.
Oakhurst - The President's Home
In 1917, Dr. and Mrs.
Rainey T. Wells began construction on a home they named “Edgewood.” Completed
in 1918, the Wells family lived at the residence until June 1936 when the Board
of Regents purchased the home with the intent of housing the President of the
institution. At this time, the home was remodeled and renamed “Oakhurst” by the
Board. Dr. James Richmond, the University’s third president, was the first to
live in “Oakhurst” from 1936 until 1945. The house was later remodeled in 1968
and again in 1970.