Charles Turner Wethington, Jr.
(1936- ), 1990-2001
By Rob Parmley and Frank Stanger
Charles Turner Wethington, Jr. 1990-2001
The third educationalist to serve as President of the University of Kentucky in its 138-year-history, Dr. Charles T. Wethington presided over the school's affairs from 1990 to 2001. His eleven-year tenure witnessed marked physical growth and an impressive enhancement in academic stature on the part of the institution he served nearly his entire career.
Wethington was born in Casey County, Kentucky on January 2, 1936. He attended Brescia College from 1952 to1954, received his Bachelor of Arts degree, with a double major in English and History, from Eastern Kentucky University in 1956, and in 1958-59 he studied at Syracuse University's Russian Center. Before coming to the University of Kentucky he taught at Liberty High School, in Casey County, Kentucky, and in the San Juan, California school system. From 1957 to 1961 he served in the United States Air Force Security Service as a crypto-linguist, and from 1959 to the latter year he taught Air Force evening classes at Misawa Air Base, in Japan. His Master of Arts (1962) and Ph.D degree (1966)-in Education-were received from the University of Kentucky.
From 1964 to 1966 Wethington taught Educational Psychology at UK, as an Instructor, and in 1966 and 1967 he served as Acting Director of the Lexington Technical Institute. A four-year appointment as Director of the Maysville Community College, in the University's Community College System, followed in 1967. In 1971 he was appointed Assistant Vice President for the Community College System, a position he held until 1981, when he was named to head the System, with the title of Vice President. Following the 1982 administrative reorganization of the University he was appointed Chancellor for the Community College System, to which position was added the University Relations portfolio in 1988. His tenure as Vice President and then Chancellor witnessed the establishment of a data communications system linking all the community colleges with each other and with the Lexington campus, including the implementation of an interactive library catalog program among the colleges and the central campus, the diversification of curricula in areas relating to business and industrial training, and significant increases from year to year in student enrollment. Wethington was named Interim President, in 1989, upon the resignation of Dr.David Roselle (with whom he had contended for the presidency in 1987), and on September 18, 1990, he was elected President of the institution by the Board of Trustees.
The Wethington administration devoted much effort to improving academic standards and performance. During his tenure the University adopted a five-year plan to tighten entrance requirements and to engage full time faculty in undergraduate instruction. The efficacy of these measures was demonstrated by a rise in ACT scores among entering freshmen and the emergence of record numbers of National Achievement and Merit Scholars among students enrolled. UK academic programs garnered 50 national rankings, 14 of which were among the top twenty in their respective fields. A new $58-million central library facility, the William T. Young Library, was planned, financed, built, and opened (in 1998). By the end of his term, the Libraries' book endowment ranked first among public institutions of higher education and was second only to that of Harvard's among all college and university libraries. A Teaching and Learning Center was established to enhance graduate and undergraduate instruction. A joint Center for the Study of Educational Policy-to conduct research on Kentucky Educational Reform-was formed with the University of Louisville. The Department of History became one of two, nationwide to receive two faculty Guggenheim Fellowship awards in a single year. In another year the institution nearly tripled its number of endowed faculty chairs and professorships.
A concerted effort was made as well to support and increase campus research. The Research Challenge Trust Fund, established by the Kentucky General Assembly, resulted in the allocation of $110 million for University research initiatives The creation of a new School of Public Health, the opening of the Advanced Science and Technology Commercialization Center (ASTeCC), the establishment of the UK-UL Urban Design Studio, the enlargement of the Sanders-Brown Research Center on Aging, and the development of the Coldstream Farm as a research campus exemplified this effort. Moreover, University faculty and staff attracted record funding for research contracts, grants, and gifts and in 1999-2000 the school ranked 14th among land-grant institutions with regard to licensing and patent income.
The Wethington years also saw the commencement or completion of 41 building projects, a dramatic increase in private donations and the school's endowment, and a steep hike in student tuition fees, occasioned by severe state budget cuts. Other developments included: the inauguration of the University's first comprehensive capital campaign; the exploration of the feasibility of the construction of an on-campus basketball arena (an idea later rejected); the hiring of new head football and basketball coaches ( and the resignation of the former in 2001, amid allegations of NCAA recruiting and other violations); the winning of NCAA basketball championships in 1996 and 1998; the enlargement of Commonwealth Stadium; a vigorous program aimed at improving minority representation among students and at all levels of institutional employment; the transfer of 13 of the 14 community colleges from UK's jurisdiction to that of the newly established Kentucky Community and Technical College System; the election of a staff representative to the Board of Trustees; the redesigning and enlargement of the University's website; and the Administration Building fire.
In June, 1999 the Board of Trustees approved a revised contract stipulating Wethington's retirement as June 30, 2001 and a two-year assignment thereafter in University fundraising and development. Dr. Wethington and his wife (the former Judy Beth Woodrow, of Danville, Kentucky) currently make their home in Lexington. They have two children-Kennan and Lisa.