March 7, 2007 | By: Carol Lea Spence

The University of Kentucky School of Human Environmental Sciences has 100 years under its belt. Like most centuries, it’s a span of time that reflects growth and change, turmoil and success. Most of all, it’s a century of service by a school that has produced an impressive slate of alumni who have spent their lives improving the lives of others.

Nearly 400 people gathered for the HES Centennial Celebration at the Crowne Plaza, Campbell House in Lexington. Old friends reconnected, former students greeted favorite professors, current students mingled with experienced alumni. The history of the school was etched on the faces in the room – the shiny, fresh faces of current students and the faces of alumni and faculty that reflected a lifetime of learning. 

“People learned something about their own history today, because we told the story through people,” said Ann Vail, the school’s director. “We tried not to go back and do a timeline. We tried to tell the story by the people who lived it.”

That “personal” history was unveiled through the presentation of three sets of honors, the Erikson Society Medallion, Centennial Future 100 Medallion, or the Centennial Laureate Medallion. All the awards recognized people with ties to the school who had contributed to the school and society.

“Erikson Society Medallion recipients are people who have invested in our program with their financial resources,” Vail said. “They might have started scholarships. They’ve provided professorships and other endowments that help us carry on the work of the school.”

The Centennial Future 100 Medallion recipients are alumni, faculty or staff who have already demonstrated promise in their professional or volunteer roles. Vail said that their potential and early contributions all figured into their medallion award selection. 

“We know that they will be the group that carries us into the next hundred years,” she said.

Of all of the medallions presented that day, the Centennial Laureate Memorial awards and the Centennial Laureate awards most represented the span of work and achievement that has sprung from Human Environmental Sciences in all its incarnations. Some of the 180 people so honored had ties to the early days when the department was called Domestic Sciences. As the names and the achievements were read, a history of the school and its effect on the world was unveiled to the audience. In the roll call of names were a governor, a state representative, a NASA nutritionist, and a civil rights leader. Cooperative Extension agents and specialists, schoolteachers, deans, lawyers and a doctor also were included.

Ann Vail is fairly new to UK, having moved from New Mexico 18 months ago. The event helped her feel more connected to her school’s role in UK’s history. 

“I learned a lot about the history and got to meet so many people who were part of that history,” she said, “so I know a lot more about the University of Kentucky. It’s been a great experience.”

Doris Tichenor, former assistant director of UK Cooperative Extension for Home Economics, was awarded a Centennial Laureate medallion. She reflected on what the school has meant to people over the years.

“It (HES) touches people in a practical way,” she said, “because it still provides them with some of the understandings that they need to be successful as human beings. Which, after all, is something that we all have to try to do, regardless of what we do professionally.”

The celebration ended on a festive note with the arrival of a sparkler-clad, 100th anniversary cake. Three layers high, it was adorned with a UK wildcat, paws spread wide, face alight with a happy smile. Vail, thrilled over the way the day had progressed, wore a similar smile.

“I think it was terrific,” she said. “Everyone seemed excited and connected to the school.”


Ann Vail, 859-257-3887