News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Education

[Audio] Marvin University: The Other Blue & Gold "MSU" in Western Kentucky That Time Forgot

Decades before the construction of Murray State in Calloway County, there existed a college farther west in Hickman County, called Marvin College, and later Marvin University School. Vice President Alben Barkley is perhaps the most notable alumni. The Marvin special collection at Pogue Library, albeit small, may very well be the most substantial about this largely forgotten turn-of-the-last-century higher ed institution.

On Sounds Good, Matt Markgraf speaks with Sarah Hopley of Pogue about the collection and the other "MSU" in far western Kentucky that time forgot.

Background

Marvin College was one of two colleges in Clinton, Kentucky*. It was a private Methodist school opened in 1884. The first class had 76 students. It closed in 1922, but it's claim to fame is that Alben Barkley attended the school between 1892 to 1897. It began essentially as a bible school, Hopley says, with an emphasis on religion. By 1906, three bachelor's degrees were offered: English, Science and Arts.

It then later became a training school for teachers and finally a prep school for local students to prepare for college. Their claim was that the curriculum more than met the admission requirements for Yale, Princeton and Vanderbilt.

Murray State was built in 1922, around the same time Marvin closed.

*(Update: Per listener Kenneth Smith of Mayfield, the other college in Clinton at the time was Clinton College, established in 1874.)

How this collection came to Murray State

Pogue's Marvin collection, while small, is probably the most one will ever find on this college, unless someone has a personal collection themselves. Hopley says she isn't sure how it came to Murray State, but thinks when the special collections opened in 1968, people dropped by with things they wanted preserved and this material was part of that movement.

The pennant

A typical football pennant, yellow and blue, with a scripted font that reads "Marvin" and a crudely drawn football, which has, elaborately woven together, the letters M-U-S, for Marvin University School. One can't help but look at this and consider a "blue and gold" university where the letters almost read as M-S-U - just like Murray State University.

Other materials

Other pieces of the collection include a commencement speech, photos of classes, a marketing letter to recruit prospective students (15 acre campus, six of which set in bluegrass, maple trees, no prettier campus, faculty courses of study, discipline: "Every growing boy and girl needs the restraining influence of mature minds to help them shape their life aright. They also describe the university as being well furnished, heated and lighted. There's also a photo of the school with students playing tennis in front of one of the buildings.

The photo of a class dated 1914-1915 shows 11 students of both genders standing together, which is unusual because school rules dictated that men and women weren't allowed to interact except by direct permission by the president.

The class photo of the graduating class of 1918 had seven students and two professors. When Barkley graduated in 1897, there were five people in his class - and he was at the top of his class.

Still there today?

There are two buildings still standing today, both on the National Register of Historic Places: the boys dormitory and the president's house. Four years after the school closed, the dormitory became the Hotel Jewel and served as a resort until 1973 until it became a private residence. The president's house became a private residence and has remained so ever since.

Alben Barkley, The Veep

Barkley worked his way through his time in school here, as a janitor. His family didn't have money, they had lost their farm and moved outside of Clinton. Barkley also played football at the school. When he eventually became Vice President of the United States, the fire chief of the time who owned the president's house, put up a sign that said "Alben Swept Here."

Note: Next week, Matt Markgraf and Sarah Hopley explore the history of Barkley Regional Airport, from the special collections archive at Murray State's Pogue Library.