A Day in the Life of a UK Student: May 26, 1912


LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 26, 2016) In celebration of the University of Kentucky sesquicentennial in 2015, UK Special Collections Research Center began releasing the diary entries of former student Virginia Clay McClure in fall of 2014. The diary chronicles the day-to-day activities of McClure's junior and senior years at the State University of Kentucky (now UK) from 1910-1912. McClure's 232nd diary entry from May 26, 1912, recalls a meeting of the YWCA and a poem emphasizing the importance of trying to find happiness.

May 26th. Y.W.C.A.

Inserted next to her May 26, 1912, diary entry, McClure included the poem “Look Pleasant Please!” by Walt Mason. It reads as follows:

“Look pleasant, please!” the photo expert told me,

For I had pulled a long and gloomy face;

And then I let a wide, glad smile enfold me,

And hold my features in its warm embrace.

“Look pleasant, please!” My friend we really ought to,

Cut out these words and out them in a frame;

Long, long we’d search to find a better motto

To guide and help us while we play the game.

Look pleasant, please, when you have met reverse,

When you beneath misfortune’s stroke are bent,

When all your hopes seen riding round in hearses —

A scowling won’t help you worth a cent.

Look pleasant, please, when days are dark and dismal

And all the world seems in a hopeless fix;

The clouds won’t go because your grief’s abysmal

The sun won’t shine sooner for your kicks.

Look pleasant, please, when Grip-King of diseases, has filled your system with his microbes vile;

I know it’s hard but still, between your sneezes,

You may be able to produce a smile.

Look pleasant, please, whenever trouble galls you;

A gloomy face won’t cure a single pain.

Look pleasant, please, whatever ill befalls you,

For gnashing teeth is weary work, and vain.

Look pleasant, please, and thus inspire your brothers

To raise a smile and pass the same along;

Forget yourself and think awhile of others,

And do your stunt with gladsome whoop and song.

More on Virginia Clay McClure

Virginia Clay McClure, a native of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, graduated in 1912 with an AB degree and received her master’s degree in 1928 from UK. After receiving her AB, she taught for a year at Middlesboro, Kentucky, another year at Paducah, Kentucky, and seven years in Cynthiana, Kentucky. After this, she returned to Lexington, where she taught for nine and a half years in the Fayette County schools. At this point, she took two and a half years off of work to complete her doctorate.

The first woman to receive a Ph.D. from UK, McClure said that her department chairman did not “want a woman to get a doctor’s degree.” In spite of those words, McClure received her doctoral degree in American history in 1934.

Her dissertation was “The Settlement of the Kentucky Appalachian Region,” about which “nothing had been done before.” McClure did significant original research for the dissertation and made several trips to Eastern Kentucky with Katherine Pettit, who had taught in settlement schools, including Pine Mountain School, which she helped to establish. 

McClure planned to teach at the college level but after finishing her dissertation in the midst of the depression, colleges were laying off faculty rather than hiring them. She then joined the Fayette County School system, then Lexington City Schools, and taught United States history and government at Henry Clay High School from 1934-1959. A position that she found quite rewarding.

The UK alumna and educator was very active in the community. McClure was a member of Central Christian Church and Kappa Delta Pi Honorary, Kentucky and National Retired Teachers associations, Salvation Army Auxiliary, Cardinal Hill Hospital Auxiliary and numerous historical societies. She was also a charter member of the Lexington Rose Society, twice serving as president, and was a member of the American Rose Society.

McClure passed away in 1980 at 91 years of age.

The Virginia Clay McClure papers are housed at the Special Collections Research Center and include a diary/scrapbook, a photograph album and other assorted photographs related to McClure's time as an undergraduate at State University, Lexington, Kentucky from 1910-1912. The scrapbook includes clippings, small artifacts, programs and invitations, but the bulk of the material is McClure's many personal writings. The photograph album and loose photographs also document this time period and include photographs of her UK classmates (many of whom are identified and also mentioned in her scrapbook); class trips and events (such as Arbor Day); and women playing basketball among other casual snapshots.

This story on UK's history is presented by UK Special Collections Research Center. UK Special Collections is home to UK Libraries' collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian collection and the digital library, ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Diary transcriptions completed by senior Taylor Adams, Special Collections Learning Lab intern and history major from Ashland, Kentucky.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716; whitney.hale@uky.edu