Whitney Hale


College: Libraries

UK Libraries to House Prichard Committee, Robert F. Sexton Collections

Published: Nov 21, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 21, 2013) — As the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Kentucky Education Action Team host a summit on education funding in the Commonwealth, University of Kentucky Special Collections embarks on the task of organizing, archiving and preserving two of the state's most important collections on education policy.


With an audience of more than 150, UK and state education leaders came together last night at the Hilary J. Boone Center to celebrate the donation of records from the Prichard Committee and former leader Robert F. Sexton to UK Special Collections.


"UK Libraries feels privileged to preserve and provide access to key Kentucky collections. Both of these sets of records will enhance scholarship on the national level and reflect trends in educational policy with a focus on Kentucky," said Dean of UK Libraries Terry Birdwhistell.


The Prichard Committee and Sexton collections together are more than 150 cubic feet. The collections contain papers, photographs, oral histories and videos documenting all aspects of the history, growth and development of the committee and the important role Sexton played in its development.


"The Prichard Committee has been the voice for education advocacy in Kentucky for the past 25 years. As such, their records will be an invaluable resource for study of Kentucky education and public policy," said Associate Dean for Special Collections Deirdre Scaggs.


A living collection, the Prichard Committee records will continue to grow as a resource with the addition of new materials in the coming years. Much of the collections will be housed at the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. Oral history interviews with committee members will also be added to the collection in coming years and housed at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.


The Prichard Committee is given credit for helping the Kentucky public education system – from pre-kindergarten to postsecondary – make enormous progress in recent years. Once considered to be at the bottom, the system has moved to the middle of the nation's education systems. Today, based on a range of data, Kentucky is recognized as a national leader in improving schools. At the center of this transformation, advocating, negotiating and holding together disparate interest groups have been Kentucky citizens who make up the Prichard Committee.


The organization that would become the Prichard Committee began in 1980 as a government-appointed group designed to push improvements in Kentucky higher education. After its recommendations were largely ignored by the political establishment, the committee re-organized itself as a private, non-profit advocacy group in 1983. It expanded its charge to encompass all levels of public education and re-named itself after its first chair Kentucky educational advocate, Edward F. Prichard Jr.


Currently, the Prichard Committee is pushing to put Kentucky in the highest tier of public education in the nation through its Top 20 By 2020 Campaign.


Sexton, who died in 2010, was considered by many the leading advocate for education in the Commonwealth for 30 years. A native of Louisville, Ky., he served as the executive director of the Prichard Committee since 1983 and was author of the 2004 book "Mobilizing Citizens for Better Schools."


Scaggs believes the addition of the collection of Sexton's papers is not only a great resource for researchers, but gives great insight into the man himself.


"Bob Sexton was a leading force for education reform in Kentucky — his passion and dedication will be documented in his archival legacy."


Prior to the Prichard Committee, Sexton served as a history professor and administrator at UK, as well as deputy director of the Kentucky Council on Higher Education (now the Council on Postsecondary Education). He held a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a doctoral degree in history from the University of Washington. Sexton is also credited with helping found the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program and the Commonwealth Institute for Teachers; founding and serving as president of the Kentucky Center for Public Issues; and chairing the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington.


Speakers at the donation ceremony "Preserving the Legacy of Robert F. Sexton and the Work of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence" included UK President Eli Capilouto; Prichard Committee Executive Director Stu Silberman; Dean Birdwhistell; Associate Dean Scaggs; Chairman of the Prichard Committee Board of Directors Harvie Wilkinson; and Pamela Papka Sexton, founding and current member of the Prichard Committee.


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 and the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center. The mission of Special Collections is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.



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

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