‘Better and brighter’ because of Kentucky State

University recruiters made attainable a reality that seemed out of reach for Russell-McCloud

Patricia Russell-McCloud is a 1968 graduate of Kentucky State University. She is a life member of the National Alumni Association and on the board of the Permanent Alumni Scholarship Fund. She lives in Atlanta.

Imagine growing up in Indianapolis in the 1960s on the “other side of town.”

Not the main side of town where higher education was talked about, but not often realized.

Our family and west side neighbors were hard-working, primarily blue collar, and definitely in tune with the value add of a college education for their children, if not for themselves.

But as the years skipped by, the day came when it was time to consider whether college would be a part of my future. At the time, it was a desire, not a definite reality, because college was a financial reach for my family.

They were hopeful that my grades, and hunger for a college education, would serve as the catalyst that would get me to and through the college experience.

One day, recruiters from Kentucky State University visited our city.

The director of the office of public relations William H. Goodwin was informed by local alumni members that he should talk with me regarding my academic areas of interest -- history and political science, as well as English, speech and drama.

He was also asked to speak to me, an untrained alto, about my interest in being a member of the concert choir. The choir, under the direction of Dr. Carl H. Smith was, then and now, impressive.

Their professionalism, appearance and sound were noteworthy and when they performed, they made me feel like giving them a standing ovation after every selection.

I was interested in the information that was shared by each ambassador from the university.

Most notably, the impressive and captivating roster of alumni that matriculated at Kentucky State University, including, but not limited to:

--Henry E. Cheaney, an educator and nationally-recognized expert on the history of African-Americans in Kentucky. The stories were legend about Dr. Cheaney’s academic prowess. It was widely discussed that he was without peer in his discipline, and that he could actually teach daily without notes!

--Ersa Hines Poston, the first black woman appointed to the federal Civil Service Commission;

--And Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Whitney M. Young Jr., a champion of civil rights and a 10-year executive director of the National Urban League. Civil rights was a highly poignant issue as I was standing on the eve of my college days. Therefore, it was quite impactful that Whitney M. Young Jr. graduated from a university that I, too, could attend, graduate and become a member of the alumni.

Today, KSU’s Whitney Young School of Honors and Liberal Studies represent his legacy as a lifelong contributor to the betterment for humankind.

The opportunity to excel and exceed all expectations drew me to “The Hill,” a university that is literally placed, in part, on a picturesque hill, where dedicated students can, if focused and intentional, find their way to their chosen field of endeavor.

Campus life was vastly enriched because the professors were bright, caring, and no-nonsense. But they also created and maintained a nurturing environment that made you feel at home, away from home.

We were, as our mascot indicated, named after Kentucky’s “true breed” Thoroughbred horses.

We were known as the “Thorobreds” in green and gold.

As a priority, it was critical to me that as matriculating students and graduates, we would be competitive with peers and colleagues, alike.

The requirements of excellence, without excuse and the importance of being able to win in the classroom, as highly accomplished students -- and win on the student council and in the Pan-Hellenic Society, win in the choir and in the marching band, win as a member of the debate, football or basketball teams, -- propelled us forward.

The student population was diverse: African-American, European, Asian and Hispanic, although, at that time, the majority of the student body was African-American.

It seemed that the largest population of students came from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New York and New Jersey.

But a great number of the students traveled long distances, like California, as well as the Caribbean and overseas.

The academic rigor at the university has served me well.

Upon graduation in 1968, I worked for two years as an educator and then successfully completed a program through the Council on Legal Education Opportunity at Harvard Law School, before earning my law degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1973.

After leaving Howard, I was employed by the Federal Communications Commission, for 10 years, where I became the chief of the complaints bureau.

For the past 33 years, I have been a successful entrepreneur as a professional motivational speaker, speaking to global audiences in the public and private sectors.

Every person begins somewhere. The lessons learned in the classroom, shape and mold how one responds when facing the hardball game of life and living.

For me, and a cadre of other students, who found themselves studying at Kentucky State University, they maximized their potential and blossomed in a culture that was, and is, student -centric.

The experience promoted personal and professional growth and development.

As a student who arrived wide-eyed, eager and ambitious, I graduated, better and brighter after all of my days at Kentucky State University.

I moved from test to testimony, remembering always that which was embedded into each student as our collective mission and mandate, “Enter to Learn, Go out to Serve.”

Thus, in the words of our beloved Alma Mater, “Hail to our Alma Mater…Dear is her name, and there shall be no other, to surpass her fame.”