KST Cover
Centennial Memories 1909-2009 graphic
On the summit, 1988.
Time and Again – The Eighties
The decade started with a recession and salary freezes, and ended with the era of the personal computer in full flower.
Dr. Seelye

In 1980, Barbara Jane Seelye was appointed president of the College, the first woman to hold the office. She declared her mission "Commitment to Care," with an emphasis on accountability. Some of the "flexibility" of the 1970s around drug use on campus stiffened, resulting in a quieter, more studious student body. Early in her presidency, Seelye moved into 24 Madison Street while the President's House was being renovated, the first upgrade to the historic building since 1940. Seelye's presence on Madison Street brought her into direct contact with students and their neighbors, and went a long way toward improving town-gown relationships. She also set up a community action committee and served on several local boards.

Celebrating meant a Homecoming parade on Main Street, the 1989 Homecoming dance, and the Air Band competition at 1982 Spring Weekend.

KSC Carnival
KSC Carnival photo by Chris Justice

The KSC Carnival drew hordes of skiers in 1988. Throughout the 1980s, KSC skiers competed in Nordic and Alpine events in NCAA Division II and then (after wins in 1982 and 1984) Division I. Dr. Charlie Beach coached the teams from 1979 to 1985.

New Challenges Emerge
The recession of the early 1980s made for tough economic times and stringent state appropriations. To save money, janitorial operations were contracted out, and four popular, long-term janitors were laid off. Faculty salaries were frozen and the previous year's nine percent raise was rescinded – which some faculty interpreted as a penalty for unionizing. Contract negotiations with the union stalled.


Students in the early 1980s supported the faculty union in its dispute over salaries. The 1983 Kronicle published a photo (above) of a student rally. Concerns for the environment also motivated students (left) to help clean up the Ashuelot River. They posted a message from Mother Nature asking that shopping carts NOT be dumped.
A Pedestrian Thoroughfare
Thanks to student activism and a couple of near-death experiences, Appian Way was closed to traffic in 1982. It was safe to hang out there, but the pedestrian thoroughfare would not attain its current beauty for a few more years. This view looks toward Main Street. A corner of the old Science annex is in the left foreground.
An Evening of Dance photo by Allen Mendelson
Under the direction of Alta Lu Townes, An Evening of Dance flourished in the 1980s and continues today through the direction of Marcia Murdock and William Seigh.

On the Brighter Side
On a brighter (or safer) note, Appian Way was finally closed to traffic in 1982 by vote of the City Council. The library and computer center were expanded and updated; in 1984, the computer center had two major VAX sys-tems, and nearly 90 terminals and 21 Apple computers around campus. By the end of the decade, the College telecommunications network was set up and KSC systems librarian Marilyn Hanley and vice president for fi-nance and planning Jay Kahn were meeting with city officials to determine the best way to automate and link Mason and Keene Public libraries. The joint project, Keene-Link, was a model of cooperation and progress that came online in 1992.

In 1984, Keene State celebrated its 75th anniversary, and record numbers of alumni, parents, and friends participated in the grand finale, Jubilee Weekend, held in April of 1985. Seelye left the college that summer, and Richard Cunningham, a professor in the English department, stepped up as interim president.

Athletics: Soccer Reigns
Soccer reigned in the 1980s. Top: All-American Denise Lyons (now KSC head coach) twice led the Owls to the NCAA Division II tournament. Middle: the men's soccer team earned seven tournament berths during the dec-ade, including NCAA bids in 1983 and 1985. Below: the women celebrate an ECAC championship in 1987.

Helping Students
The Keene Endowment Association, which was formed in 1957 to hold and invest alumni donations for student scholarships, stepped up during the recession. Working with a principal of about $500,000 in 1983, the KEA loaned money to 281 students and granted 29 scholarships.

Dr. Hildebrant photo
Dr. Charles Hildebrandt
In 1983, Professor Charles Hildebrandt took a sabbatical to acquire materials for a new Holocaust Resource Center, now the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies.

Master Planning
The 1980s brought a new level of long-term master planning that laid the groundwork for the extensive facili-ties overhaul that continues today. Holloway Hall, Rhodes Hall, Mason Library, Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gal-lery, and the new athletic fields led the way. Find the Centennial blog at

Dr. Sturnick at 1988 Commencement.
A New President
In 1987, Judith Sturnick was chosen as the seventh president of the college. She applied her considerable energy toward several important initiatives: moving women into positions of academic and administrative leadership; instituting multi-year plans for enrollment, facilities, and finances, all of which helped give the College stability and credibility; and starting the process of moving KSC athletics from NCAA Division II to Division III. She also participated in the formation of COPLAC, the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, a national organiza-tion that articulates the role of the liberal arts and sciences in our society. Keene State, a founding member, will host the 2009 COPLAC meeting this June.
Comments link icon