Kentucky State University celebrated the first observance of Atwood Day recently to honor the late Rufus B. Atwood, the University’s ninth and longest-serving president.
This year’s observance began with an assembly in the David H. Bradford Hall Little Theatre featuring Atwood Institute for Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal Director Dr. Crystal A. deGregory, Kentucky State University Foundation Executive Secretary Donald W. Lyons Sr. and Atwood biographer Dr. Gerald L. Smith, author of A Black Educator in the Segregated South: Kentucky’s Rufus B. Atwood.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members filled the Little Theatre to capacity to learn more about Atwood.
“It is a great day to celebrate the heritage of Kentucky State University,” Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II said. “When I think of President Atwood, I’m reminded that his legacy at Kentucky State University has been like a tree planted by the rivers of water. He whispers today to us on this hill, ‘Remember me because I existed.’”
Smith said others described Atwood as “a well-liked fellow” and “someone who didn’t crack the whip.” Lyons said Atwood was “a regular person” that was highly respected.
Following the assembly, attendees traveled by vehicle procession to Atwood’s grave in Frankfort Cemetery where they witnessed the presentation of colors, presentations by the Kentucky State University Gospel Ensemble and the Beta Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the laying of the K wreath with members of Atwood’s family and remarks by President Brown.
The campus community enjoyed a cookout following the graveside commemoration, including pawpaw ice cream courtesy of the College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems.
Atwood Day was created to memorialize and celebrate the contributions of Atwood, who, during his 33-year tenure as president, secured the college’s accreditation, as well important campus improvements for the Commonwealth’s only publicly funded black college.
The day of remembrance is to be celebrated in March, which marks the date of his birth – March 15, 1897 – and the date of his death – March 18, 1983.
Atwood Day is an initiative of the Atwood Institute for Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal.