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Henry Hardin Cherry began his career in educational leadership in 1892 with the opening of the Bowling Green Business College and Literary Institute and less than thirty students. The school was known as the Southern Normal School and had several hundred students in 1906 when it became the Western Kentucky State Normal School.

Cherry was unarguably a key player in the effort to establish state-supported teacher training schools in Kentucky and vital in the selection of Bowling Green as the home to one of them. He became adept at lobbying state government for the establishment of normal schools and, later, for additional funding and support.

His ability to inspire dedication to Western and his ambitious vision of the future for the school were widely recognized. Whether in chapel, recruiting faculty and staff, recruiting students, raising funds, or with visiting notables, he was able to instill a “spirit of pride and fierce loyalty.”

Cherry died in 1937 while still president of the Western Kentucky State Teacher’s College. He was our most prominent founder. Through his own example, or by inspiring others, Cherry laid the foundation for many of the values and traditions that continue to shape WKU, today.

“A college is not its campus, its walks, its buildings. A college is an ideal, a spirit, a long tradition, a zeal for more life and more knowledge. It is more than its president, more than its board of control, more than its faculty and students of a single year. A college represents the friendships and the achievements of all the known and unknown people who have made it possible, who have given it a distinct stamp, who have extended it material and moral support, who have interpreted its spirit into useful lives.” ~H.H. Cherry


Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green Business College


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