|Editor's note: This letter is in response to a guest editorial by John T. Sullivan Jr. (Morning Sun, Oct. 21, 2011) that declared that creating space for expanding liberal arts venues was just "too pie in the sky" and that the school should just continue to use the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium downtown.
To the editor:
More than a century ago, in 1903, educators had a unique, literally ground-breaking idea for a new type of institution to reach students...the first one of its kind. Why not create a vocational school which would use hammers, brains and hearts, to become the first state-operated one of its type in the world? So Manual Training Normal School (MTNS) was born in Pittsburg, Kansas, was farsighted, and met the needs of a broadening student base and of a population that eventually was to expand vocationally, emotionally and ethnically.
At its formation, one facet of its mission was clear and paramount from the start: it was to be a broad liberal arts school, defining the meaning of ďartsĒ liberally, to demonstrate that life, oneís vocation, was not to be narrowly defined and was ever-changing. Mirroring that change, the school later evolved into Kansas State Teachers College, Kansas State College and then Pittsburg State University. The foundersí mission statement a century old still lives: Combine life, whatever oneís paid vocation, with art, music, discussion, debate, theater and other elements. That is what the founders wanted.
Donít believe it? Check the history of PSU.
For decades, unlike every other institution of higher learning that expanded in the United States, PSU has had no performing arts space of its own on campus...no place to teach theater on stage, to sample the skills of stagecraft, to give a freshman or senior a sample of opera or jazz or symphonic music or ballet or modern dance or whatever his or her taste might be or become.
For decades there has been no meeting place on campus beyond the Overman Student Center. Have you been in there lately, digging your elbows into someone seated next to you as hundreds of people are crammed into a ballroom/meeting space built when the institution of 8,000 students had barely one quarter of them?
As a former PSU faculty adjunct who once headed the International Education Writers Association and spent more than 30 years writing about education and speaking to students and faculty on many campuses, I am proud of my alma mater for being one of the few schools I know that has a living, breathing mission statement encompassing many kinds of people and their futureónot just some glossy, nebulous words on paper.
After the new on-campus facility sprouts, I am proud of the fact that PSU has pledged to continue to bring itself downtown and off campus, not just on a remote, single structure or two to the south. I am proud of the mission-minded donors who have supplied private funds to supplement those of the state and who understand the genesis of MTNS from the minds of yesterday to the minds of tomorrow.
I am proud that Pittsburg State is real, caring and unique. Buildings and people must both be renewed.
Jack L. Kennedy, Pittsburg, KS