Bailey reflects on experience as challenges, accomplishments at WKU

Cameron Koch

Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, reflected on key moments throughout his more than 40-year-long career at WKU on Tuesday as part of the seven-part “Last Lecture” series organized by the Student Alumni Association.

The lecture series features retired or retiring WKU faculty and staff members. Bailey technically retired seven years ago as the Dean of Student Life but quickly found himself working at WKU once again.

Bailey began by making clear that he wasn’t originally the successful man he is today.

He said that upon entering WKU in the late 1960’s, “I was very much a follower — introverted, I stuttered and stammered.

“I’m the kid in the family that wasn’t expected to succeed.”

However, Bailey went on to succeed. Bailey said he is proud of his involvement in getting the Preston Center built.

“I fought off quite a lot of faculty that were telling us we don’t need something of that nature,” he said.

Becoming Dean of Student Affairs was also one of his greatest accomplishments.

“Becoming dean of students was definitely a highlight of my life, especially when some of my colleagues up and down the hall, when the announcement was made…and told me they only gave me that position because I was black,” Bailey said.

Many of Bailey’s stories from throughout his 40-year career involved his struggles with being black at a historically white college, both as a student and as a faculty member.

“If race bothers you tonight, you can leave cause we’re going to talk about some race things,” Bailey said as he began to recount various race-related stories to the more than 50 people in the Mass Media and Technology Hall Auditorium.

While trying to get his teaching certificate, Bailey met with a WKU faculty member about his grade.

“That faculty member told me ‘We really aren’t interested in your kind getting your teaching certificate,’” Bailey said. “I knew what he meant by ‘your kind.’”

When WKU’s basketball team in 1967 won the Ohio Valley Conference, Bailey remembers a bittersweet moment during a pep rally in Diddle Arena. After the victory, a confederate flag was brought out.

“For those who don’t know your WKU history, when I came here…the rebel flag and Dixie was played more often than the Fight Song,” Bailey said. “In fact, I was probably a sophomore before I figured out that Dixie wasn’t the WKU Fight Song.”

Moving away from his struggles with racism, Bailey also discussed his responsibility as Dean of Student of Affairs to inform parents of the death of their child.

“I will always remember every time I’ve dealt with a student death,” Bailey said. “Every time there is one you hope there won’t be another one.

“They take a lot out of you.”

Bailey concluded his lecture by encouraging students to seek independence from their parents while at college, to fight racism and to help others.

“The thing I’m most proud of in my 40 years at Western is when you walk up to someone and they say, ‘You may not remember me, but you had a positive influence on my life,’” Bailey said. “That’s the greatest reward I can ever have…I’m going to continue enjoying myself and helping other people.”

Quashaun Stewart, a Louisville sophomore, said he enjoyed the lecture.

“It was very informative,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know he did so much for the university.”

The next speaker in the “Last Lecture” series will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 in MMTH Auditorium featuring Dr. Carl Kell.