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NKU's founding president dies

Dr. W. Frank Steely (Source: NKU) Dr. W. Frank Steely (Source: NKU)

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, KY (FOX19) - Northern Kentucky University has announced that its founding president, Dr. W. Frank Steely, died Monday. He was 85.

Dr. Steely was president of NKU from Dec. 1969 to Sept. 1975 and served NKU's history faculty until his retirement in July 2001.

Steely's presidency included the groundbreaking for the NKU campus in March of 1973. He also oversaw one of the greatest building booms in university history. By the end of his presidency on Sept. 15, 1975, 12 construction projects, including everything from parking lots to athletic fields to academic buildings, were either being built or already completed.

"Dr. Steely was the human cornerstone of this University," said Dr. James C. Votruba, NKU president. "He was a tireless and tenacious founding president. Frank Steely was given the Herculean task of building a university from the ground up – and he succeeded."

A native Kentuckian, Steely was dean of Clinch Valley College at the University of Virginia when the Board of Regents recommended he be named inaugural president of Northern Kentucky State College. A year-and-a-half earlier, Gov. Louie B. Nunn had signed a bill that established a four-university in Northern Kentucky. NKSC would become Northern Kentucky University on June 19, 1976.

Other milestones during Steely's tenure included the merger of NKSC and Salmon P. Chase College of Law in June of 1972; the move by NKSC to the Highland Heights campus and Chase to the Covington campus; the first commencement at NKSC in May 1973; and the college's conditional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which led to full accreditation in December 1978.

"Frank Steely's greatest early achievement may have been his knack for hiring staff, faculty and administrators who believed in the future of the university," Votruba said. "Much of what our campus is today and will be tomorrow can be traced to the work of these very special men and women."

Visitation will be held from 3-7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, at First Baptist Church in Cold Spring. Service will follow the visitation. Graveside service will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, at Hazel Cemetery in Hazel, Ky.

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