November 23, 2001

Longtime Morehead leader Adron Doran dies
President helped build school into university

The Courier-Journal

 

 

Adron Doran, a former Kentucky House speaker who served as president of Morehead State University for 23 years, died yesterday at University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. He was 92.

Doran, an outgoing man whose political career gave him the contacts to help build Morehead State into a major regional university, had suffered from what friends characterized as heart disease.

Gov. Paul Patton, through a spokesman, said Doran ''was among a select group of presidents that through both administrative and political strength built a powerful regional university. His legacy goes far beyond Eastern Kentucky, as he will be remembered as one of the founding fathers of Kentucky's current postsecondary education system.''

Ronald G. Eaglin, Morehead State's current president, said Doran ''embodies Morehead State.'' From the 1950s into the '70s ''he saw all the human events that were going on in that time,'' Eaglin said.

Former Gov. Edward T. ''Ned'' Breathitt said Doran, who also was a minister, had strict rules for students but treated them as if they were his own children.

''He used to tell them, 'Here are my rules, and if you don't think you can abide by them we've got four buses leaving Morehead going east each day and four buses going west,' '' said Breathitt, who was governor while Doran was Morehead president and had been friends with him for decades.

Breathitt said Doran and his wife, Mignon, ''just made that school blossom. They attracted students from all over, and put the school's accreditation on a really firm basis.''

Doran was credited with bringing integration to Morehead State. Donald F. Flatt, a history professor who wrote an account of the school's integration, wrote that Doran told students at the September 1957 convocation, ''If you have any objections to the presence of (black) students who may be sitting beside you, you can find an institution of higher learning more to your liking further south.''

Doran entered politics in 1943 and served four terms as a state representative, including a stint as House speaker.

After the 1950 session, Doran left the legislature to earn a doctorate at the University of Kentucky and then worked at the state Department of Education, where he was in charge of teacher training.

When Doran ws named president of Morehead State in March 1954, the school -- known then as Morehead State College -- was struggling with an enrollment of 700. When he retired Jan. 1, 1977, Morehead had 7,500 students and a healthy share of the construction funding that poured onto state campuses during a major expansion of Kentucky higher education in the 1960s.

Doran made no apologies for using his political influence to help Morehead State. ''To say that decisions were made on the basis of politics does not imply that they were bad decisions, wrong decisions or decisions arrived at in a clandestine way,'' he once said.

 

''But as long as higher education is a product of state or federal governments, then you have to be related to the people who offer themselves for office and are elected if you depend on them for support and policy.''

Doran and Robert R. Martin, who served as president of Eastern Kentucky University for much of the time Doran was at Morehead, epitomized the school of university presidents who used their clout in Frankfort and contacts in their regions to build support for their schools. Martin died in 1997.

Doran, who was known for his trademark bow ties, enjoyed his own high profile. He saw to it that the university center bore his name, and Mignon Hall, a women's dormitory, was named for his wife, the former Mignon Louise McClain. They married in 1931 while attending what was then Murray State College.

Although he was strongly identified with Morehead and the Eastern Kentucky region it served, Doran was born Sept. 1, 1909, in rural Graves County in Western Kentucky.

After graduating from high school, he went to Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tenn., which was associated with the Church of Christ. Doran became a Church of Christ minister.

To pay his college expenses, Doran did farm work and sold candy and newspapers on trains. Later he organized the Doran Quartet, which sang on Paducah radio stations.

After graduation, he taught in Graves County, including a 10-year stint at Wingo, where he was high school principal, athletic director and basketball coach. During the summer, he conducted revivals.

In 1946, Doran, still a legislator, was elected president of the Kentucky Education Association. A year later he resigned the KEA post to enter the Democratic primary for superintendent of public instruction but withdrew a few days later to support the gubernatorial bid of Harry Lee Waterfield, who had endorsed the KEA plan to double state funding for schools and use the money for higher teacher salaries. Waterfield lost the nomination to Earle C. Clements, who was later elected governor.

When Doran became Morehead State president, he was awarded a four-year contract starting at $8,500 a year. He set about to sell the school, traveling the region to speak for Morehead at every opportunity.

When he retired, Doran said that in taking the job he found a school that was ''a provisional, parochial institution controlled by local people, local interests and local competencies. To have provided the leadership to break it out of that shell and give it to the region of northeastern Kentucky is the greatest contribution I've made.''

His term was not without controversy. Once, faculty members complained about pressure to contribute to a fund, started by alumni, to buy Doran a new Cadillac. Another time, legislators questioned why the university kept a horse Doran rode in competition. Doran said the horse helped publicize the school's horsemanship program.

Doran was known for giving money to needy students. While he would not acknowledge giving such help, he recalled that in his own impoverished boyhood his high school principal gave him money for college. He said the principal didn't ask for repayment but told him to do the same if he ever had enough money.

Doran was named one of 10 recipients of the 1971 national Horatio Alger Award for people who come from humble origins and achieve success.

He is survived by his wife; a niece, Troy Burgess of Morehead; and two nephews, Dr. George Wyatt of Union, Ky., and Joe McClain of Paris, Ky.

 

Obituaries
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mignon Doran dies at age 96


Mignon Louise McClain Doran, age 96, died of congestive heart failure on Tuesday, July 10, 2007, in Lexington, Kentucky.


She was born on December 13, 1910, in Sedalia, Kentucky, the daughter of the late Oliver Perry and Emily Jane Lassiter McClain. She attended high school in Sedalia and continued her education at Murray State University and New York University. She holds an honorary doctorate degree in Humanities from Morehead State University and was an honorary member of Chi Omega sorority.

When her late husband, Dr. Adron Doran, became president of Morehead State College in 1954, Mrs. Doran quickly joined him in turning the college into a comprehensive regional university. She founded the Personal Development Institute where she taught students to improve their social skills and become successful in their professional lives. She also established the Cosmopolitan Club and became a statewide speaker at high schools throughout eastern Kentucky recruiting students to attend college in Morehead. She also taught classes in the prison system in Ashland, Kentucky, and taught a class on Kentucky Educational Television called “Dimensions of Personality.”


An accomplished musician, Mrs. Doran has played the organ for more than 85 years, giving benefit concerts throughout Kentucky. For 20 years she played at the Kentucky Boys’ Basketball Tournament and also at the Morehead basketball team’s “at home” games. She has performed at “The Woodland’s Musicale,” which she founded, for the past 21 years. While first lady of Morehead State University, she had a radio show for 10 years called, “Tea Time with Mignon,” where she played organ music and interviewed campus leaders and visitors.


She was once named one of the best hatted women in America and was known for this trademark. Her other achievements include being named Outstanding Kentucky Woman by the Young Democrats, Cardinal Key National Honor Sorority Woman of the Year, former president of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, member of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, and a charter member of the Kentucky Commission on Registry and Finance. She has a residence hall complex named for her on the Morehead Campus.


A member of the North Lexington Church of Christ, Mrs. Doran was a much sought after speaker for women of the church. She frequently spoke on the value of A Valiant Woman.


A sister, Eva McClain Wyatt, and two brothers, Ralph Lassiter McClain and E. W. McClain, preceded her in death. A niece, Troy Wyatt Burgess, Morehead, two nephews, Dr. George Wyatt, Union, Kentucky, and Joseph McClain, Paris, Kentucky, five great nephews and three great nieces survive her. She also leaves a host of friends who admired her for her wisdom and grace.

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