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Spotlight on Danville: How Centre College has maintained its success for more than 200 years

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Posted at 1:48 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 18:46:05-05

DANVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — At the heart of Danville is Centre College. As you may know, it got its name because it could be reached from any part of Kentucky.

Centre College is a beacon of higher education not just in the commonwealth, but an institution that – over the past two centuries – has forged a stellar reputation across the country.

For Centre College, it was all about geography in the beginning.

"It's separated from Lexington by the Kentucky River gorge," said Centre College President Milton Moreland. "And so, Danville became a hub in this eight-county region around us where we've got a great regional hospital here."

The private liberal arts college has been open for more than 200 years. Nearly 1,400 students attend the school today.

26% of the freshman class and 23% of the entire student body are first-generation college students.

Aranxa Parra was born in Mexico and grew up in Texas. She's a prime example of Centre College's mission of empowering a diverse group of leaders.

"As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I was welcomed with open arms," said Parra. "I just knew that if there was ever a struggle... I knew that I had the support groups in place to help me."

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In 2017, Centre College made diversity a bigger priority when college leaders elevated longtime professor Andrea Abrams to oversee their diversity, empowerment, and inclusion initiatives.

Her office has quickly grown to five professionals who devote their time to helping students and staff.

"It's meant a commitment of time and resources and space that I think really does speak to the fact that – from the president to the senior staff to faculty to the students – most of us are really committed to investing in this," said Abrams.

That includes an afternoon every November for "Building Bridges & Community Day" when classes are called off, and campus offices are closed to allow everyone to attend a variety of workshops and engage in conversation.

Its purpose is to foster inclusion and build understanding among people from different backgrounds and cultures.

"A huge part of the community stopped and decided to focus on this, and it was meaningful, and we didn't have to make them do it," said Abrams. "That to me is my biggest joy."

"I'm an RA, so like on the RA staff, there's a lot of diversity represented there," said Centre College student Erin Spencer. "We'll have hall programs about food and celebrating holidays from different cultures, and I really appreciate that Centre celebrates that diversity."

Centre College has witnessed six wars as well as produced two U.S. vice presidents and more than 50 congressmen.

From the old Centre building (the oldest and longest-standing college administration building west of the Alleghenies) to the broken ground for the new wellness and athletic facility, Centre College is never shy about forging new trails.