by Jerri Whitner, Student Contributor
Alice Lloyd came to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky to find some respite for her aching body, and found her life’s purpose in helping educate those residing in Appalachia. She had a large task set before her. For two years, she did the majority of it on her own. However, a time came when Mrs. Lloyd prayed for help, and an answer to her prayers came in the form of a letter written by a young lady from Moravia, New York, Dr. June Buchanan. Affectionately known on the banks of Caney Creek as “Miss June,” she began her years of service to the Caney Creek Community Center in 1919 and continued to faithfully serve the institution for nearly seventy years.
June Buchanan grew up with parents who were strict, but they always strove to teach their girls lessons they could apply in their adult life. Miss June learned how to handle finances through her father and uncle; her mother taught her how to promote ideas by being the church’s chairman of the Foreign Mission Board. With parents who stayed active, Miss June inevitably grew up searching for causes that she could advocate.
Miss June graduated from Syracuse University with an A.B., and in 1916, she went on to do graduate work at Wellesley College for three years. With a passion for academia, she continued to strive for knowledge and was eventually recognized with an honorary doctorate from Calvin Coolidge College. However, while at Wellesley, she first heard of Alice Lloyd’s mission in Eastern Kentucky from the Wellesley Women’s Association which made a charitable donation for a multipurpose recreation hall to be built for the Caney Creek Community Center (CCCC). Hearing of everything that the Wellesley College women did for the CCCC inspired Miss June to write to Alice Lloyd of her intentions to visit Caney Creek. A reply of acceptance came quickly from Mrs. Lloyd, and little did Miss June know the magnitude of influence her generosity would have on the CCCC.
The opportunity for Miss June to visit Caney Creek soon came. Though her first visit did not last long, Mrs. Lloyd quickly realized how pertinent Miss June’s innovative teaching skills would be in educating the leaders of Appalachia. Miss June’s first experience on Caney Creek left her with a new-found confidence, knowledge, and purpose, as well as an eager desire to continue what she began during her brief visit. Upon her return to Caney, she began to adjust to country life and her students while simultaneously seeking ways to improve their education. She eventually developed the most effective teaching methods and created many lessons plans for future teachers to follow. In addition to her role as an educator, she also managed the finances of the CCCC. Her dedication to not only education, but also to the financial wellbeing of the institution, was boldly displayed during December of 1920. While in the office, Miss June and Mrs. Lloyd had just finished receipting a large number of Christmas donations when the fire bell sounded an alarm. The two women evacuated the office, but once they were safely out, Mrs. Lloyd and Miss June frantically realized they had left the money inside the burning building. Without hesitating, Miss June dashed back into the smoke-filled office and rescued the money basket.
Throughout her time on Caney Creek, Miss June continually demonstrated selfless acts of service, and it imprinted on her students the importance of serving others. Eventually, she, along with Mrs. Lloyd, adopted the Purpose Road Philosophy, which is still an essential part of the ALC curriculum, from a philosophy developed by George Herbert Palmer of Harvard University. Through the philosophy, Miss June taught her students to find direction and dedicate themselves to a higher purpose by walking the Purpose Road, which ultimately leads to world service. In addition to encouraging students to find their purpose, Miss June also led her students on Crusades around the country. The Crusades, though largely a fundraising campaign, allowed the students to travel and serve their region by telling countless others of the life-changing opportunities they received on Caney Creek.
In 1969, a friend of Miss Buchanan’s wrote a letter in honor of her fifty years of service to the Caney Creek Community Center and Alice Lloyd College. He wrote, “Congratulations on your 50 years of service! I won’t wish you 50 more – that would be asking too much….” Although a friendly jest, in many ways his expectations came true through the legacy she left behind, which can be seen across campus and the community from The June Buchanan School (a private K-12 school) to the June Buchanan Alumni Center. A medical clinic, in Hindman, Kentucky, is also named in her honor.
One hundred years ago, Miss June settled on Caney Creek and dedicated her life to serving the Appalachian people. Her faithful commitment to her friendship with Alice Lloyd and to the mission they both held dear has solidified Miss June’s legacy and adoration from the ALC community. As one person aptly said, “Even the haughty eagle looks up to you, Miss June….”