On Tuesday, September 26th, Alice Lloyd College and The June Buchanan School’s faculty, staff, and students gathered with special guests in the Campbell Arts Center’s Roop Auditorium for 100 Years on Caney Creek: A Centennial Celebration with Dr. Jerry Davis.
The program began with the national anthem performed by the College’s Voices of Appalachia choir and an invocation given by ALC student Karsten Dixon. ALC President Jim Stepp gave a warm welcome to the gathering and shared what the College means to himself and so many around the country. Chancellor Joe Stepp then introduced the event’s speaker, Dr. Jerry C. Davis, former ALC president for eleven years and current member of the College’s Board of Trustees.
Dr. Davis began his address by telling heartwarming stories of his time as President of Alice Lloyd College and of the students touched by the College’s mission during his tenure. Dr. Davis then continued by sharing the College’s miraculous history with the audience.
Dr. Davis attributes the success and survival of the College not to a single miracle but to several miracles and even to divine intervention, starting with the arrival of Alice Geddes Lloyd in Eastern Kentucky.
Mrs. Lloyd, stricken with an illness that left her frail and partially paralyzed, made her journey to Eastern Kentucky, hoping the milder climate would help her recuperate. In 1917, a year after arriving in Ivis on Troublesome Creek, Alice met Abisha Johnson, who said he’d had a vision from God that she was sent to bring education to the children. He offered his land and aid in establishing the Caney Creek Community Center to improve the social and educational standards of the area.
Two years later, another miracle happened: June Buchanan arrived in Caney Creek to join Mrs. Lloyd’s mission. Together, the two grew the Community Center and started Caney Junior College (later renamed Alice Lloyd College) in 1923. They began training students to become the unselfish leaders- doctors, ministers, businessmen, engineers, and teachers- that the region desperately needed. Over 100 schools were established in Appalachia as a result of their work.
From the beginning, ALC offered an affordable education to students willing to work to help offset the costs of their education while encouraging a strong work ethic, dependability, initiative, and self-reliance. This tradition continues today, thanks to our founders’ perseverance to meet the College’s financial needs.
For decades, the college was on the edge of bankruptcy, but Alice and June kept finding ways to make ends meet. In 1954, with their backs against the wall, funding for the College began trickling in after William Dutton published an article in Reader’s Digest that put the College on the map.
A year later, as a massive snowstorm hit the region, Alice Lloyd made a trip to Hollywood that Dr. Davis argues saved the College. Ralph Edwards hosted Mrs. Lloyd on his television show, This is Your Life, where friends and former students joined her to recount her life and purpose. At the show’s end, Ralph Edwards, touched by Mrs. Lloyd’s story, made a special plea to his audience. He asked viewers to donate whatever they could afford to Mrs. Lloyd’s College. Dr. Davis said two blizzards resulted: one dropped more snow than had been seen in many years on Caney Creek, and the other dropped an avalanche of donations at the College’s doorstep.
Dr. Davis then told the audience about ALC’s most recent transformative event. In 1982, the College moved from a two-year to a four-year institution. This transition helped ALC keep its doors open while many other colleges were shutting down for failure to keep up with the changes. This transition began a new era in the College’s history, with the first four-year class graduating in 1984.
Dr. Davis closed his remarks with a lesson from Miss June. She said to be successful in life, you must find your purpose, establish goals, and persevere to fulfill them.
Chancellor Stepp and President Stepp then took the stage to present Dr. Davis with a citation for his commitment to Alice Lloyd College and education in Appalachia.
The celebration closed with the Voices of Appalachia’s performance of “Brightest and Best” and a benediction by ALC student Hadley Craft.