|Kathryn Klink Gammage arrived at Arizona State College in Tempe in
1950 as the second wife of Grady Gammage. Grady became president of
the college (then known as Arizona State Teachers College) in 1933 and
was responsible for turning the college into a university,
establishing research departments and graduate programs. His first
wife, Dixie Dees, had been an invalid throughout their marriage and
died in 1948.
Prior to her marriage to Grady Gammage, Kay was a college
professional. She had a lifelong love of books and education, and
attended Heidelberg College in Ohio, where she earned a degree in
education, and then continued at Syracuse University, earning a
master's degree in college personnel management. In her first job, she
served as the dean of women at Kent State University in Ohio. She then
moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to become assistant dean of women at
Northern Arizona State Teachers College in 1941. While in Arizona, she
interviewed with college president Grady Gammage for a position as
dean of women in Tempe, but did not get the job. She moved back to the
Midwest in 1944 to become dean of women at Lake Forest College in
Illinois, and became reacquainted with Gammage and married him in
1949. Their son Grady Gammage, Jr., was born the following year.
Kay Gammage immersed herself in school activities after her marriage.
She entertained students, faculty and regents in her home on campus.
In 1958 when Grady pushed to turn the college into a university, she
became a key member of his team. To put the issue on the ballot,
signatures were needed, and there was tremendous opposition by
University of Arizona graduates to elevating the Tempe campus to
university status. Kay enlisted the Faculty Wives Club who set up
signing booths at central Arizona shopping malls and went door-to-
door, collecting more than enough names to put the issue on the
ballot. Kay then campaigned with her husband, football coach Frank
Kush, and other members of the college community to convince voters to
pass the initiative. She traveled throughout the state, sometimes
speaking to angry crowds. On one occasion, a pharmacy owner in Gila
Bend, who was a graduate of the University of Arizona, kicked her out
of his business. Despite opposition in the southern part of the state,
a majority of voters supported the change and Arizona State University
was created in 1958.
Upon Grady Gammage's death, Kathryn turned to public relations and
fundraising for ASU. She became the university's first full-time
community relations employee and continued her efforts for 27 years.
Responsible for most of the early private gifts and grants to the new
university, she ran what would become the school's development office,
which is today called the ASU Foundation. Additionally, she served on
commissions to discuss women's issues at ASU. She established and
supervised the endowment for the Grady and Kathryn Gammage Scholarship
Program, created in 1984. Kathryn received an honorary degree from ASU
in 1985 for her service and retired in 1986, but remained active in
the community for the remainder of her life. ASU President Lattie
Coor recalled at her memorial service, "Everything about her had to do
with this university and where it is going."
Piper Writers House (her home with Grady Gammage), on the ASU campus,
was constructed in 1907. It served as the university president's home
until Gammage's death in 1959. It has since housed the alumni
association and the university archives. Today it houses the Virginia
G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
For additional information, see the Arizona Collection in ASU's Hayden
Library which includes It Was Magic: The Kathryn Gammage Stories, by
Sally Y., and Dean Smith's Grady Gammage: ASU's Man of Vision.
Kathryn Gammage - Courtesy of Kathryn Gammage Papers, University Archives, Arizona State University Libraries
Kathryn and Grady Gammage, with their son, Grady Gammage, Jr. - Courtesy of Kathryn Gammage Papers, University Archives, Arizona State University Libraries
Piper Writers House - Courtesy of Piper Writers House, Arizona State University