CONTACT
Kathryn "Kay" Klink Gammage  (b. 1915, d. 1997)
Kathryn Gammage Kathryn and Grady Gammage,
with their son, Grady Gammage, Jr.
Piper Writers House
Called the "First Lady of ASU," Kathryn Gammage helped her husband, Grady Gammage, lead Arizona State University into the modern era. She campaigned for the college's university status and ran the university development office after Grady's death in 1959, establishing fundraising groups, such as the Friends of Music, History Associates, and Friends of Channel 8. The couple lived on campus in the historic cottage, now called Piper Writers House, on the corner of Palm Walk and Tyler Mall.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Education

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.

Photo Credits:
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

 

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