Officials from Murray State University honored the farming roots of the Duncan family Thursday afternoon with the dedication of the Duncan Farm and Home park on the Hopkinsville Regional Campus.
"The development that you see here today would not be here if not for the generosity of Mary Alice and Graham Duncan," said Dr. Bob Jackson, Murray State University president.
The history of the land and the Duncans connection with MSU dates back more than 80 years.
In 1938, W.G. Duncan III bought a 400-acre farm and its two-story brick house on what is now the regional college campus on Fort Campbell Boulevard. He raised four children, farmed the land and owned Cumberland Chemical Fertilizer Company in Hopkinsville. He donated part of the acreage to the University of Kentucky to use for agricultural experimentation.
W.G. III's son, now the late Graham Duncan, later moved his family into the house, raising three children with his wife, Mary Alice, and continued farming the family land until 1977.
In 1999, the Racer Foundation, which merged with the Murray State University Foundation, purchased the farm, locating the Murray State University Hopkinsville Regional Campus and Breathitt Veterinary Center here.
Attending Thursday's park dedication were Mary Alice and their son Bill Duncan, along with about 50 family members, friends and community leaders.
"We appreciate the family for being here," Jackson said. "Mrs. Duncan, thank you again for all you have done for Murray State University, Hopkinsville, Christian County. The development that continues on this property, we are very proud of it. None of this would be here. None of it without you and Mr. Duncan's generosity and vision many years ago. This marker when we unveil it today will be a permanent reminder."
Jackson told the crowd the monument is constructed from the bricks and the foundation blocks of the Duncan house.
"The homeplace will live in perpetuity," he said. "It'll be a nice piece of history here for this green space in Hopkinsville."
MSU Board of Regents chair-elect and former Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp thanked the Duncan family for their donation and the MSU Foundation for their work to make the regional campus a reality.
Kemp remembered the late Graham Duncan who passed away a few years ago.
"Graham passed away a few years ago and we miss him because he was a friend," Kemp said. "He was a friend of mine, a friend of the community and a friend of Murray State University. He and Mary Alice together formed a great team, who inspired and supported the community in so many ways."
Kemp referenced the poem, "Where All May Come," by Sarah Massie Unfried, which commemorated the dedication of the Roundtable Literary Park at Hopkinsville Community College, to usher in the Duncan Farm and Home park.
"This is such a beautiful homeplace and it will be a beautiful park 'where all may come and hear voices from the distant past calling in the wind'," he said.
Bill Duncan recalled living on the farm from age 4 until he left for college at 18.
"You can't imagine a more magical place to spend a childhood," he said. "Right back here was a tobacco barn. It was full of tobacco sticks that could be spears or bats or guns whatever we wanted tobacco sticks to be that day. The greatest place --- over that way --- was a hay barn … We spent untold hours playing in the hay barn running around, hiding, building forts. That was so much better than having our faces buried in phones and iPads … We climbed trees. We dug foxholes. We had dirt clod fights. The very first paychecks I earned for work were right here on the farm. This was a great place to raise a family and we loved our life here."
Duncan thanked Murray State for honoring his family and the memory of the farm and home he cherished.
"While we mourn the loss of the home that we knew, we thank Murray State for getting it, for recognizing the history of this beautiful and fertile land and for being sensitive to our time here," he said. "We are all truly honored and thankful to Murray State University that this park is being created. Thank you for preserving the history of the Duncan family. We could not be more pleased."
Duncan family members and Kemp removed a blue and yellow cloth covering the monument to reveal a photo of the house along with a plaque detailing the history of the family and the farmland.
Following the unveiling, Mary Alice said she approved of the marker.
"It looks pretty good to me," she said. "I think it's very nice that it's there. I think people will appreciate the history."
Duncan, who is now a resident of Owensboro, said he will return often to Hopkinsville to visit the park.
"It is absolutely beautiful. They did a wonderful job," Duncan said of the monument. "I saw the rendering a couple of months ago --- this is much better."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.