Just three decades ago, Kennesaw State —then Kennesaw College — only had around 5,900 students and they were all commuters.
When Kennesaw State professor of statistics Lewis VanBrackle started his career at KSU, there was no Burress Building, recreation center, Clendenin Building, Social Science Building or Stillwell Theatre.
“The student center was not as big [and neither were] the University College and Willingham Hall. The English Building was the newest when I started here. There were probably five or six buildings tops.”
VanBrackle started his career at KSU when he began teaching math in the fall of 1984. Four years later, VanBrackle left to pursue a Ph.D. at Virginia Tech.
Upon returning to Georgia in 1991, VanBrackle was thrilled to learn that KSU — then Kennesaw College — was looking for a statistician. He spent the following years as an associate professor and then as a professor.
Over the years, the campus’ physical growth continued to expand considerably.
“The road that runs behind Kennesaw Hall used to run in front of it,” VanBrackle said. “Kennesaw Hall used to be woods [and] the road used to go in front of the Burress Building. I think [the university] had to buy that little patch of woods. The Clendenin Building and Austin Residence Complex — all that back there was woods. I would go out for lunch and walk and it was very pleasant.”
Years later in 2000, VanBrackle served as the chair of the mathematics department until 2002. When the statistics department became separate from the mathematics department in 2014, he served as the chair of the department of statistics for four years.
As a department chair, VanBrackle conducted annual reviews, managed the budget and decided how the curriculum was divided among professors.
After that, it was back to teaching statistics for VanBrackle, a true passion which he spoke of with fondness.
“I’ve taught husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters over the years — sometimes together, sometimes separate semesters. I’ve taught lots of families.”
When VanBrackle first joined the math department staff, there were around 15 to 20 staff members. He said that number increased to 35 when he was department chair in 2000. Today, he said, the math department has approximately 50 employees and the statistics department has around 14.
“At the time of consolidation [with SPSU] we wanted a space for mathematics,” VanBrackle said. “So we got [the Math and Statistics] Building. It was the science building when I first came here. It became the nursing building after that.”
While the physical changes might be the most obvious, the culture and demographic makeup of KSU has also changed dramatically over the years.
“[KSU has] changed a lot in the makeup of students,” VanBrackle said. “We have a whole lot more diversity now than back then. The students have higher standards. The university has grown physically and academically.”
In March, VanBrackle announced his retirement after 35 years of serving the university. He said he plans to retire in May 2020 and is considering moving to Savannah, Georgia, with his wife.