It took Kathryn Baldwin a long time to begin studying at Pittsburg State University, but her ties to the school reach back to its founding in 1903.
"This is a great campus, and I feel a real connection because my great-grandma was here, my great-aunt was here - so many of us have walked here before," she said.
Baldwin, a married mother of two, started last fall at Pittsburg State after finishing her associate's degree at Labette Community College.
"I started college 17 years ago," Baldwin said. "But life got in the way."
Baldwin married husband Brian and had two children, Christian and Lauren. Three years ago, she decided that she wanted to follow in the footsteps of many of her ancestors and become a teacher.
"I came back to school with a better attitude," she said.
Baldwin is now a junior in elementary education. When Dr. Alice Sagehorn, professor of curriculum and instruction, requested that her students produce a presentation on a cultural artifact for her "Diversity in the Classroom" course, Baldwin knew just what to do.
She has long kept a notebook full of genealogical and historical information. Her PowerPoint presentation based on that notebook revealed a family history that reaches all the way back to the very beginnings of what would one day become Pittsburg State University.
"My great-grandmother, Annie Edwina Duffield, was in the first class in 1903 at the Auxiliary Manual Training Normal School," Baldwin said. "But she left school after one year to get married."
According to family stories, Baldwin's great-grandmother went to church with Dr. Russell Russ, whose namesake Russ Hall was the first building to be constructed on the PSU campus. Russ invited her to come to the newly established school to study teaching.
Baldwin's great-great aunt, Mary Browning, was also in this first class, but Baldwin said she is not sure of her graduation date.
Notes from Baldwin's grandmother, Evaleen Tarvin, reveal more tidbits of PSU and family history. Tarvin typed up her memoirs after she lost her sight late in life, but earlier, she studied at Pitt State (then known as the Kansas State Teachers College) and taught at Arcadia and Dennis, Kan.
Tarvin's notes say that she and her sister Elizabeth Hampshire were recruited by Dr. Walter McCray, who directed the choir at the church they all attended. McCray Hall, the music building at Pittsburg State University, was later named after Dr. McCray.
Baldwin has had many other family members graduate from PSU over the years, including her aunt Marilyn Barker, and her uncle David Tarvin, both of whom are teachers. Two cousins, Ruthann and Paul Barker, are also teachers who graduated from PSU.
What makes Baldwin's connection to PSU the most special, she said, is that it links her with ancestors she never knew.
"It's special knowing that my grandma and my great-grandma walked on this campus," she said.