From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bolling, Anna Nichols

Anna Nichols, a 1963 sociology graduate of Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University), was the first Black administrator at the University of Kentucky according to a Kentucky Kernel article published September 4, 1968 (p.7). Nichols was hired to assume the responsibilities of the Program Associate in the Office of Religious Affairs. She was also the advisor to the YWCA, an organization that she had deep ties to, as she worked as a program director with the YWCA in Richmond, Virginia prior to accepting this position at the University of Kentucky (UK).

The following information comes from the July 16, 2018, 9:30a.m. phone interview with Anna Nichols Bolling, conducted by Angelica Miller.

Anna Nichols Bolling, born in Nashville, Tennessee, came to UK serendipitously. While working at the YWCA in Richmond, VA she attended their annual professional development conference and in one of the breakout sessions, she talked about wanting to work in higher education. When a position with the YWCA at UK opened, one of the women from that session remembered Anna Nichols and passed the information on to her, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In her new job at UK t
he chain of command as she experienced it went as follows: Dean of Students > Student Affairs > Religious Affairs > YMCA and YWCA. While in this office, she was the Director of Programs and Policy, and although she had no staff direct reports she managed many long-term volunteers.

Although her official work was with the YWCA and other volunteer programs, unofficially she worked as an advisor to the Black Student Union (BSU) because the university did not offer services tailored towards students of color at that time. This unofficial position would grow into an official one after several years. Anna N. Bolling says her supervisor did not interfere with her work with BSU.

hen the Office of Student Affairs was restructured (around 1970/71), the YWCA office, through the Office of Religious Affairs, was folded in with International Students, Student Volunteering, Disability Services, and the YMCA, all to create the Human Relations center [source: University of Kentucky, Board of Trustee Minutes, 01-29-1969]. Anna N. Bolling would transition into a role with the new office that kept her connected with the YWCA, and gave her formal authority to work with the Black Student Union (BSU) as the Director of Volunteer Programs. She worked closely with Betty Jo Palmer who at the time was the Associate Dean of Students but had been the Assistant to the Dean of Women prior to the restructuring.

Looking back, Anna N. Bolling describes the social climate at the time as tentative and uneasy. Black students were pushing for services and advisors for groups like BSU, and UK responded incrementally. In addition, these responses rarely had funds attached to them to help realize the aims. Her work in the YWCA office was Anna N. Bolling’s first time working with white students who she describes as having less respect for authority in general, but especially when being wielded by a Black woman, and as having radically different social mores than those presented through her own upbringing and the socialization of many of the Black students that she connected with at the time. Her personal philosophy on the situation was that her role was to teach others how to interact in ways that were respectful and compassionate across racial lines, even as she herself was learning.

Anna Nichols Bolling calls herself "The First Black Non-clerical Staff." She administered $15,000 in scholarships for Black students.

The Kernel article mentioned above, was written by a student journalist affiliated with the YWCA office. The University of Kentucky as a whole did not publicize her arrival on campus.

Dr. William Parker, Vice-Chancellor of Minority Affairs, thought it would be good to provide support and fellowship for Black people working in higher education, so he helped start the Kentucky Association of Blacks in Higher Education (KABHE) [see the website Kentucky Association of Blacks in Higher Education]. Ms. Bolling was heavily involved with this organization, helping to write their bylaws and constitution, and serving as secretary and vice president at different points during her affiliation.

In 2000, University of Kentucky Minority Affairs Office interviewed Ms. Bolling for their publication “50 years of African American Legacy at UK” [source: Fifty Years of the University of Kentucky African-American Legacy, 1949-1999, p.54].

After 35 years at UK, Mrs. Bolling retired in 2004 as the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and focused primarily on Student Orientation. She also served on several university committees including serving as the Chair of the Environmental Committee at the behest of Dr. Robert Hemingway.  

This entry was written and researched by Angelica Miller.

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“Bolling, Anna Nichols,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2018-11-12 16:25:19