President Nelson & First Lady Wilma Grote
President Nelson and First Lady Wilma Grote

The MSU community was saddened by the passing of former First Lady Wilma Grote in August 2018, and later President Emeritus Dr. C. Nelson Grote in January 2019.  

Wilma Grote grew up in Illinois and was a teacher of gifted elementary school children, high school social studies, college English and was an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor. She met her future husband, C. Nelson Grote, as a freshman at Eastern Illinois State Teachers College in 1945. They were married in 1949 and enjoyed 69 years of marriage. Dr. Grote became president of Morehead State University in 1987 and Wilma was his steadfast partner in many University activities.   
She was a long-time member of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Morehead, was on the founding board of Morehead Habitat for Humanity and helped raise funds to build their first house. She was a hospice and Meals-On-Wheels volunteer, helped create the Kentucky Folk Art Center, was on the founding board of the Morehead Theatre Guild and helped form Morehead’s Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) chapter.  

She was active on the commission that proposed the Women’s Studies program at MSU. Later, the Wilma E. Grote Symposium for the Advancement of Women was created in her honor.  

Dr. Grote installation
Dr. Grote was installed as the eleventh president of Morehead State University on Oct. 30, 1987.

President Emeritus Dr. C. Nelson Grote passed away at the age of 91 at his home in Morehead. 

He was the 11th president of Morehead State University and retired from the University in 1992 after five years of service as its chief executive officer.  

1987 Homecoming Queen crowning
At half-time of the Homecoming game against Tennessee Tech, Chrysti Beaver-Noble (89), a junior special education major from Phelps, is crowned the 1987 Homecoming Queen by President Nelson Grote and First Lady Wilma Grote.

When he assumed the presidency on July 1, 1987, he returned to a campus where he began his career in higher education administration nearly three decades earlier. It was a move that he said brought him “back home.” Of his 42 years in education, he served the Commonwealth of Kentucky for 18 years, with 16 of those years spent at MSU. 

While MSU president, he served as Kentucky’s representative to the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AASCU), having been elected to the post by state AASCU presidents. He also was an ex-officio member of the Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and was named the chamber’s 1991 Man of the Year. Grote also served on the Kentucky Advisory Council of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Region IV. 

Dr. Grote and Lisa Maggard
President Grote awards Lisa Maggard (91) her diploma at the 1991 winter commencement.

Grote was a member of the board of directors of the Kentucky Council on Economic Education and was a member of the Jesse Stuart Foundation Board of Directors. He also served on an honorary advisory committee of the Blue Grass Council of the Boy Scouts of America and was on the Endowment Committee for the Appalachian Ministries Education Resource Center. He was a charter member of the Morehead Optimist Club and a life member of Optimist International. 

MSU’s Alumni Association conferred “honorary alumnus” status on both Grote and his wife Wilma and inducted the president into the Alumni Hall of Fame. The MSU Board of Regents accorded him the designation of president emeritus and an honorary doctorate at the time of his retirement. 

After his retirement, Grote wrote a history of MSU titled, “A Walk Down Memory Lane.” 

The Grotes are survived by three children: Carol Vencill of Lexington; Jan Adam of Seattle, Washington; and Dr. Mark Grote of Davis, California. 

Contributions may be made to the C. Nelson and Wilma E. Grote Scholarship Endowment, a part of their enduring legacy at Morehead State. To make a gift, call 1-800-783-ALUM or visit