When the University of Louisville moved to Belknap Campus in 1923, it was welcomed to the neighborhood by the city’s most venerable institution – Churchill Downs.

Since then, with the Twin Spires and now the Big Board video screen visible in the background view from campus, the university and the racetrack have been intrinsically linked. UofL connections abound on Derby Day, from performances by the Marching Band and Cardinal Singers to students and alums working everywhere from the track backside to the media room for the big race.

The connection doesn’t only last for the signature event. UofL nursing faculty run the Kentucky Racing Health Services Center; students participate in internships in business, communication and more; university art classes decorate the track; the Kentucky Cancer Program at UofL supports Oaks Day initiatives; and Churchill Downs Inc. was even the first tenant of the university’s Shelbyhurst business park.

Additionally, UofL Libraries Archives and Special Collections house photography collections with Churchill Downs and Derby-related images dating back to the 1880s. In celebration of the 150th Kentucky Derby, UofL Magazine dug into the university’s Photographic Archives to uncover visuals of Louisville’s day (or week or more) at the races. They include shots from well-known local photographers and UofL students and document events from the race itself to Kentucky Derby Festival staples and college traditions. In all, they provide a historic perspective of the crown jewel of the Triple Crown and all the celebrations that surround it.


Erica Walsh
Erica Walsh is the marketing director for the Office of Communications and Marketing. Her job lets her share UofL’s good news in all avenues of communications including UofL Magazine, advertising, content marketing and branding. Walsh joined UofL in 2014 after previously serving as the public relations specialist at Indiana University Southeast. Prior to her career in higher education communications she was an award-winning newspaper reporter. Red is one of her favorite colors and it’s a good thing, too, because she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University and her master’s in communication from UofL.