Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  

He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production. 

Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

Ways to Connect

Barren River Area Safe Space

A Bowling Green-based domestic violence shelter wants to empower women who are trying to land jobs in office settings.

Barren River Area Safe Space—or BRASS--is holding its Dress for Change event May 31-June 15.

The shelter is giving women donated clothing and accessories they can wear for job interviews and while at work.

BRASS Executive Director Tori Henninger says the project can be valuable for low-income women and victims domestic violence.

"They are able to feel a little more confident, a little more secure, and a little bit better about their appearance, especially when they're trying to prepare themselves for work outside of a--say--fast food restaurant."

BRASS serves Warren, Barren, Simpson, and seven other southern Kentucky counties.

Owensboro Bar-B-Q Festival

Organizers with the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro are hoping to build on an increase in attendance over the past few years.  

The annual event is being held tomorrow and Saturday along the city’s riverfront area. Festival co-chair Sharon NeSmith says about 30,000 people showed up last year.

NeSmith, who has lived in Owensboro since they age of four, says she’s been attending the festival since it began in 1979.

She thinks the festival has managed to stay true to its roots.

“I like the way it was described in the first brochure that ever came out about the festival—that it was taking the atmosphere of a country church picnic to the downtown urban area. And that basically really describes what we do,” NeSmith said.

Ira Gelb/Creative Commons

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will pump millions of dollars into the Louisville-area economy.

But it will also bring an increase in the number of sexually exploited women and children.

That’s the warning from Amy Leenarts, the director of the Louisville-based anti-trafficking group Free2Hope.

She says people who make money through human trafficking are drawn to high-profile events like the Derby.

“There is a syndicate that runs across the country, and they just simply go to all these big events all over the country, and they bring people with them—girls who are enslaved.”

Leenarts is asking the public to be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

“It can be a child at a hotel where they shouldn’t be, when they’re obviously not with parents. It can be a young adult who has several different phones, or key cards from multiple hotels.”

WKU

Western Kentucky University is one step closer to hiring an executive search firm to look for the school’s next president.

The Board of Regents on Friday approved a motion to award a bid to the Boston-based firm Isaacson, Miller.

Dr. Phillip Bale of Glasgow, the chairman of the WKU presidential search committee, said the committee was impressed with the recent track record of Isaacson, Miller.

“They’ve done many presidential searches within the last few years. They’ve done the presidential searches for Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Illinois, just to name a few.”

The proposed contract with the firm has to be approved by the state next month.

WKU

The faculty and staff at Western Kentucky University are being asked to give input related to the search for the school’s next president.

A forum for faculty is being held Friday afternoon, April 15,  on campus, and staff members are invited to a forum Friday, April 22.

WKU President Gary Ransdell has announced he’ll retire at the end of June 2017.

Doctor Phillip Bale of Glasgow, chair of the presidential search committee, says the early announcement by Ransdell gives the committee ample time to do a thorough job.

“I envision the next several months will be spent mainly developing our position profile—that is, what sort of skill set and what sort of attributes do we want the next president to have,” Dr. Bale said.

Ransdell will have served as WKU president for 20 years when he steps down.

401kcalculator.org

The federal government is encouraging Kentuckians to sign up for an online service that lets you check your Social Security benefits.

To be eligible for an online account, you must be at least 18 years old, and have a U.S. mailing address, Social Security number, and valid e-mail address.

Social Security Administration spokesman B.J. Jarrett says those who don’t currently get benefits can also sign up to see what they’re eligible to receive in the future.

"Folks can review and verify their lifetime earnings history for accuracy. They can also see estimates of their future Social Security benefits--not only retirement, but if they were to become disabled, what their family could receive."

Nearly 1 million Kentucky residents receive Social Security benefits.

‘My Social Security’ accounts can be set up here.

WKU

Western Kentucky University president Gary Ransdell says the state’s universities have reached a compromise with Governor Matt Bevin and House and Senate leaders over cuts to higher education funding.

In an email to faculty and staff Saturday, Ransdell said schools would get back some of the state funding that Bevin recently cut from the last quarter of the current fiscal year. The governor had enacted a 4.5 percent cut, saying the money was needed to help bolster the state’s public pension systems.

Under the plan described by Ransdell, that cut will be reduced to 2 percent. For WKU, that means a one-time loss of $1.49 million, instead of $3.35 million.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has challenged Bevin’s authority to unilaterally enact such cuts to the current fiscal year support for universities, and has said he’ll sue the Governor over the issue.

Ransdell says the deal negotiated Friday also spells out cuts for universities over the next two fiscal years.

Lisa Autry, WKU Public Radio

A Warren County lawmaker is asking the state to put a traffic signal at a location where a younggirl was killed last month.

Bowling Green Representative Jody Richards has written a letter to Kentucky’s acting Transportation Cabinet secretary, requesting a signal be installed at the intersection of Gordon Avenue and Scott Way.

That’s where 10-year-old Giselle Arias died after being struck by a car March 30.

Richards says a traffic signal with a pedestrian crossing button is needed to avoid future tragedies.

"While I understand that other options are being considered to remedy the danger at this intersection, they are either inadequate or impractical," Richards wrote in the letter. "A traffic signal like the one I have described is practical and will be effective in allowing people of all ages, particularly children, to safely cross at the intersection. I am confident it will reduce injuries and perhaps prevent other fatalities."

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell has issued a statement Friday morning in response to Gov. Matt Bevin's order that state universities immediately incur a 4.5 percent funding cut.

Bevin has told his Finance and Administration Secretary and Budget Director to make the cuts to the quarterly transfers of funds scheduled to take place Friday to the state's eight public universities and Community and Technical College System.

Here is Ransdell's statement:

"We are aware of the Governor's decision to proceed with cutting 4.5 percent from university budgets by withholding it from the fourth quarterly allotments that are scheduled for today. Our budget is complex and nearly two-thirds personnel. We will likely have to tap some of our reserve funds to manage a $3.5 million reduction at this late date in the fiscal year, but we will make those decisions in the next few days.”

University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey also issued a statement Friday morning.

WKU

A memorial service is being held at Western Kentucky University Friday in honor of a former Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations.

The service for Kathryn Costello is tomorrow at 3 pm in the ballroom of the Augenstein AlumniCenter.

Members of the campus community are invited to attend.

Costello came to WKU in January of 2011 to serve as both Vice President for Development  and President-CEO of the WKU Foundation.

She retired  in December.

Costello passed away on March 20 following complications from lung cancer.

ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships

The Western Kentucky University-based ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships is hoping to tap into the volunteer spirit of the school and surrounding communities.

The ALIVE Center connects individuals with organizations seeking to address local, regional, and global needs.

The center is holding an event Thursday, March 31, that will introduce volunteers from WKU and the southern Kentucky region with various non-profit groups from the area.

ALIVE Center Director Leah Ashwill says a major goal of her group is to nurture young people who want to have a positive impact on their community. She says many young people don’t know where to start.

“A lot of times they just don’t know how. They’re not sure exactly how to get connected, and they also get overwhelmed by the realm of possibilities, and the amount of need that exists.”

The Campus Community and Network meeting takes place Thursday from 3:00 to 4:30 pm at the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cheryl Beckley, WKU PBS

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell makes no secrets about his desire to block President Barack Obama’s agenda at almost every turn.

The latest flashpoint is the President’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

McConnell says the Senate won’t hold hearings for Garland. It’s a position McConnell took almost immediately after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The senior Senator from Kentucky believes Mr. Obama should let the next President fill the high court vacancy.

That position has been blasted by Democrats, who say McConnell is ignoring the president’s constitutional obligation to put forth a nominee, and the Senate’s obligation to provide advice and consent.

McConnell sat down with WKU Public Radio Monday to discuss the Supreme Court and the presidential contest.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Western Kentucky University men's head basketball coach Ray Harper has resigned.

The school announced Thursday night that Harper informed Athletics Director Todd Stewart that he was stepping down.

The announcement came following news that three WKU basketball players had been suspended from the team following the outcome of a hearing by the University Disciplinary Committee.

No further information was released regarding the suspensions of Frederick Edmond, Marlon Hunter, and Chris McNeal.

Harper just completed his fifth full season as WKU head coach.

WKU Athletics

One Western Kentucky University basketball team is still in the hunt for its conference championship, while the other is coming home earlier than expected.

The WKU men’s team takes on Old Dominion Friday afternoon in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament. Five Hilltoppers scored in double figures Thursday to propel WKU to an upset win over the top-seeded UAB Blazers.

The WKU-Old Dominion game tips off at 3 pm central, and is being televised on the CBS Sports Network. The winner will play in the C-USA championship Saturday, with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.

The WKU women’s team had their conference tournament run ended Thursday night at the hands of Marshall. The Thundering Herd knocked off the Lady Hilltoppers 66-63.

WKU’s Kendall Noble recorded her second triple-double of the season—and the first triple-double in C-USA Tournament history—with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

The WKU women’s team will now likely receive a bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

U.S. Senator Rand Paul predicts Saturday’s Republican presidential caucus will help his party in Tuesday’s special state House elections.

Four vacant House seats will be decided. A clean sweep by Republicans would create an even 50-50 split in the chamber.

Democrats have controlled the Kentucky House since 1921.

Sen. Paul says Saturday’s caucus gave GOP House candidates an easy way to meet a lot of Republican voters, something the Bowling Green lawmaker believes will pay dividends Tuesday.

"Those candidates stood there and greeted thousands of Republicans. Think how hard it is to go door-to-door and meet Republicans. But what if 2,000 show up and you can sit there and shake their hands, and remind them to turn out three days later?”

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