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

WKU

The president of Western Kentucky University is denouncing what he calls a pair of “cowardly” and “heinous” acts involving hate speech against African-Americans.

An assistant dean recently reported finding three typed notes in her office that contained racist threats. A student last month had a racist slur carved into her car following a dispute over a campus parking space.

WKU President Gary Ransdell denounced the acts in an email to faculty, staff, and students Monday.

Read President Ransdell's Message Here

He said the two incidents are not reflective of the majority of students and employees at the school.

Youtube

The president of the University of Kentucky says he’s confident higher education leaders will be able to finalize a performance-based funding model.

The state’s publicly supported colleges and universities are working on a plan to base a percentage of each school’s funding on certain metrics. The plan was ordered by Governor Matt Bevin.

UK President Eli Capilouto says degree productivity is a measure he thinks will play a big role in determining performance-based funding.

“I personally believe that the degree is the most important outcome, and funding should follow our success in awarding a degree,” Capilouto told WKU Public Radio during an interview Thursday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to halt the sale of $1 billion in U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The Bowling Green Republican said he planned to introduce what’s known as a privileged resolution Wednesday that would block the sale. Paul says the move guarantees the Senate will have to vote on the matter before going on a break in the next few weeks.

Paul cited two reasons why the U.S. shouldn’t ship the arms to the Saudis.

“One, I think they're an uncertain ally. Two, I think they have an abysmal human rights record. They treat women as second-class citizens there. Women who are raped are often then victimized by the state by imprisonment and whipping.”

Creative Commons

Kentucky has the fifth highest obesity rate in the nation.

The commonwealth also has the dubious distinction of being only one of two states that saw an increase in obesity levels between 2014 and last year.

The figures come from a new report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Read the Full Report Here

The latest data show that 34.6 percent of Kentucky’s adults were obese in 2015. Kentucky had the third-highest rate of obese whites, and the fifth-most African-Americans who were obese.

Only Kentucky and Kansas saw an increased rate of adult obesity. Four states saw a decrease, and the rest were stable.

Paul and Gray campaigns

A new political action committee is hoping to boost the chances of Kentucky Democrats winning the state’s U.S. Senate race this November.

Kentucky Moving Forward is a Super PAC that will raise money for a media campaign aimed at helping Lexington Mayor Jim Gray defeat Republican Rand Paul.

The Super PAC’s spokesman, Jared Smith, wouldn’t say how much money it has on hand or plans to raise. “I’m not really ready to get into budget requirements and how much we’re going to spend. I can just tell you we’re going to have a very healthy paid media campaign statewide across Kentucky that includes TV ads.”

Smith said the Kentucky Senate race is currently the group’s sole focus.

"Almost positive this is the only race that we will play in this year. Kentucky Moving Forward does expect to be around in other races to come down the line."

Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health has named its next President and CEO.

Greg Strahan has been promoted after serving in the roles on an interim basis since mid-April. He previously helped oversee construction of the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital as the system’s chief operating officer.

Strahan says increasing primary care opportunities in the region is one of his biggest challenges.

“In Owensboro, we’re always looking for more primary care access points, because there’s a shortage of primary care in the general region. I wouldn’t say just in Owensboro, but in our region.”

Owensboro Health has 4,445 employees, and is the largest employer west of Louisville.  

He says Owensboro Health’s expanded footprint outside Daviess County has allowed for more healthcare access points in largely rural areas.

“Part of what we’ve done to eliminate some of their needs is that we’re putting these healthplexes in Henderson, Muhlenberg, and Madisonville. And we manage the hospital in Muhlenberg County.”

Strahan says another goal is to increase telemedicine opportunities at Owensboro Health’s hospitals and clinics across the region. Telemedicine allows physicians to diagnose and treat certain patients through the use of telecommunications technology.

Kevin Willis

A Bowling Green boxing coach wants to create new opportunities for anyone in the world to learn the sport.

Chadrick Wigle runs a small gym in Bowling Green called BGKY Boxing, and is the coach of the Western Kentucky University intramural boxing team. He says he wants to connect with anybody who would like to learn the basics of the sport known as “the sweet science.”

So he’s put online about 100 free videos he recorded of practices featuring WKU boxing club members.

“We filmed every practice of WKU since March 16th, and we put them up online,” Wigle told WKU Public Radio. “That way anybody who wants to learn boxing, all they have to do is grab their brother, cousin, sister, Dad, go to the garage, and do the same drills they’re doing.”

Wigle says the videos he posts differ from much of what is found elsewhere on the internet. He says his goal was to provide an unfiltered view of what it’s like to learn boxing fundamentals.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Governor Matt Bevin’s administration is counting on a growing apprenticeship program to help fill Kentucky’s future workforce needs.

More than 1,100 Kentucky employers are currently partnering with the state to provide apprenticeship opportunities. Apprenticeships allow high school upperclassmen and those who have a GED to gain on-the-job training tailored to a company’s needs.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey is touring the state in an effort to encourage more companies and schools to participate in the effort. He says a wide variety of skills can be learned through the program.

“When we talk about the skills, and when we talk about the apprenticeships, we're not only talking about construction--road construction, building construction,” Ramsey said in Bowling Green Wednesday. “We're talking about I.T.--we're apprenticing that, as well. We're talking about health care."

Ramsey says those learning blue-collar skills in the apprenticeship program could help build the next generation of roads and bridges in the commonwealth.

Kentucky State Parks

Four Kentucky state resort parks will receive $4.9 million in funding for renovations.

The announcement this week is part of a campaign called “Refreshing the Finest”—a statewide effort providing structural repairs, painting, and other upgrades.

The latest round of funding will be used at Barren River, Dale Hollow, Lake Cumberland, and Rough River Dam State Resort Parks.

“Most of the money is either going toward safety upgrades or other aesthetic improvements," said Kentucky State Parks spokesman Gil Lawson. "For example, at Lake Cumberland, we had several sidewalks that were cracked or in disrepair, and work on that is nearly complete.”

Lawson said the funding will also provide new dining room finishes and painting at Dale Hollow; electrical repairs and painting at Barren River; and conference center painting and repairs at Rough River Dam.

A total of $18 million has been dedicated to state resort park improvements that are scheduled to be done by the end of next year.

Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s Second District Congressman says his party needs to tone down some of its rhetoric about illegal immigration, and better explain how its economic policies could help those coming to the country legally.

Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie told WKU Public Radio Monday that the GOP is missing opportunities to appeal to immigrants who arrived in America legally in search of jobs and a better life.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., and has called for a wall to be built between the U.S. and Mexico. Guthrie says Republicans can’t afford to be painted as a party unwelcoming to immigrants.

“We as a party can’t look like we’re against people coming here legally,” Guthrie said. Instead, the Warren County lawmaker said Republicans need to reach out to immigrants wanting to “invest in the American Dream and the American future. Guthrie said he thought “some of the rhetoric gets hot,” leaving some voters with a negative impression of the party.

Kevin Willis

Western Kentucky University’s latest fundraising totals are the highest in school history.

The school announced today that it raised $23.1 million in donations during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

That’s a 22 percent increase over the school’s previous record.

Marc Archambault, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations at WKU, says he was impressed by the number of donations made by people who aren’t WKU graduates.

“Forty-five percent of the dollars that were contributed in this last fiscal year came from ‘friends’—people unaffiliated with the university,” he said.

The contributions made to WKU last fiscal year include nearly $10 million for the school’s endowment, and nearly $8 million for student scholarships.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky is undergoing rapid changes in how it treats drug offenders.

A growing number of communities are offering needle exchange programs for IV drug users. There’s a greater availability of naloxone, a drug which counters the effects of an opioid overdose. The state legislature passed a bill this year offering more treatment options for heroin addicts.

Someone with an up-close view of these recent changes is John Tilley, a former Kentucky House member from Hopkinsville who now serves as Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Tilley says there’s been a growing recognition from both conservatives and liberals that simply throwing drug addicts in jail doesn’t cure the problem.

Kevin Willis

About forty refugee children living in Bowling Green are getting some help in preparing for the upcoming school year.

The Warren County-based International Center of Kentucky partnered with four community organizations to provide school supplies to the children.

One of those in line Thursday to get a backpack filled with supplies was 14-year-old Maya Nayab. She and her family arrived last week in Kentucky after fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan.

She says she’s looking forward to starting ninth grade classes next week.

“I think it’s going to be important for me and my life—the studies are most important. I love to study, so I’m going to complete my graduation as soon as possible,” said Nayab, who is one of ten family member who recently relocated in Bowling Green.

The other groups contributing to the school supply campaign are Starbucks, the WKU Store, Strawberry Fields Yoga, and Women’s Intercultural Café.

Kayla Luttrell, a case manager with the Bowling Green-based International Center of Bowling Green, says the children and their parents are grateful for the help.

Kevin Willis

The Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center is holding a town hall meeting to gather suggestions on ways to improve arts education.

SKyPAC is hosting the meeting Thursday, Aug. 4.

SKyPAC education outreach coordinator Joshua Miller says the goal is to get feedback from community members, educators, and artists about the center’s outreach efforts aimed at young people.

“What you’re investing in is potentially the citizen for the next 30 years of where you’re living. I think it’s just important that we pore into them, and create opportunities for the youth--as well as the community--to express, to collaborate, to be together in spaces, especially with everything going on in our society today.”

Miller says those attending will be asked for input on the following questions:

Abbey Oldham, PBS Newshour

Kentucky’s Secretary of State says Americans can expect a big contrast between this week’s Democratic National Convention and last week’s Republican gathering in Cleveland.

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is speaking at her party’s convention in Philadelphia. She told WKU Public Radio Democrats will offer a more positive view of the U.S. than the one described by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“You’re going to see people from all across this nation, and importantly, our nominee, that believe America is already great. And we need a President that recognizes that, and will build upon that—unite people, not dividing them with hateful rhetoric.”

Grimes called Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a role model and friend for more than 24 years. The Clinton family is close with Grimes and her family, including Jerry Lundergan, Grimes' father and former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Grimes' mother, Charlotte Lundergan, is a superdelegate pledged to support Clinton.

Pages