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.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Conway: Decision on Governor's Race Will Be Made by Spring

Attorney General Jack Conway

Kentucky's Attorney General continues to say he's strongly considering a run for governor.

Democrat Jack Conway was in south-central Kentucky Wednesday, addressing students and civic groups about issues including the state's prescription drug abuse problems.

After a speech to the Noon Rotary Club in Bowling Green, Conway told reporters there are other races that deserve the spotlight ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election.

"With the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign underway, they deserve a few quarters under their belt before a governor's race lands on top of them," Conway said. "But I would think that by the spring of next year, whoever's running for governor ought to be starting a fundraising operation to put together the resources necessary."

Grimes is challenging Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in next year's much-talked-about Kentucky Senate race. Conway told his Bowling Green audience that coal will continue to be an important source of energy for the region, and that the state must continue to step up its fight against prescription pill abuse.

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Regional
11:02 am
Wed October 30, 2013

WKU, Warren County Communities Rally to Help Family that Lost Child, Home in Fire

The WKU campus community is rallying to support an employee who lost a grandson in a Bowling Green mobile home fire this week.

The fire broke out early Tuesday morning at the home of the WKU employee's daughter. Four family members and another male inside the home were able to escape, but 7-year-old Ethan Miller couldn't be rescued.

"There are two younger children. Any kind of clothing, any kind of kitchen items. They don't have any pots, pans, dishes, or anything like that,” said Jodi Southerland, with WKU Facilities Management. Southerland is helping spearhead an effort to get items donated to the Miller family.  

Southerland says other items that could make a difference are living room and kitchen furniture, towels, and linens. A fund for the Miller family has been set up at Monticello Banking Company on Wilkinson Trace in Bowling Green. Donations can be made to the Charles Miller Family Fund.

Here is a list of items that could help the Miller family:

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Regional
4:07 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Concentration Camp Survivor Visits Bowling Green to Warn about Impacts of Prejudice and Hate

Sam Marder (left), and his friend John Cipolla, WKU Music Professor
Credit Kevin Willis

Kevin's interview with Sam Marder

Bowling Green is being visited this week by a musician, author, and speaker who talks to audiences about the impacts of hate and prejudice on society.

Sam Marder knows that lesson all too well. When he was ten, he and his family were marched out of their town in Romania by the Nazis and eventually sent to a concentration camp in Ukraine.

Mr. Marder survived the ordeal, but his father didn't. After being freed from the camp after three and a half years, Marder grew up to become a professional violinist who continues to play to this day as a member of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra in New York City.

In speaking with WKU Public Radio Thursday, Marder talked about the rise of hatred towards Jews he experienced in Romania during the lead up to World War II. He says his father believed the rumors about German barbarism towards Jews couldn't have been possible since the Germans were such a cultured people.

"One morning we got a knock on the door, and a soldier came in and told us to grab everything we could and go downstairs," Marder said. "When we came out we saw hundreds of people already lined up with sacks of whatever they could grab.”

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Health
12:05 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

While Researching Geriatric Health in Kenya, WKU Student Meets Grandmother of President Obama

WKU student and Somerset native Amy Correll (right) met Sarah Obama, the President's biological grandmother, during her research trip to Kenya.
Credit Amy Correll

Kevin's interview with Amy Correll

It's not unusual for a college student to travel overseas as part of a study abroad program or research effort. What is unusual, however, is meeting the grandmother of the sitting U.S. president.

That's exactly what happened to Amy Correll, a Somerset native and WKU student who recently traveled to Kenya to conduct research for her honor's thesis on geriatric health studies.

Amy spoke to WKU Public Radio Thursday about her research and how she came to meet Sarah Obama. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

Tell us about what you were researching while in Kenya.

"We recognized a lot of needs, even in the hospital setting. And I was curious to know how elders there were functioning outside of that. I visited some very rural areas, did home visits, and did a survey through a translator with residents ages 60 and above."

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Regional
11:22 am
Wed October 2, 2013

All Kentucky State Parks Remain Open During Federal Government Shutdown

Barren River Lake State Resort Park, along with all other state-run parks, is open during the government shutdown.
Credit Kentucky State Parks

The Kentucky Department of Parks wants to clear up some confusion concerning the federal government shutdown.

"All 49 Kentucky state parks are open during their regular business hours. That includes our campgrounds, restaurants, historic sites, our lodges and cabins, and all the other things people like to visit,” Parks Department spokesman Gil Lawson told WKU Public Radio.

Lawson says some state parks--such as Barren River Lake State Resort Park--sit on lakes administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While federally-run campgrounds at the parks may be closed due to the shudown, Lawson emphasizes that state campgrounds remain open for business.

He says federal and state-run parks often share similar names, which can confuse the public regarding which remain open during the ongoing impasse in Washington.

Arts & Culture
12:08 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown Threatens Opening of Exhibit Featuring Work by Allen County Basket Maker

The Renwick Gallery in Washington, part of the Smithsonian Institution. A basket made by Allen County artist Scott Gilbert is featured on the yellow banner.
Credit Beth Hester

Two Allen County basket makers are in Washington D.C. to see their work featured in a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

But their plans could be ruined because of the government shutdown.

Scott Gilbert and Beth Hester are a husband-and-wife basket making team from Scottsville. One of Gilbert’s baskets is part of a Smithsonian exhibit scheduled to open to the public this Friday. That opening is in jeopardy unless Congress passes a measure funding the government.

Gilbert told WKU Public Radio he and his wife walked to the exhibit gallery Tuesday morning, only to find all the doors locked.

“Well, for a little while I was really mad about it. But when you’re standing here—we’re at the corner of I and 17th Avenues—and everything is hustle and bustle, and life goes on and the city goes on. I really don’t think they care much about the government here in Washington," Gilbert said with a laugh.

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Education
5:00 am
Sun September 29, 2013

Kentucky's University Presidents Putting Finishing Touches on Funding Model

The presidents of Kentucky’s universities are meeting this week to discuss a higher education funding model that they will propose to the governor and state legislators.

When lawmakers convene the next General Assembly in January, they’ll be tasked with approving the state’s next two-year budget. WKU President Gary Ransdell says the proposal being offered up by the school presidents puts a great deal of emphasis on how many graduates the universities produce.

“The performance funding model will be based primarily on degree production," Ransdell told WKU Public Radio. "In other words, how many more degrees are you awarding over the last three years? It will be a three-year rolling measure of degree productivity. And that’s the primary driver of the performance funding model."

"In the final analysis, that’s what matters to the state: how many more graduates are you putting in the workplace to drive the economy?”

President Ransdell says the proposal by the school presidents also contains requests for capital project funding, with each university contributing a list of priorities it wants the state to support.

The school presidents meet Wednesday in Frankfort.

Education
3:15 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

WKU Board of Regents Agrees to Consider New Degree Programs in Arabic and Chinese

A proposal to create new majors and minors in two different languages will be taken up by the WKU Board of Regents next month.

At Friday’s committee meetings, board members agreed to consider new degree programs for both Arabic and Chinese. WKU Modern Languages Department Head Laura McGee says there is an increasing student interest in those two languages

“We regularly receive requests from students to start Arabic here, or, if they’ve already started it, to continue to the higher levels. And they ask if there’s a potential to major in Arabic and Chinese. So we’re really glad that it looks like soon we’ll able to say they can.”

If approved by the full board during its October meeting, WKU would become the first university in the commonwealth to offer a major in Arabic. Under the proposal, the new degree programs in Arabic and Chinese would start in the spring of 2014.

Arts & Culture
12:35 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Author Michael Morris Loves to Find Eccentric People in "Small Southern Towns"

Michael Morris, author of Man in the Blue Moon.
Credit Kevin Willis

Kevin's interview with Michael Morris

Michael Morris is a man with a passion for southern fiction. His latest book is called Man in the Blue Moon, and he is in Bowling Green Thursday promoting the new work, and speaking to different organizations around town.

Man in the Blue Moon was the fall selection for the SOKY Reads! program, a community "one book" reading project in southern Kentucky.

Morris stopped by the studios of WKU Public Radio to talk about writing southern fiction, and how he got into writing late in life.

Here are some excerpts of our conversation:

You're giving a writing workshop today at WKU about writing southern fiction. What's distinctive about southern fiction? What makes it stand out from other genres?

“I just think the way we speak is different, obviously. That stands out. There are other aspects to the south that you don’t find in other places in the country. A lot of it has to do with the food. You know, we plan a big celebration around our food—the Sunday dinners."

"You know, William Faulker said the difference between the north and the south is that in the north the crazy relatives are hidden in the attic. In the south, we put them on the front porch and let them wave to everybody."

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Arts & Culture
4:00 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Holt Home Event to Honor Breckinridge County Native who Presided Over Trial of Lincoln's Killers

The Holt Home in Hardinsburg, Ky.
Credit heritage.ky.gov

A Kentucky native with an important link to the Civil War era is being honored Saturday in Breckinridge County.

Joseph Holt served as Secretary of War in 1860 under President James Buchanan, and was named the country’s first Judge Advocate General by President Lincoln in 1862. Following Lincoln’s assassination, Holt served as the presiding judge in the trial of those accused of the murder.

Susan Dyer is president of the Friends of the Holt Home, which coordinates events at the house where Holt lived in Hardinsburg. She says many Kentuckians have never heard of the man who helped get the country through one of its most trying times.

“He had a lot on his shoulders because people wanted results, and they wanted somebody to pay," Dyer told WKU Public Radio. "And not only did the assassinate Lincoln, but it came close to wiping out Lincoln’s cabinet.”

The fifth annual Holt Home Community Day is being held Saturday in Hardinsburg, from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Guest speakers include Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Minton, and two Judge Advocate General officials.

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