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

U.S. Congress

Owensboro native and legendary Kentucky political leader Wendell Ford has passed away Thursday at the age of 90.

Ford was the first person in state history to serve as lieutenant governor, governor, and U.S. Senator. During his 24 years in the Senate, Ford was a vocal defender of the tobacco industry and Kentucky farmers.

The Democrat is cited by many as one of the most influential leaders of his party during the second half of the 20th century.

Ford announced in July that he was undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer.

Term limits at the time prevented Ford from serving only four years as Governor, from 1971 to 1974. But in a 2010 interview with WKU Public Radio, Ford said he appreciated the fact that a Governor had the ability to be much more “hands on” than a U.S. Senator.

“You had the ability to start a project, or stop it. If people wouldn’t do what you wanted them to do, you could fire them and get someone that would. Not that I did that, but you had that opportunity and I guess people knew that.”

While he eventually gained the reputation as a lawmaker who worked behind the scenes to get things done in Washington, Ford initially had a hard time with the slow, deliberative process of the Senate. The Owensboro Democrat told WKU Public Radio he thought about quitting early on when he couldn’t get projects important to Kentucky passed.

Franklin-Simpson High School

A $3 million federal grant will go towards efforts to improve the career and college readiness of special needs students at nine Kentucky high schools.

The four-year grant awarded to the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative will model a program currently in place at Franklin-Simpson High School. That program matches educators and disabled students for an hour a week, with the educator focusing on ways to help the student achieve success in the classroom.

“So she might help him to catch up on homework, she might work on his study skills, she might arrange for him to do an internship down the road at a business or an industry,” said Johna Rogers, with the GRREC.  

Rodgers says the idea is to provide consistent, one-on-one guidance that will help special-needs students reach their educational and career goals. Each student in the program will have what’s known as an Individual Career Plan, tailored to the individual’s aspirations and abilities.

“And I think that is one of the key strategies—identifying chunks of time where teachers, who are specially trained to work on college-career readiness, are able to move that child forward from wherever he is, to where he wants to be.”

The nine schools included in the grant are:

WKU Athletics

The WKU Lady Hilltopper basketball team has been playing a prominent role in area elementary and middle schools over the past several weeks. Thursday’s game between the WKU Lady  Toppers and Florida Atlantic is the fourth annual “Spread the Red Education Game”, and will be attended by all third-through-eighth graders in Bowling Green city schools, and seventh grade students from Warren County public schools.

For the past month, teachers have been incorporating statistics and biographical information about the players and teams into math, geography, reading, and history lessons. 

“And  bigger picture, there’s a learning component in terms of the career opportunities, and just the overall experience of being able to come up to the university and hopefully inspire our kids to want to aim high,” said Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton.

Bowling Green Schools Superintendent Joe Tinius embraces any opportunity to get young students on a college campus. He says it will be many students’ first time attending an event at WKU.

A Kentucky school is becoming just the second university in the nation to offer scholarships for competitive video game players.

The University of Pikeville will offer 20 scholarships this fall to students who excel in the online multi-player game League of Legends.

The school in central Appalachia hopes the program will draw attention from prospective students who otherwise wouldn’t have considered U-Pike.

The school’s New Media Director, Bruce Parsons, believes it’s just a matter of time before more American universities offer scholarships to gamers.

“I think there’s a good opportunity for colleges and universities to look at starting e-sports programs at their schools—officially supported scholarship programs. It’s growing very quickly, there’s a lot of attention, and it offers opportunities to students who might not have athletic or others scholarships at their disposal.”

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell says the elimination of a senior administration level position at the school will help balance the campus budget this year.

Vice President for Research Gordon Baylis  sent an email to WKU faculty and staff Sunday announcing that his position had been eliminated, and that he was returning to his faculty position at the Department of Psychological Sciences.

In an email to employees Monday afternoon, President Ransdell said a portion of the money being saved by the job elimination would balance the school’s budget, while the remaining part will be redirected to the Office of the Provost to recreate the school’s research leadership.

"To be clear, this does not signal a de-emphasis of research at WKU, rather it signals a greater engagement of the Division of Academic Affairs in the management of research activity at WKU," Ransdell said in his email. "With this action, undergraduate and graduate research will become a central function of Academic Affairs, reporting directly to the Provost. Effective immediately, the Provost will have signatory authority on research-related matters, and the Office of Sponsored Programs and other related research units will report to him.

Kevin Willis

The executive director of Owensboro’s International Bluegrass Music Museum is stepping down after a 12 year run.

However, Gabrielle Gray will maintain her presence in the region’s bluegrass community.

Gray will keep her position as the Executive Producer of ROMP, the annual bluegrass music festival in Daviess County, and she will also remain the museum’s primary grant writer.

Assistant Director Carly Smith, who has been at the museum since 2011, will serve as interim director while the search for a permanent replacement gets underway. That search will be led by Yale University President Peter Salovey.

A news release issued by the museum quotes Gray as saying that nothing gives her greater pleasure than helping to present ROMP at Yellow Creek Park each summer.

The Museum recently announced that legendary singer-songwriter John Prine will be one of the headliners during next year’s festival.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce wants a full performance audit of the troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Chamber President Dave Adkisson Thursday called on state Auditor Adam Edelen to look into KRS, which is rated as one of the most underfunded pension plans in the nation, with only about 45-percent of the assets needed to cover its retirement obligations.

Adkisson said his group is especially concerned about the burden placed on the actuary who advises the system.

“The assumptions they make lead to KRS recommendations, and a request for money that goes to the Governor,” Adkisson said during a conference call with reporters. “The Governor has to utilize that information to build his budget that goes to the legislature, and all of this is predicated on the assumptions of one actuary. And KTRS, the teachers’ retirement system, uses the same actuary.”

Adkisson says a KRS audit should also look into the amount of investment fees paid by the system, and how that compares to other states. An estimated 30-percent of KRS investments are held in hedge funds and private equity funds, which charge high fees and whose holdings KRS agrees not to reveal.

C.A.S.K.

Southern Kentucky volunteers over the age of 55 are being sought out to help with a number of service-related organizations in the region.

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program—or  RSVP—assists efforts such as food pantries, blood drives, and school mentoring campaigns in Allen, Barren, Logan, Simpson, and Warren counties. Kathy Trulock oversees the program, and says another way senior volunteers help is by getting people signed up for health coverage through the state’s benefit exchange, known as kynect.

“A lot of people don’t know they’re eligible for that. So we have that program here at our agency, and we need people to educate folks who qualify, and how they can sign up.”

RSVP volunteer coordinator Holly Vincent says the group has been critical in assisting a Thursday night soup kitchen in Bowling Green that serves 200-300 people a week. She says those involved in the effort often choose to assist agencies that reach out to other senior citizens.

But Vincent adds many older volunteers also want to help younger Kentuckians.

Ft. Knox

Veterans and their dependents are being encouraged to attend a military jobs fair at Fort Knox Thursday. The Hardin County military post is hosting about 70 organizations that are looking to hire veterans and their spouses.

Jake Hutchings is director of the group Civilianjobs.com, which is overseeing the event. He says veterans should be prepared to explain how their military service can translate into success at a corporate workforce.

“How do you take that 15-year, 20-year career—or even a five-year career with a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan--and compartmentalize that down to two minutes of, ‘hey, this is what I’ve done in the service, these are the skills I’ve learned, and this is the value I bring to your organization’? So if there’s a veteran out there listening, that’s the first place to start.”

Hutchings says many civilian employers have come to appreciate the leadership and technical skills many veterans possess. Hutchings is himself a veteran, and says employers are seeking out veterans out of respect, not pity.

Murray St. Athletics

A college basketball rivalry dating back to 1932 continues Saturday between two Kentucky programs.

The WKU Hilltoppers travel west to take on the Murray State Racers for the 152nd time.

Both teams enter tomorrow’s game with .500 records. WKU is 3-3 and coming off wins against Bowling Green State and Saint Joseph’s. The Hilltoppers are led in scoring by senior guard T.J. Price, who is averaging 13 points a game, with senior forward George Fant leading the team in rebounding at 7 per contest.

You can read more about WKU’s 2014-15 season here.

Murray State is 4-4, and has been a tough home opponent for WKU in recent years. The Racers have won the last three meetings they’ve hosted against WKU, with the Toppers’ last win in Murray coming in 2004. If WKU is to win Saturday, they’ll likely have to contain the Racer’s star sophomore guard Cameron Payne, who was picked as the Ohio Valley Conference preseason player of the year.

After Saturday’s game in Murray, the Toppers have a week off for finals. Then they travel to Ole Miss Dec. 13, before hosting games against Chicago State Dec. 17, and the Louisville Cardinals Dec. 20.

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