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

Flickr/Creative Commons/tableatny

Three Owensboro-based institutions are combining efforts to build a new state-of-the-art track and field facility.

Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro Public Schools, and Owensboro Health announced Tuesday  that they will collaborate on the new facility, which will be located between the north and south campuses of Owensboro Middle School.

The project will feature a high-quality synthetic track surface, a steeplechase pit, a runway for long and triple jumps, a javelin area, a pole vault runway, and a shot put and discus/hammer throw event pad.

“We will be able to host collegiate track and field meets that Owensboro and Daviess County have not been able to do before, and it also creates an opportunity for the region, generally, from an economic impact and activities standpoint, to host large AAU meets,” said Kentucky Wesleyan College President Bart Darrell.

The Owensboro Health Track & Field Complex will be located between the Owensboro Middle School North and South campuses on South Griffin Avenue. Both Kentucky Wesleyan and Owensboro High School will use the new facility to host meets.

The facility will cost an estimated one million dollars, and will also be used to promote wellness activities for the general public. No timetable for the facility’s completion has been set.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Jason Howie

Researchers from WKU and Clemson University have teamed up to learn more about the role social media sites play in spreading inaccurate information during crisis situations.

WKU associate professor of communications Blair Thompson recently co-authored a study that was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior. The study examined the impact social media had on disseminating information following a pair of school shootings that took place at Fern Creek High School in Louisville and Albermarle, North Carolina, on Sept. 30, 2014.

Thompson recently spoke to WKU Public Radio about the research findings. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

What were you hoping to learn when you set out on this research project?

We knew there would be misinformation—that’s what happens when people go into that (a school shooting) so fast, and they’re posting  whatever, and they pull off what somebody else says, and it just kind of builds from there.

I think what’s useful about the research is that we were able to pinpoint the specific areas where the misinformation occurs. We found five or six categories.

Andrew Buchanan

Bourbon County will soon have its first locally-produced bourbon on the market since Prohibition.

The Gentleman Distillery is located in downtown Paris, and is aging its whiskey in much smaller barrels and for shorter amounts of time than most bourbon producers. Co-owner and head distiller Andrew Buchanan says their bourbon will stay in the barrels for four to five months—as opposed to years.

“We can really push through and get a product to market a whole lot quicker, which obviously helps smaller, startup distilleries get a product with some age, and color, and taste.

Fairness Campaign

A Kentucky group that advocates for the LGBT community is hoping to expand Bowling Green’s civil rights ordinance.

The Fairness Campaign wants the city to become the ninth in the state to pass a fairness ordinance that would prohibit LGBT individuals from being discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The campaign’s western Kentucky regional organizer, Dora James, says the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage isn’t the last hurdle for LGBT rights.

“There are no state or federal enumerated laws that protect against LGBT discrimination, so a lot of people are surprised to know that it’s 2015, but you can totally be fired from your job, or denied housing, or kicked out of a restaurant or park for being gay or transgender.”

The Bowling Green chapter of the Fairness Campaign is seeking signatures for a petition to present to the Bowling Green city commission in support of a fairness ordinance. They’re also holding an event Thursday night in the city’s downtown called “Love Takes Over: LGBT Fairness on Fountain Square.”

The goal of the event is to get signatures on a petition encouraging city government to add the LGBT community to the current civil rights statute covering the town. Those that sign will get a pin allowing them entrance to several concerts around town, as well as other specials at supportive businesses.

U.S. Army

Obesity is the leading medical reason why nearly three-quarters of young Kentuckians are not eligible to join the armed forces.

A report from the group Mission: Readiness is based on U.S. Defense Department data, and shows nearly 33 percent of Kentucky teens are overweight or obese.

Read the report here.

Retired U.S. Marine Major General Jerry Humble of Russellville is a member of the group, and says other factors disqualifying young Kentuckians from military service are criminal records and a lack of high school diploma.

“We’re really worried about the future—the next 10 to 12 years—of our military armed forces. And the world isn’t becoming a kinder, gentler place, either,” Humble said.

The report, entitled Retreat Is Not An Option for Kentucky, also finds:

* 78 percent of Kentucky adolescents do not get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

*The military currently spends $1.5 billion annually on obesity-related medical costs and to replace those discharged because they are physically unfit.

WKU

WKU has picked its next Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations.

Marc Archambault will join WKU August 17, and take over the post previously held by Kathryn Costello, who is transitioning into a different position at the school.

Archambault currently serves as head of development and alumni at Utah Valley University, and has previously held positions at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California; Purdue University; and the University of Houston.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio Monday, Archambault  said he’ll be working this summer to meet as many WKU stakeholders as possible.

“One of the first important steps is a listening tour, and collecting as much data as I can while I try to master the financial and budgetary landscape in which I’ll be working.”

Archambault  will also serve as President of the WKU Foundation, and will lead the school’s next capital campaign.

“It is early, of course, and I think at this stage we would really describe it as exploring a future campaign. It’s something President Ransdell and the leadership feel passionate about.”

Archambault holds a bachelor’s degree in physical sciences and English from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and a Certificate in Fundraising Management from the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University in Indianapolis.

Abbey Oldham

An amendment championed by Kentucky’s junior U.S. Senator would change the way deployed military personnel are counted in the Census.

Rand Paul’s amendment would require the Census to count all deployed servicemen and women at the base or port where they lived before deployment. Currently, those individuals are counted as part of the U.S. overseas population.

Senator Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, told WKU Public Radio the change would make a big difference to communities around Fort Campbell.

“A lot of things are decided based on how big your community. So if we don’t count the soldiers, and, let’s say Hopkinsville had 49,000 people, but if we did count the soldiers and Hopkinsville had 59,000 people, it would make a big difference in how the government treats the city of Hopkinsville.”

Paul’s amendment, known as the Service Members and Communities Count Act,  was added to the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. Two years ago, the same amendment was attached to legislation but was ultimately removed before the bill was signed into law.

Daviess Co Fiscal Court

An estimated 1,000 African-Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War are being honored in Owensboro.

The Daviess County Bicentennial Committee is unveiling a historical marker on the courthouse square Friday evening for the Daviess County men who fought in what were known as “colored” infantries and cavalry units during the war.

The marker will be unveiled at 6 p.m. at the northwest corner of the courthouse.

Committee Co-chair Aloma Dew was one of the driving forces behind getting the marker established. She says the black men who volunteered for the units took great personal risks.

“We know of a couple of men who walked from Pleasant Ridge, which is about 15 miles outside of Owensboro, into Owensboro to sign up. They were slaves and they knew that if they were apprehended there would be a high cost to pay,” Dew said.

WKU

A Lexington brewing and distilling company is setting up a beer production line in Bowling Green.

Alltech, which produces Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, delivered a production-level brewing system Wednesday to WKU’s Center for Research and Development. No date has been set as to when the production line will begin operating, though it could start sometime this fall.

When complete, the brewing system would be the largest to be located at a university.

Alltech is leasing the space from WKU and will begin a craft beer brewing operation, while also paying the renovation and installation costs.

Meanwhile, some WKU administrators have been working on a proposal for a major and minor in brewing and distillation. Potter College of Arts & Letters Assistant Dean Andrew McMichael says the university has been seeking input from industry leaders.

WKU Athletics

WKU has a new leader of its baseball team. The school will introduc John Pawlowski Thursday afternoon as the new head coach of the Hilltopper baseball program.

Pawlowski formally coached at Auburn and the College of Charleston, and has been to 11 NCAA tournaments as either a head coach or assistant coach.

WKU announced last month that Matt Myers wouldn’t be retained following four seasons as the school’s baseball coach.

Here's a look at Pawlowski's coaching career:

Pawlowski’s Coaching Career

2014-15: San Diego State Assistant Coach (2 Years; 2 NCAA Tournaments)

2009-13: Auburn Head Coach (5 Years; 167-126 Record, and 1 NCAA Tournament)

2000-08: College of Charleston Head Coach (9 Years; 338-192 Record)

Lisa Autry

The two surviving members of a 2014 Muhlenberg County house fire are filing a lawsuit against a construction company.

The fire killed LaRae Watson and eight of her children after an electric heater ignited combustible materials inside the home. Chad Watson and his daughter, Kylie, are suing Owensboro-based Jagoe Homes, claiming the company hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build the Watsons a new home at no cost.

The lawsuit was first reported by WFIE-14 TV in Evansville. The suit claims the Watsons suffered “severe emotional harm and distress” when they didn’t receive the home they say they were promised.

Owensboro attorney Travis Holtrey is representing Jagoe Homes, and says a response to the lawsuit will be filed soon.

“We have full confidence that after that answer is filed, and after the matter is presented in the proper format, it will be determined that Jagoe Homes did not violate any law," he told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

Holtrey wouldn't comment on whether or not Jagoe had made a promise regarding the building of a new home for the Watsons.

Kentucky State Police investigators are asking the public for information related to a Logan County arson case.

The fire that destroyed a residence on Spring Street in Auburn has been ruled intentional by the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Anyone with information related to case is asked to contact the state’s Arson Task Force at 1-800-27-ARSON.

WKU

WKU and Mammoth Cave National Park are partnering in an effort to revive the Folklorist in the Park program.

The effort is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and will document the cultural heritage in and around the Mammoth Cave region. Josh Chrysler, a recent graduate from the WKU Folk Studies graduate program, has been hired as the project’s summer folklorist.

“What I’ll be doing is going around talking to people who live in the communities in and around Mammoth Cave, and I’ll be doing ethnographic interviews and oral histories documenting the traditional culture, arts, and music of the region," Chrysler said.

The materials collected this summer during the project will be housed in the Folklife Archives in the Kentucky Museum at WKU.

Chrysler will also work with Mammoth Cave National Park to develop evening programs for the public this summer focused on traditional arts and culture from the area.

Chrysler and the Kentucky Folklife Program would also like to ask for help in this project. If you or anybody you know practices a traditional skill or art, including but not limited to basketmaking, quilting, traditional music, hunting practices, traditional food preparation or recipes, contact Josh Chrysler at (270) 791-8653.

Thursday’s recanvass of two Kentucky primary election races has not changed the election night outcome.

Clerks in all 120 counties double-checked their totals from the GOP primaries for governor and agriculture commissioner, and reported those totals to the state board of elections.

Following the recanvass, Matt Bevin remains the victor over James Comer in the gubernatorial contest, and Ryan Quarles maintained his more than 1,400 vote margin of victory in the agriculture commissioner’s race.

James Comer’s campaign manager issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying Comer was on vacation with his family in Florida and would make an announcement Friday concerning the next steps he’ll take regarding the governor’s race.

Comer could ask for a recount—something that would require a lawsuit and would be paid for by the candidate.

Office of Lt. Gov.

Kentucky’s highest female office-holder is hoping more women will become political candidates.

Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen, speaking to the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club Wednesday,  said a recent study showing Kentucky near the bottom of the nation in the number of women office holders is proof there’s a problem.

The report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks Kentucky 46th in the nation when it comes to the number of females holding elected office.

“I think women have to work harder to prove themselves. I think often they are considered not to have the strength that a man has, or the power that a man has. And the truth is women are doing everyday an incredibly courageous job of balancing complicated lives and careers.”

Despite her concerns, Luallen said she believes an increasing number of younger women in Kentucky are beginning to believe they can succeed at all aspects of running for office.

“They can raise money successfully, they can convince people to support them—it’s a very, very achievable goal to run for office as a woman.”

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