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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Agriculture
5:00 am
Sun August 11, 2013

Kentucky Hemp Commissioner: Hemp a Natural Fit for Healthy Foods, Auto Manufacturing

Efforts to once again make hemp legal to grow in the U.S. have picked up steam lately.

The chairman of Kentucky's Industrial Hemp Commission believes it's just a matter of time before the crop is once again legal in the U.S.

Brian Furnish says it was a major accomplishment to get an amendment regarding hemp added to the farm bill recently passed by the U.S. House. While there's no guarantee the amendment will be included in the version of the measure passed by the Senate, Furnish says he's confident public support for hemp farming is growing.

The Harrison County farmer told WKU Public Radio that hemp seeds could become a popular food ingredient in this country.

"It's high in protein, it doesn't have any cholesterol. It has omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in it. And really nobody knows about it here. They eat it all over the world, but here nobody has promoted it as a food source."

Furnish also thinks the crop is a natural fit with a major industry in our region--auto manufacturing. He says if hemp is once again legal to grow in the U.S, auto manufacturers could follow the lead of their European counterparts who use hemp to build vehicle parts.

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Sports
12:34 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

WKU Athletic Director: NCAA Set for Changes, but Won't Break Apart

WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart

Kevin's interview with WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart

WKU’s athletic director is predicting there will be changes coming to the organization that governs collegiate athletics. But Todd Stewart doesn’t think the country’s most powerful conferences will break away from the NCAA and form their own organization, as some have suggested.

Stewart will attend a summit in January called by NCAA President Mark Emmert in response to pressure by big-revenue generating schools who want more say in how the NCAA is run. Some large schools want to increase compensation for collegiate athletes beyond what is currently allowed—something opposed by many smaller schools who say they couldn’t afford it.

Stewart came to the WKU Public Radio studio Wednesday to discuss the upcoming NCAA football summit, the future of college football, and his approach to putting together future WKU football schedules.

WKU Public Radio: WKU has been invited along with all the other Division I football schools to attend a Jan. 16-17 summit in San Diego that coincides with the NCAA’s annual convention. From what you understand so far, what’s going to be discussed?

Todd Stewart: A lot of things are being discussed right now, and I think what President Emmert wanted to do was get everybody in the room and hopefully come out with some form of solidarity. Because you have what people refer to as the “power five” conferences—the SEC, ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 12, and the Big 12—and there are some reforms they would really want to see.

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Education
9:22 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Centre College Makes History, Announces $250 Million Gift

Centre College in Danville
Credit Centre College

WKU Public Radio's interview with Richard Trollinger, Vice President for College Relations at Centre College

When it comes to financial contributions, there are major gifts--and then there's what happened Tuesday at Centre College.

The private undergraduate school in Danville has announced the largest gift ever given to a liberal arts school in the U.S, and the largest donation ever given to a Kentucky college or university.

The A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust is giving Centre $250 million in stock to create the Brockman Scholars Program in Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Forty scholarships will be awarded each year starting in the fall of 2014.

Brockman's son, Bob, attended Centre before finishing his degree at another school.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the donation ranks among the 20 largest gifts ever given to a U.S. college or university.

Brockman Scholars will pursue degrees in several science-related fields, such as behavioral neuroscience, biology, chemistry, computer science, math, and psychology.

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Education
2:56 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

WKU Regents Approve Bonds for Honors College, Raises for Basketball Coaches

The WKU Board of Regents has approved a $37 million bond issue to fund a new international center and Honors College building, as well as the next phase of the ongoing renovation of the Downing University Center.

While the motion passed, three regents voted against the proposal.

Faculty Regent Patty Minter joined Student Regent Keyana Boka and Staff Regent James Kennedy in dissent. Dr. Minter says while she fully supports the WKU Honors College and the school's efforts to grow its international student population, she questions the need to issue bonds and build a brand new facility.

“There were a lot of better ideas that were not explored," said the WKU History Professor. "For example, having a floor in the replacement building for the Gordon Ford College of Business—what a great place that would be. And it would also integrate that group and the international student services into the entire student population, as opposed to segregating them out.”

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Health
3:41 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

New Edition of Glasgow State Nursing Facility to Open Soon

Governor Steve Beshear joined Glasgow and Barren County leaders Wednesday for a ceremony honoring a new facility that will offer long-term care for those with mental illnesses.

Residents will begin moving into the new Glasgow State Nursing Facility in early September. Glasgow mayor Rhonda Trautman says residents at the facility require a higher level of care than those at most long-term care facilities in the state.

"These are people who are primarily suffering from mental problems who need counseling. They have a variety of issues, and there is a large group of patients there who suffer from Huntington's Disease."

The new facility in Glasgow replaces another state-run long-term care facility in Barren County that had become antiquated.

"The older center has been part of our community for decades. The original building used to be the state tuberculosis hospital," said Mayor Trautman.

The new nursing center will employ 167 people.

Environment
3:24 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Report: No Rules Prevent Kentucky Coal Plants from Dumping Pollutants into Waterways

A report released by a coalition of environmental and clean water groups says twenty coal-fired power plants in Kentucky are discharging toxic metals into nearby waterways.

The report is called “Closing the Floodgates”, and was authored by the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Integrity Project, EarthJustice, and WaterKeeper Alliance.

The report points out coal plants are under no requirement to monitor or report discharges of toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.

You can see the full report here.

Sierra Club organizer for the western Kentucky region Thomas Pearce says his group and others want the Environmental Protection Agency to start enforcing tough new standards for coal-fired power plants.

Pearce says under current rules, coal plant operators don't even feel like they have to hide what they're doing.

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Education
11:33 am
Tue July 16, 2013

Aggressive Construction Deadline Set for Early College and Career Center in Hardin County

Ground will be broken Wednesday morning at the future site of the Hardin County Schools Early College and Career Center. The effort is a collaboration between the school system and WKU, and will allow high school students in the Hardin County system to take classes during the academic year that will transform into college credit from WKU, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, or Sullivan University.

Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston says the Early College and Career Center is facing a strict construction deadline.

"I can sum it up in the one word: aggressive. Typically, we look at construction projects of this magnitude taking about 18 months. We want this project to be completed by August of 2014," Johnston told WKU Public Radio.

The Early College and Career Center will offer Hardin County students classes in fields such as engineering, manufacturing, automotive technology, media arts and communication, and culinary arts and hospitality services.

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Politics
10:56 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Embry: House GOP Leadership to Share Redistricting Proposals Monday with Republican Members

Rep. C.B. Embry is a Republican representing Butler and Grayson counties, and part of Hardin County.
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kevin's interview with C.B. Embry, Jr., of Butler County

A south-central Kentucky state lawmaker says he'll find out Monday what House Republican leaders are proposing for next month's special session on redistricting.

Butler County Republican Representative C.B. Embry, Jr., has a major stake in the new legislative maps that will come out of that session. Embry and two other GOP Representatives--Jim DeCesare of Warren County and Michael Meredith of Edmonson County--were placed in the same district under maps that were passed earlier this year by the House, but rejected by the Senate.

Embry told WKU Public Radio he's not sure next month's special session will be the last word on the redistricting issue.

"I hope this doesn't happen, that the passing of  the redistricting plan might again be unconstitutional and wind up in the courts," said Embry, whose district covers Butler and Grayson counties, as well as part of Hardin County. "If that should happen, I think the courts will draw the lines rather than the General Assembly."

The state Supreme Court threw out maps passed last year by lawmakers, finding that the plans were unconstitutional because they weren't balanced by population. Lawmakers tried, and failed again, during the 2013 General Assembly to get new legislative boundaries passed.

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Regional
9:58 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Funds Raised to Bring Replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Southern Indiana

The Wall That Heals will come to Grandview, Indiana, Sept. 11-15.
Credit www.vvmf.org/twth

A Spencer County, Indiana, man hopes a replica version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will bring healing to those in the region who served in that war.

Frank Richey was in the Army for twenty years, including tours in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. Richey has led the effort to bring to the southern Indiana region a traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall known as "The Wall That Heals."

Richey and a small committee of family members and supporters have raised over $10,000 to pay for the costs associated with bringing the replica wall to the town of Grandview, Indiana.

Richey hopes Vietnam veterans and their family members from southern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky will come to Grandview this fall to see the exhibit.

“That’s what this traveling wall is for. It’s for people who can’t actually make it to Washington D.C. to see the real wall,” said Richey.

You can learn more about The Wall That Heals by clicking here.

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Politics
2:27 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Meade County Democrat Eyes Seat Held by U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green

A Meade County Democrat with nearly 30 years of military experience is entering Kentucky's Second District Congressional campaign.

Retired U.S. Army Major Ron Leach wants to win the seat currently held by Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie. Leach told WKU Public Radio he believes the majority of Kentuckians are "being left behind" by a Congress more interested in partisanship than solving problems.

He was asked how he would describe the kind of campaign he hopes to run.

"It's not left, it's not right. You know, the idea that we need leaders and not looters, that we need a Kentucky and an America that works, and works for all of us. That we need a functioning government that represents all Kentuckians---that's not left or right, and that's not partisan," said Leach, who also served eight years in the National Guard.

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