WKU is mourning the loss of a man who spent nearly five decades teaching economics at the school.

Dick Cantrell passed away this week after a battle with cancer. He was a WKU Professor Emeritus of Economics and taught 47 years.

Arrangements for Mr. Cantrell are pending.

A WKU graduate believed to have been held as a prisoner of war longer than any other Kentuckian has died at the age of 85.

The Courier-Journal reports Col. Dewey Lee Smith of Louisville passed away this week while on vacation in Alabama.

Smith served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. The plane he was flying was shot down June 2, 1967, over North Vietnam.  Smith was captured and held as a P.O.W. for nearly six years until his release on March 4, 1973.

He was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart.

Smith was commissioned a second lieutenant through the WKU Air Force ROTC program in 1953, and joined active duty later that year. He also played on the WKU football team.


WKU is receiving praise for the number of Fulbright Scholars it produced last year.

The six grants awarded to WKU students ranks third in the nation among schools offering Master’s degrees, according to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. WKU’s six current Fulbright Scholars are teaching English and conducting research in five countries: Costa Rica, England, Germany, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Melinda Grimsley-Smith, with the school’s Office of Scholar Development, says a growing number of students are seeing the value of scholarships that offer an international component “where they’re taking a year off, or a year in between here and grad school, or between here and a job to go out into the world for a year and live in another culture and be a cultural ambassador for the United States.”

She also believes part of the school’s recent success stems from its efforts at convincing more students that they have a shot at landing prestigious grants, like the Fulbright.

“Students are more and more willing to take the risk of applying, I think. They’re more willing to think of themselves as compelling and competitive candidates for national scholarships.”

WKU’s 2014-15 Fulbright Award recipients are:

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Flickr Creative Commons)

A new partnership between WKU and EKU will make it easier for workers in the Bowling Green and Owensboro areas to receive OSHA certification.

EKU houses the only OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Kentucky. But under an agreement between the two schools, EKU personnel will lead OSHA training courses at the Knicely Conference Center in Bowling Green, and at the WKU-Owensboro campus.

Dr. Sue Parrigin, with WKU’s Career and Workforce Development office, says the idea is to expand the number of individuals in the region who can lead OSHA training classes.

“OSHA has what’s called a 10-hour and a 30-hour card, and these trainers will be prepared to go into business and industry and train employees in order to receive their 10 and 30-hour certification with OSHA.”

During 2013-14, EKU’s OSHA Training Center enrolled more than 1,800 students in classes taught in Richmond and Louisville. EKU authorized outreach trainers led 820 classes for more than 9,000 10 and 30-hour OSHA certification.

WKU Athletics

WKU’s upcoming football season features road trips to Vanderbilt, Indiana, and LSU.

The Hilltoppers’ 2015 schedule includes eight Conference USA games, with five of those contests at home. WKU kicks off the season September 5 in Nashville, against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The team’s home and league opener is the following week against Louisiana Tech.

See the entire WKU 2015 football schedule here.

WKU returns 17 starters from last season’s team that finished 8-5, including a win in the Bahamas Bowl.

One of those returnees is quarterback Brandon Doughty, who led the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes last season.


WKU President Gary Ransdell believes a White House plan to make community college free has little chance of becoming reality.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Obama announced a plan to offer two years of tuition-free community college to students who maintained certain academic standards.

The effort would cost about $60 billion over ten years, with the federal government picking up three-quarters of the cost, and states paying for the rest.

Speaking to WKU Public Radio during a break in Friday's Board of Regents meeting, Ransdell said that’s an unsustainable model. 

“There’s no way I can be advocate for Kentucky putting money into that and continuing to cut higher education for the public universities."

Ransdell said he understands that the technical and associate’s degrees that many community college graduates earn help drive the manufacturing sector. 

“But the reality is, it’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees that drive the economy, and those are the people who are the decision-makers with the intellectual skills that go into driving the economy.”

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.


WKU is removing the “interim” label from the title of its Kentucky Museum Director.

Brent Bjorkman hasbeen named the museum’s director after serving as the interim leader since August. The Folk Studies Professor also serves as Director of the Kentucky Folklife Program.

In announcing the decision, WKU Provost Gordon Emslie said in a statement that Bjorkman displayed the ability to lead the Kentucky Museum towards its goal of achieving accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums.

The Kentucky Museum houses permanent and traveling art exhibits as well as historical documents from across the region.


WKU’s all-time leading scorer is having his basketball jersey number retired later this month.

The school announced Thursday that Courtney Lee’s #32 jersey will be retired January 22 during WKU’s game against Texas-El Paso. Lee will become just the tenth person affiliated with the WKU men’s basketballteam to have his jersey retired, joining names such as coach E.A. Diddle, and players Jim McDaniels, Clem Haskins, and Darel Carrier.

Lee played at WKU from 2004-to-2008, scoring 2,238 career points—equaling McDaniels for the most points all time. The Indianapolis native led the Hilltoppers to an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and 29-win season his senior year, while averaging over 20 points a game.

Lee was taken in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He has played for five different teams, and currently averages 11 points a game for the Memphis Grizzlies.

WKU Students to Conduct Genomics Research

Jan 8, 2015

A couple of Western Kentucky University professors have received an award to help students conducting genomics research.

The university says the students will isolate and characterize unique viruses from the environment and annotate the DNA sequence of their genomes. The work is designed to get new undergraduates involved in scientific research.

The professors, Rodney King and Claire Rinehart of the university's Biology Department, received $10,000 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support the work.

In the yearlong research experience, students will contribute new information to the scientific community with newly annotated viral genomes that are published in Genbank, the national DNA sequence database.


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.

Clinton Lewis/WKU

Oregon native Bryan Lietzke has been in the U.S. Air Force for eleven years.  He’s been deployed to Afghanistan five times.

On Saturday afternoon he’ll have a new experience: he’ll receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Systems Management from WKU.

What will he feel as he walks across the stage?

“I don’t know…probably satisfaction,” said Lietzke.

Some 1,300 WKU students will receive their diplomas on Saturday at Diddle Arena. But not all of them had quite the same college experience as Lietzke.

Lietzke posted a 4.0 grade point average and he did so while taking his classes online. Some of the classes he took while at Fort Knox, other times at Fort Drum in New York and still other times while in Afghanistan.  

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.

Abbey Oldham

The nationally-ranked WKU volleyball team is heading to a familiar location for its first-round NCAA tournament match.

The #24 Lady Toppers take on Iowa State Friday in Champaign, Illinois—the fourth time since 2008 that WKU has played an NCAA tournament contest in that town. WKU is 30-5 on the season and won the Conference USA tournament last weekend.

WKU head coach Travis Hudson says Friday’s matchup with Iowa State comes at an extremely exciting—and stressful—time of year for his players, given that finals week begins next Monday at WKU.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty threw eight touchdown passes Friday, as the Hilltoppers won at previously undefeated Marshall.

Trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Thundering Herd rallied to tie the score with less than a minute in regulation.

After the game went into overtime, Marshall scored a touchdown on the team's opening possession. WKU responded with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Doughty to Jared Dangerfield, and then won the game on a successful two-point conversion. On the game's final play, Doughty rolled to his right and found Willie McNeal in the endzone for the winning score.

Hilltopper running back Leon Allen carried the ball 33 times for 237 yards and a touchdown, and Doughty completed 34 of 50 passes for 491 yards, in addition to his eight touchdowns.

WKU finishes its regular season with a 7-5 record, and now awaits to hear if the team will be invited to a postseason bowl game.