Kevin Willis

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.

Centre College is establishing a new full-ride scholarship program aimed at attracting students who want to make an impact overseas.

The liberal arts school in Danville has announced a $20 million challenge gift from an anonymous donor that will be used to fund the Lincoln Scholars Program. The program will award 10 scholarships a year beginning in the fall of 2016.

The anonymous gift offers a dollar-for-dollar match and is part of Centre’s Third Century Campaign, which aims to raise $200 million by 2019, when the school celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of its founding in 1819.

Centre Dean of Admissions, Bob Nesmith, says those awarded the scholarship will get more than just free tuition, room and board, and books. They’ll also receive $10,000 for an independent study project that contains an international component.

“When you take an ambitious 18 year old and say, ‘OK, put together something good and exciting for something somewhere in the world that you want to work on, and we’re going to help you fund it’--that’ll be super appealing to this kind of kid.”

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Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail had another record-breaking year in attendance. The trail’s nine participating distilleries had 627,032 visitors in 2014, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

The nine smaller facilities that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour are also seeing an increase in popularity.

Kentucky’s teacher pension policies are receiving near-failing grades in a new report.

The National Council of Teacher Quality gives the pension plan a D-, and points out that 48-percent of the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System consists of unfunded liabilities.

Council Vice President Sandi Jacobs says the vast majority of taxpayer funds going into the system isn’t being invested in the future retirement of current employees.

“Only 23 cents on the dollar—less than the national average—is going towards the cost of the system. About 77 cents are going toward the debt.”

KTRS currently has over $13 billion in unfunded liabilities. The state budget passed by lawmakers last year provided about half the money needed to bring KTRS into the black.

Jacobs says her group also considers the system’s five-year vesting period a negative feature.

“If you leave before five years you’re not eligible for future benefits. That’s a long time to wait.”

You can see the NCTQ’s report card on Kentucky’s teacher pension policy here.

Former President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden plan to attend the Owensboro funeral for Wendell H. Ford.

The former Senator and Governor passed away last Thursday at the age of 90.

Ford served in the Senate six of the eight years Clinton was in the White House, and was a Democratic Senate colleague of Biden for 24 years.

Daviess County state House Rep. Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio Monday afternoon that former state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan, a close friend of Clinton's, said the former President would be in Owensboro Tuesday.

The news was first reported by the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.

Ford’s funeral service is Tuesday at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Owensboro. Visitation is being held Monday evening until 7 p.m. at Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, and after 10 a.m. Tuesday at the church.

A private service of committal will held in Elmwood Cemetery.

Ford’s family has asked that expressions of sympathy be made to the Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center in Owensboro, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

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WKU President Gary Ransdell says he thinks President Obama’s plan to make community college free has little chance of becoming reality.

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

Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky is receiving failing grades across the board in a new report from the American Lung Association.

The report criticizes the commonwealth for having one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, as well as poor access to smoking cessation programs.

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 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.

Dewayne Neeley / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Kentucky lawmakers may once again consider restoring voting rights for those who have committed low-level felony offenses in the next General Assembly session.

Daviess County Rep. Tommy Thompson says he hopes the 2015 legislature will join the majority of other states that give voting rights back to those who have served time for non-violent felonies.

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

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