3 WKU Alumni inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni

WKU Lady Toppers volleyball head coach Travis Hudson during Round one of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament on Dec. 5, 2019 in Diddle Arena

Gabrielle Bunton & Debra Murray

Three WKU Alumni were inducted Thursday as members of the 29th induction class to Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

In a live stream from WKU Alumni Association, John Asher, Dr. Jack Britt and Travis Hudson were honored in a ceremony in the Augenstein Alumni Center.

They are joining 108 alumni that have been inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

President Tim Caboni gave a speech to introduce the three alumni and to start off the event by focusing on how the inductees shaped WKU.

“Today we have a special opportunity to recognize three individuals in our Hilltoppers family, a distinguished storyteller, a dedicated educator, and a champion volleyball coach,” Caboni said. “WKU is proud to have been home to each of these remarkable individuals. So now it’s my privilege to present to you our 2020 Hall of Distinguished Alumni inductees John Asher, Dr. Jack Britt, and coach Travis Hudson.” 

John Asher, also known as Mr. Derby in the horse racing industry, had received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism from WKU and went on to accomplish much more. 

According to the WKU News, Asher spent two decades as the vice president of racing communications at Churchill Downs and an award-winning radio journalist for the WHAS and WAVG in Louisville.

Asher was also a lifetime member of the WKU Alumni Association, the WKU Greater Louisville Alumni Chapter, the Mahurin Honors College at WKU Parents Advisory Council and the WKU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

He passed away on Aug 27, 2018 and is survived by his wife and three daughters. 

He has received several tributes after his death. These include The John Asher Scholarship Fund, and the renaming of two roads in Kentucky: one is a section of Central Avenue near Churchill Downs renamed the “John S. Asher Way,” and the other near Leitchfield called the “John Stephen Memorial Highway”. He soon will also have a bronze statue likeness that will be near Churchill Downs, according to WKU News.

Asher’s award was received by his wife Dee Asher. His wife said the impact of WKU was not forgotten. 

“His understanding that WKU gave him the confidence and the ability to direct his own life and it led him to a deep appreciation and gratitude for WKU,” Asher said. “This grew into a lifelong passion, one he was compelled to share with everyone.”

Dr. Jack Britt saw many successes during his time at WKU as well. Besides his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and biology, Britt was the president of his senior class and a co-founder of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.

Britt then went on to serve at three other universities where he took on leadership roles. At Michigan State, he joined their faculty and eventually served as the head of one of the world’s top dairy science departments. At North Carolina University, he served as a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, associate dean for Research and Graduate Programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and assistant director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service.

He then joined the University of Tennessee System as vice president for agriculture where he would preside over academic programs at the Knoxville campus, extension programs and agricultural and forest research stations across Tennessee. 

Since his retirement in 2007, Britt leads a team of experts from around the world who study what dairy could look like in the future.

Britt still contributes to WKU with the Jack and Frances Britt Fund for Innovation and Learning. He credits WKU for his success in his career. 

“Western gave a really well-rounded education and a background to have a successful career,” Britt said. “I’m so happy that I went to Western Kentucky University. I am proud to be a graduate of Western Kentucky University.”

Travis Hudson, coach of the WKU Volleyball Program, earned his bachelor’s degree at WKU in business management with a marketing emphasis while balancing two jobs. His goal was to become the first person in his family to graduate college.

While in college in the early 1990’s, Hudson volunteered his time to the volleyball team. This was the start of his journey to becoming a coach for the volleyball program. 

He served as an assistant coach for three years and was interim head coach on two occasions. Hudson was then named head coach in 1995 at the age of 24, making him the nation’s youngest head coach at the time.

The Lady Toppers have also earned 10 Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships and five conference tournament championships. 

Most recently, in 2018, Hudson and the Lady Toppers posted their 19th straight 20-win season, and Hudson earned his 600th win as head coach. According to WKU News, in 2019 the team made history again by reaching the 30-win mark for the eighth time in 10 seasons and earning the No. 15 national seed. The program would then go on to close the season with a  32-2 record to secure the team’s best-ever season winning percentage of .941.

Along with bringing  the WKU volleyball national recognition and winning streaks, he has encouraged the team academically, keeping a 100% graduation rate in his tenure and earning numerous academic awards.

Caboni mentioned that Hudson doesn’t just care about the team succeeding but is also known for going out of his way to help his players. 

“Two years ago, when a former player was battling leukemia, he made a personal commitment to pay the tuition of any WKU student who matched her bone marrow and went through the donation process,” Caboni said. “A remarkable example of a remarkable man.”

During his speech, Hudson gave thanks to family as well as the coaches and players he has encountered during his career.

He said he would like to be an inspiration for all students. He has been able to experience watching student athletes as well as his own personal experience of going through the hill as a student.

 “I hope I can be an inspiration to every student who ever walks this campus for the first time,” Hudson said. “No matter what your background is, no matter where you come from, no matter how much money you have. None of that matters.”

Gabrielle Bunton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellebunton.

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.