WKU alum, Churchill Downs vice president dies at 62

Photo of John Asher.

Nicole Ziege

John Asher, a longtime spokesperson for Churchill Downs as vice president of racing communications, died Monday morning of an apparent heart attack while vacationing with his family in Florida. He was 62 years old.

Tim Asher, John’s brother, said he received a call with the news of John’s death from John’s wife, Dee Asher. He said John told Dee he did not feel well and he should go to the hospital. Dee called for an ambulance, and John died on the way to the hospital.

Tim said John did not experience issues with his heart prior to his heart attack, and he did not believe the news when he received the call.

“No one saw this coming,” Tim said.

Tim described his brother as someone who enjoyed listening to music and reading the news. One of his passions, in particular, was for WKU.

“He was always proud to be a Hilltopper,” Tim Asher said. “He was a fantastic guy, and everyone loved him.”

Asher was the vice president of racing communications at Churchill Downs, joining the racetrack that is home to the Kentucky Derby in 1997. Asher was an award-winning journalist and publicist for the Thoroughbred racing industry for more than 30 years, according to Churchill Downs.

Asher’s national awards included the National Headliner Award and Scripps-Howard Award, and he won regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Kentucky Broadcasters Association, according to Churchill Downs.

Asher graduated from WKU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1990 and served as a former president for WKU’s National Alumni Board of Directors.

John Paul Blair, WKU’s interim vice president for philanthropy and alumni engagement, said that Asher served WKU for many years in the greater Louisville alumni chapter. From the chapter, he received the “Summit Award,” which Blair said is one of the highest awards for volunteer work.

“He was always the perfect embodiment of the WKU spirit,” Blair said.

Tom Eblen, a columnist at the Lexington Herald-Leader, knew Asher through his work at Churchill Downs and often saw him at the Kentucky Derby. He described Asher as being friendly and professional.

“He was very proud of Western and I think he realized how much Western helped him in his career,” Eblen said.

Memorial service details for John Asher have not yet been decided.

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.