Ransdell talked past, present and future in final convocation speech

Tommy Sullivan

In his final convocation address on Friday, retiring President Gary Ransdell reminisced about his two-decade term, presented WKU’s current challenges and expressed hope for his remaining 10 months.

In the address, Ransdell said he took pride in knowing he did the best he could and that he never had his eye on another job. The presidency at WKU was his dream career.

The WKU Board of Regents saw potential in WKU in 1997 but was dissatisfied with the complacent administration before Ransdell took office, Ransdell said. They brought him in to rebuild campus and create a culture of philanthropic behavior, two goals he believed he accomplished through capital giving campaigns.


Ransdell acknowledged some within the WKU community disagreed with the decisions he’s made but hopes no one questioned his loyalty and passion for WKU.

“I think Ransdell has great plans even after he leaves, but especially for his last year,” Chelsea Murray, a Louisville junior who worked the convocation as a spirit master, said. She called the speech both bittersweet and forward-looking.

In her year and a half as a spirit master, she said she has gotten to know Ransdell and has seen his deep passion for WKU.

Ransdell also emotionally thanked his wife, Julie. After joking about their dogs, he noted her dedicated and uncompensated work at events through the years and praised her as a mother and grandmother. She received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Ransdell outlined the challenges he spoke about at the same event last year and relayed WKU’s progress in his three priorities of the previous academic year: enrollment, state funding, and faculty and staff compensation.

Ransdell said there are more incoming freshmen this year compared to last, but losses in retention may decrease overall enrollment, Ransdell said. According to Ransdell, a one percent increase in retention would increase revenue by $3 million.

“There are plenty of altruistic and pragmatic incentives to help our students,” Ransdell said.

He expressed uncertainty about future money WKU will receive from the state government, but he is pleased with how WKU responded to low levels of state funding.

“I am, however, proud of our campus community and the manner in which we were able to cut more than $6 million from our budget, while protecting salaries and all but a handful of campus jobs,” he said.

In regards to faculty and staff compensation, Ransdell highlighted the “modest amount of money” invested into employee benefits programs. Faculty and staff received a one percent raise on July 1 and will receive another one percent raise on Jan. 1, 2017. A third one percent raise will follow on July 1, 2017.

In the next 10 months, Ransdell said his goal is to leverage his political power as chair of the performance funding workgroup to influence state statutes for higher education funding in favor of WKU. He will also negotiate a new contract for campus dining, as Aramark’s will expire, and he plans to begin the process of building and renovating residence halls, which will include tearing down and replacing Bemis-Lawrence and Barnes-Campbell with another hall.

Ransdell also announced his support for the plan to expand a partnership between the University of Kentucky’s School of Medicine and with The Medical Center of Bowling Green. He said he’s discussed Gatton Academy and Honors College students receiving early acceptance to the medicine school.

Reporter Tommy Sullivan can be reached at (270) 745-6288 or [email protected].