Associate VP of Research set to retire

Blaine Ferrell, the associate vice president of research, is retiring from his position at WKU. Ferrell said he wants to continue his work on ornithology, the study of birds. “I would like to write a book about birds in layman’s terms so people can learn what birds do for us,” Ferrell said. Matt Lunsford/HERALD.

Tommy Sullivan

Blaine Ferrell is retiring for good.

The former dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering has been in transitional retirement since 2012, serving as the associate vice president of the Office of Research.

In this role, Ferrell helped faculty and students, worked with manufacturers through the Advantage Kentucky Alliance, wrote a $500,000 grant and showcased WKU’s students.

Ferrell was also a chairman for Kentucky’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, a statewide committee that seeks to improve and coordinate research.

Removing obstacles for students to pursue their goals and dreams was rewarding, Ferrell said. He’s proud he gathered people as a team to work together and that the faculty supported what he did.

One of his biggest struggles has been adjusting to Kentucky’s diminishing resources for education, Ferrell said.

Ferrell said he’s been working with “a bunch of good people” who have the students’ best interests at heart.

Ogden Dean Cheryl Stevens said Ferrell’s position has been restructured, so it’s not clear who will replace him.

There is a new position, Stevens said, of interim associate vice president for research and creative activity in Academic Affairs. The search to fill it will begin in 2016.

Ferrell continued to make exceptional contributions to WKU even after entering into transitional retirement, said Stevens.

Ferrell supported the growth of research infrastructure and opportunities for faculty and students to engage in meaningful applied research.

“He always considered the best interests of the students,” said Stevens. “He will be missed.”

Ferrell said he likes to travel and is excited to have more time to do so.

“It’s going to be kind of fun,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell also hopes to write a book about the birds of Kentucky. As a scientist, he’s interested in all the facts, but he wants the average person to find a scientific interest in birds.

Birds, Ferrel said, are easier to view than other animals due to their diurnal nature. This makes them more accessible to the average observer and opens the door to discuss their feeding habits, importance to forests and the ecosystem and need for protection.

Ferrell said he’s also been learning about photojournalism and looks to take photos of bird species for his project.

Ferrell said he will continue to serve on various boards but is at a point in his life when he recognizes he is not as young as he used to be. Ferrell said he wants to make the most of his life now that work won’t stop him.

“I want to stop putting my life off,” Ferrell said.