VP for Alumni Relations retiring

Kathryn Costello mug


After five years at WKU, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Kathryn Costello is retiring.

“There is nothing more worthwhile to work on behalf of than higher education,” she said. “It’s been a great pleasure for me having ended up in higher education, even though I didn’t necessarily plan to end up here my whole career.”

Originally from Jasper, Georgia, Costello’s career spans nearly 40 years of work in philanthropy, and she’s worked in both private and public institutions.

Costello will retain a role with the university as a special advisor, helping President Gary Ransdell in choosing a successor. She will retain her current full salary through December 31, 2015, according to memos from Ransdell’s office. She also serves as president of the WKU Foundation and will help the Foundation in finding the right person to fill her spot. 

“They’ll look for someone they think can serve the university best and help them for the next decade with what they want to do,” she said.

Costello worked with Ransdell at Southern Methodist University from 1982 to 1986 in Dallas, Texas. She said those years working with Ransdell played a role in her coming to WKU. 

“It’s a great experience working with such a close friend at an institution that so many good things have happened under his leadership,” she said.

Ransdell said he appreciates Costello’s professionalism and poise.

“What I value most is her knowledge of the profession and what is required,” he said. “Fundraising is part art and part science. She knows the art and understands the structures and science that fundraising requires. Both of those are crucial in successful fundraising.” 

In 2012, that “fundraising science” allowed Costello to lead the university to a $202 million campaign called the New Spirit of the Century. Collectively, Costello has brought in or supervised over $1 billion in donations to universities, according to her university page. 

“It was fun to finish something that the university had been engaged in, and both campaigns went over goal,” she said. “And it’s fun to celebrate that.”

Ransdell said Costello’s personality brought just as much as her business prowess. 

“She’s got a great sense of humor,” he said. “She’s a first-class woman, sophisticated, who understands how the world works, and I think she has brought value to WKU during the last several years since coming here.”

Costello started seriously considering retirement about a year ago, she said. 

“I think that a number of circumstances in my life came together and this was the time,” she said. “I’ve had some health issues which I have to put into consideration, and I’ve got things I want to do which I haven’t had the chance to do. It gives me a chance to chart a different course.”

For the administrator, a “different course” includes time for tai chi and other meditative exercises, traveling and more time with family, particularly her two sons. 

However, retirement isn’t without its difficulties, she said. 

“The hardest part is that I’ve worked my whole life, so it’s really strange to think about not having a particular thing to do, a job to go to— a career engagement,” she said. 

However, the “opposite side of the coin” provides a chance to rest, Costello said. 

“For the first time ever in my adult life, I can get up in the morning and say ‘what do I want to do today’ and ‘how would I like to spend this time,’” she said.