Osborne ends 46 year era with WKU

Louisville native and WKU alumnus John Osborne is the vice president of Campus Services and Facilities at WKU. After 46 years of affiliation with the university, Osborne will retire at the end of the semester. “So it’s been our entire life for a long time but it’s time to turn the page and move to the next chapter,” Osborne said. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Trey Crumbie

When John Osborne first came to WKU, he wasn’t fully prepared to be a student.  

Osborne, vice president of Campus Services and Facilities, visited WKU as a high school senior from Louisville in the spring of 1968 with his best friend, Billy Burton. Burton was offered a scholarship to play basketball at WKU and Osborne, a basketball player also, decided to go with him. 

Osborne himself was not offered a scholarship, but was told by John Oldham, the basketball coach at the time, he could try out for the team as a walk-on. 

But basketball wasn’t the  only reason why he wanted to go to WKU.

“…I didn’t want to get drafted,” Osborne said. “Vietnam was going on in 1968 in a big way and the country was in enormous turmoil.” 

Osborne tried out and made the freshman team, but his low grades rendered him ineligible to play. 

“It was a case of I couldn’t do it all,” he said. “I was underprepared to be a student.”

Osborne said he didn’t prioritize academics in high school, develop study skills or time management skills. Osborne said his roommate helped him get back on track.

“I needed a roommate who would help me manage my time and study instead of party and he was a perfect match for me,” Osborne said.

Osborne didn’t initially declare a major, but settled on physical education and psychology. Osborne said his career ambition was to move back to Louisville and coach basketball. 

After graduating in May of 1972, Osborne married and moved to Louisville. However his stay in Louisville only lasted about three months after he found out that he did not have a job after the belief that he would. Osborne and his wife moved back to Bowling Green shortly after. During this time, Osborne’s wife went to WKU to finish her undergraduate degree in elementary education, while Osborne enrolled in graduate school.

While he was a graduate student, Osborne worked two jobs for a year until the dean of students, Charles Keown, offered him a job as the hall director at Keen Hall. Osborne was initially hired as assistant hall director, but was promoted a month later due to a job turnover.

“So, I was made director of a residence hall and I had never even been an RA,” Osborne said. “But the dean and I were friends, and he had faith and insight into me and he said, ‘I want you on my team.’”

Osborne said the dean also hired him because the entire football team lived in Keen and the dean thought Osborne’s athletic background would help him relate to the students and make the building run smoothly.

During two of his three years as hall director, the football team went the NCAA Division II Football championship game.

“So, it was a really exciting place to be,” Osborne said. 

As the years passed, Osborne held various positions, including the director of Housing in 1981, administrator for Business Services in 1993 and his current position, which he assumed in 2008. 

Osborne said he has made many decisions in his roles based on what his daughters were telling him when they were students at WKU. Even now, Osborne will occasionally venture out of his office and talk to students.

“More than once, I have sat down in the last month and chatted with a student just randomly out on campus and enjoyed doing that,” he said.

Osborne, who stands at 6′ 3″, said he gets called intimidating due to his businesslike persona, but works on making sure that isn’t the case.

“It’s not intentional, that’s for sure,” Osborne said.

Robbin Taylor, vice president for Public Affairs, said in an email she was at first intimidated by Osborne when she first met him. One day during a meeting, Taylor noticed that Osborne seemed “more gruff than usual” and walked up to him and said, “Well, hello Sunshine.”

Taylor said Osborne’s frown was replaced by a smile.

“We’ve been friends ever since and I think we have a great mutual respect as well,” Taylor said in the email.

Osborne, who announced his retirement last month, said he is most proud of working with President Gary Ransdell and of the physical change WKU has undergone.

“I get the greatest sense of pride and pleasure out of the physical transformation,” he said.

Ransdell congratulated Osborne after he announced his retirement.

“John Osborne’s retirement is significant in the life of this university,” Ransdell said. “He’s been a university official for over 40 years and has had a great record of success and leadership. That’s pretty consequential in the life of this university to lose someone who has devoted that long a career and a growing list of capacities. He’s gone from being a hall director to a vice president in his WKU career. He’s left quite a significant impact on WKU.”

Osborne in his free time plays golf, goes camping and does other activities outdoors. Osborne said during the winter, those activities aren’t available and that is why he plans to spend his winters in Florida. 

Osborne, who turns 65 in May, said he is retiring because he feels satisfied with what’s he accomplished and wants to while he is in good health.

“There just comes a time when you’re ready,” Osborne said.

Osborne will retire in May, but will be back to see DSU reopen. 

Osborne said he wants his legacy to be that he worked with passion.

“I would like to think that people would think that John really was dedicated, loyal, hardworking and was always interested in students,” he said.