Frequent Faces: Julie Ransdell holds WKU close to heart

Julie Ransdell, right, walks her two dogs, Tsavo, bottom and Spirit, back right, with her friend Ann Allen of Bowling Green on Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. The pair walk have been walking their dogs around the WKU campus every morning for the past 16 years. 

Jacob Parker

When Julie Ransdell first came to WKU as a freshman, she had no idea the role the university would play in her life.

“I think when you get to be my age, what has made you are all your experiences in life,” Ransdell said. “When I got here, I joined a sorority and became very involved in student life. That’s sort of what we do now, so maybe it never went away.”

Through her involvement in Chi Omega sorority, Ransdell would come to meet her future husband, WKU President Gary Ransdell, by going to a fraternity-sorority mixer.

“I didn’t like him at all at first,” she said. “He was a pledge, and I was dating an active, so I had no interest in him at all.” But he was a rather persistent young man and then his work ethic, his drive, really attracted me to him.”

After a first date spent walking around campus during the fall of 1971, the Ransdells have been together ever since.

“We got married senior year with no idea with what the future held, but it’s been a fun ride,” she said. “We’ve been married 40 years now.”

Over the years, the Ransdells have enjoyed doing an array of things together, including raising two sons, Patrick and Matthew, walking their dogs, reading, gardening and cooking.

“Gary’s the king of cinnamon rolls,” she said. “He makes them from scratch, and they’re to die for.”

However, Ransdell said her favorite activity is traveling around the world, especially on study abroad trips with students — something that the Ransdells try to do each year. 

“The students at WKU have amazing opportunities to do things. We like to do it with them,” she said. “Traveling the world is a life-changing event because you see how small the world is now through social media and things like that.”

Having traveled to several different countries, including France, Italy and the Galapogos Islands, Ransdell has a fair amount of flying miles under her belt. However, her favorite trip, a two-week stay in Kenya, is one that she counts as an influential experience. 

“We slept on the ground for two weeks in the bush, and it was a life-changing experience,” she said. “The poverty is so different than what we have… You want to do for those people, so we came back selling baskets through SIFE [Students In Free Enterprise].”

Ransdell plans to go back to Kenya one day but plans to still keep track of the places she is going in the meantime.

“We have a map that pinpoints every place we’ve been,” she said.

Closest to her heart is her family, Ransdell said, which includes her dogs Diddle, Spirit (of Western), and Tsavo.

“We have two boys, two grandchildren, one [of my sons] is getting married next year here on campus, at the Chandler [Memorial] Chapel,” she said. “Since I walk dogs every morning on campus, my dogs are extremely important to me — they’re actually family members.”

Since coming back to WKU 16 years ago, Ransdell said she feels she has come full circle.

“Coming back here is a passion. It’s not about anything other than we need to get [Western] as good as it can be,” she said, adding that Gary is always brainstorming ideas to improve. “Gary’s sort of the energizer bunny — there’s always another project in the background and there’s always a creative way about how to do it. WKU is a passion, and we will leave it better than we found it.”

All in all, Ransdell said she loves spending time with students and being so close to the campus that she loves.

“I wake up with a smile on my face because there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” she said. “There are no typical days. You don’t want them to be the same, you want them to be different. You want every day to be a surprise.”