Former WKU president Zacharias dies

Taylor Harrison

Donald Zacharias, WKU’s sixth president, died today.

President Gary Ransdell said he had been suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder for the past several years.

Ransdell and Zacharias, who served as president from 1979 to 1985, had a close personal relationship while they worked together at WKU, and kept in touch afterward as well.

“He really became my mentor professionally,” he said. “He was the one individual with whom I talked prior to every professional move I made from 1981 on. And sought his advice and trusted his advice.”

Ransdell said they kept in touch even when he was at Southern Methodist University and Clemson University and Zacharias was president of Mississippi State.

He also said Zacharias made an impact at WKU.

“I would say Don Zacharias was the first president that began to take our sights beyond a regional university,” he said. “He was the first president that began to think more nationally and began to talk about the doctoral programs and the need for WKU to reach beyond its regional history.”

Ransdell said he thinks Zacharias enjoyed the community in Bowling Green.

Their friendship continued throughout the years, and they made sure to keep in touch by talking over the phone two or three times a year.

“He was president here when I was young in my career, but he took a personal interest in me and we just became close, personal friends,” he said.