Three to join Hall of Distinguished Alumni


A World War II flying ace, a renowned sculptor, and the first African-American student to attend WKU will be inducted into the WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni this weekend.

The 2012 inductees will be formally added to HODA Friday at a luncheon celebrating their successes in the Sloan Convention Center at 11:30 a.m.

Donald Smith, assistant vice president for the WKU Alumni Association, said he’s excited to hear “three unique stories from three different times in history.”

“This is the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus,” he said. “There’s great pride in knowing they are one of the select few inducted for this honor.”

Brigadier General Victor Strahm, a 1915 graduate from Western Kentucky State Normal School, is a posthumous induction to the alumni group.

Strahm, who was a principal planner of air support for the D-Day landings in Normandy, died on May 11, 1957, according to his biography on the alumni website.

Strahm received numerous awards for his service, including the U.S. Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster.

Inductee sculptor Russell Faxon, who specializes in bronze work, currently lives in Bell Buckle, Tenn., and grew up in Bowling Green.

A 1973 graduate, Faxon currently has three of his works on the WKU campus – Robert Guthrie at Guthrie Bell Tower, Coach Diddle in front of Diddle Arena, and the Red Towel outside of Houchens – Smith Stadium, according to Faxon’s biography. Faxon’s work is displayed throughout the U.S., as well as internationally.

Margaret Munday, a 1960 graduate, was the first African-American undergraduate to attend classes at Western Kentucky State College. She transferred from Kentucky State after higher education institutions were desegregated in 1956.

After graduating, Munday became the first African-American teacher at Auburn High school, where she taught music. She retired from teaching in Logan County in 1995 after more than 30 years as a chorus and music teacher.

Smith said each year’s inductees are special, but this year’s inductees are particularly unique to the university.

“We’re inducting a renowned sculptor (Mr. Faxon) with work displayed on campus into the group,” he said.

“As the first African American student, Ms. Munday was really a pioneer of her time for what she did for civil rights on this university. No one was a pioneer quite like her…We think of WWII being the greatest generation, and the stories of WWI can be forgotten sometimes. Mr. Strahm’s story is one that I’m glad is being told.”

Tracy Morrison, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, is in her 10th year heading up the year-long process to find inductees for HODA. She said the events planned for the inductees are very special and really seeks to honor them.

Additional events planned for inductees include invitations to the Summit Dinner honoring volunteers on Thursday, where they will be a guest at president Gary Ransdell’s table. Each inductee will receive a smaller version of the plaque going in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni to take home for display. On game day Saturday, the inductees will be guests in Ransdell’s tent, and will also be called onto the field at halftime for special recognition, Morrison said.