COMMENTARY: Faces may change but the spirit of WKU remains

M. Blake Harrison

Wow. Did those three years go by quickly or what? 

Before I know it, I’ll be reporting to Diddle Arena to shake a few hands, and life as an undergraduate will be over.

 I was fortunate to earn my bachelor’s degree in three years, so I haven’t had the chance to take random courses for fun, hear as many speakers or attend as many ballgames as the average undergraduate. 

I missed Spike Lee. Heck, I missed Courtney Lee. 

Instead of being characterized by our Sweet 16 appearance or life as a Student Publications employee based in Garrett, my time on the Hill has been marked by change. 

Since fall 2009, there have been 12 changes to President Gary Ransdell’s administrative council and/or new faces at the helm of athletics teams. TWELVE. 

From Dr. Gordon Baylis, Vice President for Research, to Ron Burchett of women’s golf, adjustments across the board have defined the past three years or so. The reason I point that out is because with change often comes confusion or instability. 

But not at WKU. 

“We’ve been able to bring in some terrific talent, some new energy, some new ideas, some innovation,” Dr. Ransdell said.

He said he can’t recall a period of such transition in his time on the Hill, which includes about 30 years as a student and employee.  

“I’m in it for the long term, so I don’t mind replacing some people because it gives you an opportunity to breathe in some new energy and new innovation into the institution,” he said.

Yes, there are unfamiliar faces around these days, but it’s people like President Ransdell and “Mr. Western,” Lee Robertson, who ensure the spirit of the university stays intact. 

Robertson was a student-athlete under “Mr. Diddle,” as he calls him, and has held various positions at WKU since 1960. He’s been away from the Hill a total of 10 years since 1947. 

Mr. Western said he understands the dynamics of the business. 

“We’ve hired professionals — qualified experts in their field,” he said. “We’ve had people so good that somebody else wanted them. You’d rather have it that way than have somebody nobody else wanted.” 

I challenge you to consider what makes this university great. 

It’s not a guest speaker, an athletics victory or any one employee. 

It’s the pride and spirit of Hilltoppers past and present. And it’s not going away. 

Mr. Western said it best. 

“We’ve got some things to offer here that people enjoy and love and respect and I think that’ll keep us around. We’re here to stay. We’re here to weather the storm, and we’ll come out winners.”

M. Blake Harrison

Paducah, Junior

This commentary doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the university.