Folk Singer and Alumnus to get honor

Josh Coffman

It’s hard to imagine a folk musician as a doctor. But on May 10 that will be the case.

Folk musician Eddie Pennington will be honored with Raymond B. Preston by Western during commencement on May 10. Both will receive honorary doctorates from the school.

Provost Barbara Burch, who is the head of the selection committee, spoke highly of the two recipients.

“I think they’re just superb,” she said. “They’re extraordinary people. We’re so proud we’re having them come.”

Eddie Pennington

Pennington is a nationally recognized folk artist from Princeton. Thumbpicking, the style of music he plays, originated near his Muhlenberg County home. He twice won national contests in the 1980s. His guitar playing is regularly featured at concerts and festivals held at Western.

“I’ve received national awards before,” Pennington said. “But the ones you receive from home are always closer to the heart.”

Folk studies professor Erika Brady nominated Pennington for the award.

“Eddie’s brought national and international attention to western Kentucky,” she said. “He’s maintained a warm and helpful relationship with the university. He’s been a tremendous asset to our folk studies program.”

Enrolled as an undergraduate in 1975, Pennington had to withdraw for financial reasons. He said he looks forward to returning.

“I look forward to seeing some friends,” Pennington said. “Western is like home for me; it’s always nice to go home.”

His daughter, Mary, is currently a freshman at Western. She said she’s proud of her dad.

“He’s so excited, and I’m excited for him,” she said. “I think it’s neat they want to give it to him. I’m proud of him.”

Brady said she found a bit of irony in Pennington’s story to date.

“He came here wanting to be a doctor,” she said. “I think it’s fitting that he shall finally achieve that – maybe not the way he expected, but the life of a musician is full of surprises.”

Raymond B. Preston

Preston, an alumnus, is best known by students for the health and activities center named in his honor. The intramural sports complex is named after his wife, Hattie, whom he met while attending Western.

Western is honoring Preston for his dedication to the school and for his public service.

“I’m very proud of Western as an institution – very proud of graduating from there,” Preston said. “It’s always a pleasure getting back.”

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