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Former general counsel Deborah Wilkins dies at 63

Carrie Pratt
Deborah Wilkins passed away on July 17th, 2023. Wilkins was first appointed to be general counsel for the Western Kentucky University in 1994.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Former WKU general counsel and Title IX coordinator Deborah Wilkins died today at the age of 63.

Wilkins was appointed as general counsel for the university in 1994 by former WKU president Thomas Meredith. This began her 26 year stint as WKU’s top lawyer.

In May 2020, Wilkins was removed from this position and named the interim Title XI coordinator and senior advisor to the president by WKU president Timothy Caboni. She was fired in November 2021.

During her time at the university, Wilkins played a role in the WKU partnership with Med Center Health to build the nursing health science center. She also aided in the creation of tax increment financing agreements for WKU and the WKU Student Life Foundation.

In April 2022, Wilkins sued WKU on claims of discrimination and fraud. Gregg Hovious, WKU’s outside counsel from Louisville law firm Middleton-Reutlinger, stated in April 2022 the university intended to “vigorously defend against Ms. Wilkins baseless claims.” A formal response from WKU was filed in May 2022.

The case was dismissed in April this year, with Wilkins’ attorney stating they decided it was best to dismiss. Wilkins told friends that her health problems prompted her to drop the lawsuit. 

Wilkins also was a driving force behind WKU’s lawsuit against the College Heights Herald, filed in 2017 to keep records secret from WKU investigations of sexual misconduct allegations by students against faculty and staff members. While most of the records were eventually released as a result of a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in a similar case, the Herald is still contending that WKU deleted more information from the released records than state and federal laws allow. The case remains in Warren County Circuit Court.

Wilkins is survived by her brother, sister, daughter, two grandsons and other extended family members. Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 19 at the J.C. Kirby & Son Lovers Lane Chapel, with the funeral service to follow.

Editor-in-chief Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected].

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