The journey began in 2011 with West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s (WKCTC) national recognition by the Aspen Institute as one of the top community colleges in the nation. WKCTC, one of the most recognized colleges in the history of the Aspen Prize, commemorated its decade of accomplishments with a celebration in the college’s Clemens Fine Arts Center on April 11.
More than 140 students, faculty, staff and community supporters joined WKCTC President Anton Reece, WKCTC President Emeritus Dr. Barbara Veazey, WKCTC Board of Directors Chair Charles Murphy, Paducah Junior College Foundation (PJC) Chair Chris Black, Paducah Mayor George Bray, McCracken County Judge Executive Craig Clymer and WKCTC Student Government Association Vice President Amanda Redfern for the celebration.
“Thank you so much to all of you for being here for such an important opportunity and celebration,” Dr. Reece said in his opening comments. He shared that the initial plan was to celebrate in 2021, but the event was rescheduled due to the pandemic.
During her comments, Dr. Veazey began by reflecting on the years leading up to the college’s first Aspen Prize recognition. “I came across a quote from me, written years ago, and it best describes, to me, the reason why the college has had such success,” said Dr. Veazey. “It read, ‘I am inspired each day by the brightest, most forward-thinking group of individuals. Our faculty and staff, the West Kentucky Community and Technical College Board of Directors, the Paducah Junior College Foundation and the community have been the bedrock of support for education.'”
Dr. Reece thanked her for laying the foundation for Aspen. “Certainly, as I picked up the reins in 2016, having that great foundation obviously was very pivotal, through my lens of knowing the Aspen formula,” he said. Adding his thoughts from his trip to Washington D.C. for the Aspen Prize Awards in 2017, Dr. Reece said, “You get to sit with the nine other colleagues from the top colleges, and in many ways, it’s like a scorecardyou are sitting with schools from California, Texas, Florida – the small ones starting at 20-30,000 (students), and it’s really spectacular that as a small rural college, that you are in that important conversation and selection process.” He added, “WKCTC chose not to compete for the Aspen Prize in 2022-23 due to preparing for our fifth-year SACSCOC accreditation report in 2023.”
Speakers also thanked the WKCTC students for the Aspen recognition. “Without you, there wouldn’t be a celebration today. You are why we do what we do at WKCTC,” said Charles Murphy. “I never get tired of singing the college’s praises for the excellent work they do in support of the education of our students,” he added about the college faculty, staff and administrators.
Chris Black also acknowledged the work of everyone who helped “move this college forward to a recognition that resonates across the countryI’m honored to be the chairman of the Paducah Junior College Foundation and also to be a part of a college that has received so much recognition for its great work over the past 10 years by the Aspen Institute.” he said.
WKCTC is the alma mater of Judge Craig Clymer, who said the college “is an outstanding example of the high level of educational performance we aspire to in McCracken County. Tried, tested, and consistently proven excellence.”
Mayor George Bray also shared about WKCTC’s commitment to excellence. “From my perspective as Paducah’s mayor, I see WKCTC as one of the primary components in the success of Paducah as a whole, he said. “I personally aspire for the City of Paducah to follow in the footsteps of WKCTC as a leader in diversity and inclusion. There are simply too many contributions to list here where this college impacts our community.”
WKCTC was an Aspen Prize Finalist with Distinction, winning $100,000 in 2011, 2015 and 2021, and was a top ten finalist in 2013 and 2017 – the only community college in the nation to be recognized five times, and the only one to be a three-time Finalist with Distinction.
“We didn’t win the Top Prize of #1, but the journey made us stronger,” said Dr. Veazey.
April 12, 2022
By Tammy Thompson