Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

February 28, 2013

OUR VIEW: Don’t drop ball on future of Glasgow

Staff report
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — A little more than two weeks ago, Robert A. Lessenberry stood before a crowd gathered on the hill atop which stands Western Kentucky University's Glasgow campus. He explained how his dream had always been to have a location for higher learning in Glasgow and how he had pressured state leaders to commit to his vision.

In the late 1960s when Barren Countian Louis B. Nunn was elected governor, Lessenberry explained how he approached Nunn about whether he would support a college campus in Glasgow. Nunn was non committal. Year's later, Nunn realized he should have bought into Lessenberry's dream.

Lessenberry, a man who had served as mayor and on the city council, a prominent businessman who married the daughter of the most recognized doctor, C.C. Howard, never gave up on the idea. When the stars finally aligned and enough people pushed with enough force to cause a shift in momentum, he was there to help grease the wheels for the rise of a Western Kentucky University satellite program in his beloved city of Glasgow.

As has been the case so many times in his life, Robert A. Lessenberry pushed on and pushed others to get behind the idea that WKU-Glasgow could have a home of its own. That home was found inside the Liberty Street campus of Glasgow Elementary School. That happened in 1988. From there, it took more than a decade for WKU-G to get a home built from the ground up on land near Barren County High School, which the late Dr. Juanita Bayless called their “Field of Dreams.”

The founding of a WKU campus in Glasgow met some local resistance from doubters and naysayers and significant statewide opposition from those who expressed the idea the Hilltoppers were getting too big for their britches. (Good thing they did, because the educational fortunes have grown stronger for it in southcentral Kentucky.)

The ribbon cutting for the Liberty Street campus was Feb. 7, 1988, which was why Lessenberry was standing there Feb. 7, 2013. He, along with Dr. Sally Ray, present campus director, WKU president Dr. Gary Ransdell, and Dr. Elmer Gray, dean emeritus, regional campuses, told the story of where WKU-G came from, the effort to get it to where it is today, in its 25th year, and where it can be 25 years from now.

Ransdell has taken up the vision for higher education in Glasgow and Barren County. His dream, which he has pushed so hard to make a reality, is for there to be a second building on the hill at WKU-G.

He has expressed the need for partnerships between the community, the university and public entities. That is what happened in 1988 and it's what must happen now.

Basically, any public official who is not in favor of finding a path to expand the WKU-Glasgow campus has no business in public office. Our community needs a light house within which education can be the lamp.

According to the 2010 Census, 26 percent of the population over 25-years-old in our community does not have a high school diploma, 24 percent lives below the poverty level and only 18 percent has a college degree. Those numbers must be changed in the coming decades and the change will have to come through better training and education.

If we want to attract better-paying, higher-skill level, more technical jobs, we must provide a workforce employers need. That will happen through expansion of the WKU-Glasgow campus.

Let's not look back 25 years from now and be left with what if? Let's carry forward the vision of Robert A. Lessenberry and Dr. Gary Ransdell.