Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University
Western Kentucky University (WKU)
Motto The Spirit makes the Master
Life more life
Established 1906
Type Public
Endowment $95.4 million[1]
President Dr. Gary A. Ransdell
Academic staff 1,109 (Fall 2009)[2]
Admin. staff 1,903 (Fall 2006)[2]
Students 20,712 (Fall 2009)[3]
Undergraduates 17,645 (Fall 2009)[2]
Postgraduates 3,067 (Fall 2009)[2]
Location Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA
Campus 200 acres (.81 km²)
Athletics 17 varsity teams
Colors Red and White          
Nickname Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers
Mascot Big Red
Affiliations Sun Belt Conference, Missouri Valley Conference
Website www.wku.edu

Western Kentucky University (WKU) is a public university in Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA. It was formally founded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1906, though its roots reach back a quarter-century earlier.

A statue of Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry, WKU's founder, stands at the top of The Hill, in front of Cherry Hall.

WKU has a student body of nearly 21,000 students. Its main campus, College Heights, is in the midst of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction and renovation. Since 1997, dormitories have been renovated, new academic and athletic buildings have been finished, with more construction under way. The university also has placed a premium on creating a parklike atmosphere, with parking lots on the interior of the 200-acre (0.81 km2) campus replaced with greenspace, trees and other landscaping known as Centennial Mall.

WKU sits atop the highest point in south-central Kentucky, a hill called College Heights with a commanding view of the Barren River valley. The campus flows from the top of College Heights, also known as The Hill, down its north, south and west faces.

The university's mottos are "The Spirit Makes the Master" and "Life, More Life!"—both phrases coined by WKU's founder, Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry.

WKU is in the midst of its second major capital campaign, the $200 million New Century of Spirit, which ends in 2012. It follows the university's first campaign, Investing in the Spirit, which had a goal of $75 million but raised more than $100 million.

Besides the main campus at College Heights, WKU operates a satellite campus in Bowling Green and regional campuses in Glasgow, Elizabethtown/Fort Knox and in Owensboro with its Western Kentucky University-Owensboro campus.



The roots of Western Kentucky University go back to 1875 with the founding of the privately owned Glasgow Normal School in Glasgow, Kentucky. This institution moved to Bowling Green in 1884 and became the Southern Normal School and Business College. The student body and building were transferred to the Western Kentucky State Normal School, when it was created by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly in 1906. The owner of the Southern Normal School, Henry Hardin Cherry, became the first president of the new school. Classes began on January 22, 1907. The school moved to its present location in 1911 on property that had been purchased in 1909 when the Pleasant J. Potter College closed.

The Spirit Makes the Master, WKU's motto, is on the pylon at the entrance to the university.

In 1922, the school was authorized by the state to grant four-year degrees and was renamed as Western Kentucky State Normal School and Teachers College.[4] The first four-year degrees were awarded in 1924. In 1927, the school merged with Ogden College, which occupied an adjacent campus. The name changed again in 1930 to Western Kentucky State Teachers College. The school was authorized to offer the Master of Arts degree in 1931. Another name change took place in 1948, when the school became simply Western Kentucky State College.

WKSC merged with the Bowling Green College of Commerce, formerly the Bowling Green Business University, in 1963. Bowling Green Business University had originally been a part of the Southern Normal School and had been sold off by Henry Hardin Cherry when Southern Normal School was transferred to the state. The structure of the institution changed at this time, dividing into separate colleges. Bowling Green College of Commerce maintained its identity in this way. The Graduate School also became a constituent college. In 1965, three additional colleges were created. In 1966, Western Kentucky State College became Western Kentucky University.

Lowell H. Harrison, professor emeritus, serves as the official university historian.


Pearce-Ford Tower, the largest dormitory at Western Kentucky University

WKU is divided into six undergraduate colleges:

  • The Bowling Green Community College of Western Kentucky University
  • The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
  • The Gordon Ford College of Business
  • Ogden College of Science And Engineering
  • Potter College of Arts and Letters
  • University College
  • College of Health and Human Services

An academic range of eighty majors and seventy minors are offered, toward the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Engineering
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts
  • Bachelor of General Studies
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Bachelor of Music

WKU also offers seventeen associate degree programs and five certificate programs.

The Graduate School is now the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, which offers:

  • Master of Arts
  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Master of Public Health
Mass Media and Technology Hall, home to WKU's School of Journalism and Broadcasting, a nationally prominent program routinely ranked among the best undergraduate journalism schools in the nation.

WKU's Journalism[5] and Photojournalism[6] programs rank among the best in the country. The photojournalism department has won numerous awards. As of 2007, more than 25 alumni of WKU's photo and print journalism programs have been honored with the Pulitzer Prize.[7] The school's twice-weekly newspaper, the College Heights Herald, regularly wins awards placing it among the top college newspapers in the nation, and even competes against commercial newspapers in the state's Associated Press competition.[citation needed]

Western Kentucky University’s forensics (speech and debate) team is consistently ranked as one of the best teams in the country. The team has won the American Forensic Association (AFA) and National Forensic Association (NFA)[8] national championships multiple times since 2003. It has also won the International Forensic Association’s (IFA) international championship every year it has attended. The team remains the only team in the nation ever to win the AFA, NFA, IFA, and NFA debate championship in the same year, a feat it has accomplished multiple times. The team hosts several tournaments for junior high and senior high students each fall, as well as a large speech and debate summer camp each July.

WKU is also home to the largest American master's degree program in folklore; it is contained within the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology[citation needed]. It is unique among American folklore programs for its public folklore program and is one of the few schools in Kentucky to offer a focus in historic preservation.

In the fall of 2009, WKU will begin its bachelor's degree program in popular culture studies, being only the second university in America to offer such a program (the other being Bowling Green State University).

Starting in the fall of 2009, an independent Doctor of Education (EdD) program in educational leadership will be offered at WKU.

View from the middle of the campus.

In the rankings of "America's Best Colleges 2009," WKU is No. 10 among public master's universities in the South, up from No. 12 in the 2008 rankings. According to Forbes 2009 rankings of America's top 600 colleges, Western Kentucky University is ranked No. 434, making it the second highest ranked public college in the state of Kentucky.

Extended campuses are operated in Glasgow, Elizabethtown/Fort Knox and Owensboro.

Western Kentucky University offers Distance Learning Degrees:[1]

Honors College

The WKU Honors College became the first and only Honors College in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on July 1, 2007. The Honors College serves over 1,000 active Honors students with the 2009 incoming freshman class ACT/SAT average ranking among the top 6% in the nation.[9]

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky

The Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky opened in the Fall of 2007. The project is based on the University of North Texas's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. The school accepts 60 juniors each year. As an incoming junior, students are given the opportunity to earn at least 60 college credit hours during their stint at the school. The Gatton Academy has been named as one of Newsweek's "public elite" American high schools and in 2011 was named among Newsweek's Top 5 High Schools.[10]


Western Kentucky University red towel logo

The men's athletic teams are known as the Hilltoppers and the women's teams as the Lady Toppers. Their mascot is known as Big Red. The mascot itself has become one of the most popular characters in collegiate sports, even appearing in a series of ESPN promotions. In most sports, WKU has been a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 1982. From 1948 to 1982, it was a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Big Red, Western Kentucky University sports mascot

The men's basketball program, led by former Hilltopper and Texas assistant Ken McDonald, has the 14th most victories in the history of the NCAA. The school has been to the NCAA Tournament 21 times; in addition, it has made one appearance in the NCAA Final Four, in 1971. WKU also made three appearances in the NIT Final Four while it was the premier post-season tournament. It is extremely competitive in the Sun Belt Conference, usually finishing near the top of the conference and regularly competing for the conference championship. In fact, in Street & Smith's publications, "100 Greatest Programs", WKU ranked #31. WKU also has the 3rd most conference titles in NCAA history with 41 trailing only the University of Kentucky and Kansas University, 6th in NCAA history with 40 twenty win seasons, 8th in NCAA history in winning percentage at 67.2%, and recorded the first 30 win season in NCAA history in the 1937-1938 season with a record of 30-3.

The men's basketball team defeated Middle Tennessee State in the 2008 Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game to get a bid into the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Hilltoppers won their first-round contest against Drake University on a last-second three-pointer, and won their second round game against the University of San Diego, before losing by 10 points against UCLA in the Sweet 16. It was the Toppers' third appearance in the Sweet 16 but their first since 1993. In 2009, the men's basketball team defeated the University of Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the second round game against Gonzaga. Unfortunately, the Toppers were beaten by a last second shot, failing to advance to their second straight Sweet 16.

The women's basketball team, coached by former player Mary Taylor Cowles, is a storied program with a bright future ahead. The team has made three NCAA Final Four appearances. In 1992, coach Paul Sanderford's Lady Toppers advanced to the national championship game before bowing out to Stanford. The Lady Toppers are known for their post-season prowess, appearing in a post-season tournament in 19 of the last 20 seasons. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2008.

The Hilltopper football team belonged to what was then known as the Gateway Football Conference until 2006. In 2002, WKU won the NCAA Division I FCS National Football championship. In 2006, the school voted to move the team to the Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly I-A). After two years of provisional status, they began to compete in 2009 as a member of the Sun Belt conference. An extensive rivalry with Eastern Kentucky University, known as the Battle of the Bluegrass, ended in 2008 as WKU moved into FBS football. The Hilltoppers' biggest Sun Belt rivals are the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, who are located less than two hours away from WKU. The Hilltoppers are currently coached by Willie Taggart.

E.A. Diddle Arena, home to the Men's and Women's Basketball teams at WKU.

The Western Kentucky swim team consistently places in the top 5 in the Mid-Major National Rankings. In 2006 their men were undefeated in dual meets and were Sun Belt Conference Champions. The women won five consecutive championships from 2001–2005.In 2005, after 37 years as head coach, Coach Bill Powell became the assistant coach, and holds record for being the second winningest coach in men's swimming in NCAA dual meet history. The baseball team has enjoyed some success recently as well, winning a conference championship in 2009. In April 2010, the WKU baseball team defeated the University of Kentucky 24-8 in a game at Bowling Green Ballpark. The crowd of 6,183 set the record for largest crowd to ever attend a college baseball game in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Student body profile

WKU had a total enrollment in the Fall Semester of 2009 of 20,712[3] students. Out of Fall 2009's enrollment figure of 20,712, 16,861[2] were full-time and 17,645[2] were undergraduates. WKU now has the second largest under-graduate population in the commonwealth of Kentucky, behind the University of Kentucky. Ethnic and racial minority enrollment was 16%[2] at 3,285[2] students. About 3 of every five students are female.[2]

Forty-seven of the 50 states were represented at WKU in the fall of 2009. Regarding students from around the globe, 55 foreign countries were represented at WKU in 2009.

The average high school grade point average for entering freshmen in 2008 was 3.15[2] and 30.3%[2] had an ACT score of 24 or above.

Reference: WKU Fact Book 2010

Greek organizations

In 1961 the Western Kentucky University Board of Regents allowed national fraternities and sororities to form local chapters. Currently there are 31 active organizations with approximately 1500 members per year[11].

Active fraternities include: Alpha Gamma Rho, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Tau Delta, FarmHouse, Iota Phi Theta, Kappa Alpha Order, Kappa Sigma, Kappa Alpha Psi, Lambda Chi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Active sororities include: Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Xi Delta, Ceres, Chi Omega, Delta Sigma Theta, Kappa Delta, Omega Phi Alpha, Phi Mu, Sigma Gamma Rho, Sigma Kappa, Zeta Phi Beta.

Predating the national fraternities, there were local fraternities reaching back to the 1930s. The two leading men's social organizations were Phi Phi Kappa (also known as the Thirteeners), founded in 1939; and the Barons, founded the same year. When national Greek organizations were admitted to WKU, Phi Phi Kappa became Delta Tau Delta and the Barons became Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Media and publications

Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Center, home to the College Heights Herald, the Talisman and WKUHerald.com.
  • College Heights Herald, Since 1924,WKU's student-run newspaper, routinely named one of the best in the nation
  • Talisman, WKU's award-winning yearbook
  • Rise Over Run Magazine, WKU's online magazine for independent culture
  • WKU SPIRIT, WKU's Alumni Magazine, published three times each year
  • WWHR, Revolution 91.7 - WKU's College Radio Station
  • WKU NewsChannel 12 - Student Run Television Newscast. On campus cable channel 12 on Wednesday's and Thursdays. Re-broadcast on PBS affiliate WKYU at 11:30pm.

WKU Student Publications (Herald and Talisman) moved into a state-of-the-art new facility, the Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Center, in December 2007. The $1.6 million complex was built through a partnership between alumni, who raised more than $1 million, and the university. The 6,500-square-foot (600 m2) building, across Normal Drive from the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, is named for Robert Adams and the late David B. Whitaker.

Notable alumni


  • Herman Lee Donovan, president of Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky


  • Julian Goodman, former president of NBC
  • Chester Hurdle, President of Baltimore Ravens

Film and television






Other notables

Notable faculty


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "2007 WKU Factbook". Western Kentucky University. 2007. http://www.wku.edu/instres/FactBookPDF/2007%20Online%20Fact%20Book.pdf. 
  3. ^ a b "WKU Passes 19,000 Mark In Enrollment, Sets Record". Western Kentucky University. 2007. https://www.wku.edu/news/releases07/september/enrollment.html. 
  4. ^ History of Western Kentucky University
  5. ^ WKU Remains Among Nation's Elite In Journalism Competition, May 15, 2008
  6. ^ NATION'S JOURNALISM SCHOOLS WIN $52,500 IN HEARST PRIZES, HEARST JOURNALISM AWARDS PROGRAM, April 10, 2007 Hearst Intercollegiate Competition Winners.
  7. ^ WKU To Recognize Pulitzer Prize Recipients, October 08, 2004
  8. ^ NFA Nationals: Team and Individual Sweepstakes Champions, July 19, 2011
  9. ^ http://www.wku.edu/honors
  10. ^ http://www.wku.edu/academy/?p=1998
  11. ^ "Western Kentucky University Greek Affairs - About". http://www.wkugreeks.com/about. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Clint Ford at the Internet Movie Database
  13. ^ Charmaine Hunt - bio
  14. ^ Matt Long at Starpulse.com
  15. ^ Charles Napier at TVSA
  16. ^ The Official Charles Napier Website
  17. ^ David Schramm at filmsglobe
  18. ^ "Local boy Jay Wilkison comes home to roost in TPAC's rendition of 'Rent'", Nashville City Paper
  19. ^ http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/cochran__stephen/artist.jhtml
  20. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGc5A5DVno
  21. ^ http://www.wku.edu/textonly/hoda/93hoda.html WKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni
  22. ^ The Legacy Of Cordell Hull
  23. ^ William Natcher at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  24. ^ Terrence W. Wilcutt, Biographical Data
  25. ^ VADM Damon W. Cooper, Chief of Naval Reserve
  26. ^ Duncan Hines


External links

Coordinates: 36°59′14.90″N 86°27′10.80″W / 36.987472°N 86.453°W / 36.987472; -86.453

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