A $311,000 gift, and matching state funding, will be used to bring visiting CEOs to Western Kentucky University.
The gift from Hays Watkins, former CEO and chairman of CSX Corp., will be used to create a fund of $622,000. The income from the endowment will support the Hays Watkins Visiting CEO Professor in the Department of Management and Information Services. The match will complete Western's $2.3 million appropriation from the state in the Kentucky Regional University Excellence Trust Fund.
Watkins, a graduate of Bowling Green Business University, predecessor of Western's Gordon Ford College of Business, said the professorship will give Western students the opportunity to learn from people from different areas of the business world.
Watkins, who is also co-chair of Western's Board of Advisors, said the matching state funding also influenced his decision. "It's always good when one can double one's gift," he said. "I applaud the governor and the state legislature for this incentive and hope they continue it in the future."
Robert Jefferson, dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business, said the idea behind the professorship is to bring outstanding business leaders to campus who exemplify the same high qualities and standards Watkins represented in his role as a CEO.
"We hope to integrate into the classroom the vision and insight these leaders bring to the business world," Dr. Jefferson said. "We want to be a dynamic business school and this professorship will allow us to do some things schools don't often have the money to do."
The professorship is "a way to honor Hays Watkins and attract other industry leaders of his stature and with his commitment to achievement," Dr. Jefferson said.
WKU President Gary Ransdell said he also was excited about bringing business leaders to campus.
"This professorship will expose our students and faculty to some of the proven leadership of corporate America," Dr. Ransdell said. "These people can deliver real-world lessons that will give so much more meaning to our students' classroom learning."
Dr. Ransdell said Watkins "has a proven record of achievement and excellence throughout his career in the railroad industry. He is an excellent example for our students and we are honored to have the name Hays Watkins on a professorship at Western."
Tom Hiles, WKU vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, called Watkins "a leader and a role model. He demonstrated this through his tenure as CEO of a fortune 500 company, as a civic leader, and now as a philanthropist.
"We are so grateful to Hays for establishing this professorship and proud to claim him as one of our most distinguished alumni."
This is the fifth professorship created through matches from the trust fund. The other four were $500,000 gifts that created $1 million professorships when matched. They were:
"This trust fund has been a very important resource for Western," Dr. Ransdell said. "This fund has allowed us to leverage $2.3 million in gifts into $4.6 million in professorships so that we can bring the best and brightest faculty to our campus."
Dr. Ransdell said these funds should be considered an investment by the state in its higher education system.
"We have to earn the right to use these funds by raising our own," he said. "Both the state and the donor are able to double their impact on the University."